Barely 24 hours after the killing of nine artisans in Gudu District, there was still tension in Abuja yesterday.
There were indications that the Senate and the House of Representatives might probe the killing of the Gudu 9 in an uncompleted building, which the State Security Service (SSS) marked as Boko Haram hideout.
But 13 critically wounded menial workers were still on admission at Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja.
According to findings, the killing of the Gudu 9 had provoked protest from all classes of the society with many still claiming that the victims were menial and migrant workers.
It was learnt that there had been representations to members of the National Assembly to verify the killings.
Some of the aggrieved had told the leadership of the National Assembly that they were prepared to testify if there was an open inquiry into the incident.
A principal officer of the Senate said: “We have got conflicting reports; we will look into all requests without compromising the nation’s security. We will ensure justice for the dead and the living in the light of the unusual challenges facing our nation. We will consider the incident on merit.”
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Zakari, said: “Some people have raised issues about the incident; we will investigate these after returning from our one-week oversight function tour.”
Also, a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday demanded an independent probe of the killings.
Atiku made the call in a statement by his media office in Abuja, the statement said: “Only an independent investigation by Nigeria’s parliament, the judiciary or civil society will unravel the facts behind the killing of nine citizens with 16 others injured in the reported shooting incident in the neighbourhood of the Apo Legislative Quarters of Abuja, the Federal Capital.
“Since the incident took place in the early morning hours of Friday, there have been conflicting reports concerning the shoot-out with the State Security Service (SSS) claiming that they had a confrontation with the insurgent group, Boko Haram, while independent sources are indicating that the victims were economic migrants squatting in the uncompleted building.”
Atiku said he became disturbed following the accounts by the Reuters International news agency as well as the local media that the victims were squatters who came under attack at the instigation of the owner of the building.
“For me, this issue borders on human rights, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life.” The former vice president advised security services to stick to their role under the constitution. He recalled that in 2006, it took riots by Igbo traders in the Federal Capital Territory to force the government at that time to investigate, arrest and charge police officers that allegedly killed six Igbo traders they branded as armed robbers. He called for an independent investigation into this incident to ensure human rights and the rule of law.
As at press time, however, 13 injured artisans were still in Asokoro General Hospital.
Although the artisans were initially asked by security agencies to foot their medical bills, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, has said the FCT administration will offset the bills.
There were, however, unconfirmed report that the Nigeria Police yesterday released the corpses of the nine victims to some senators and members of the House of Representatives from Zamfara and Katsina states.
Giving an update in an interview with our correspondents, the Secretary of Apo Keke NAPEP Riders Association, Augustine Apeh, said the association is handicapped now that those killed are now being tagged as suspected Boko Haram members.
Apeh said: “Some Senators and members of the House of Representatives from Zamfara and Katsina States have taken the dead for burial. They are not back yet. But they promised that they will not allow the matter to be swept under the carpet. None of the 13 gunshot victims in Asokoro General Hospital has been discharged. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister through the Permanent Secretary has promised to foot the bills of the victims.We are not doing anything over the matter for now because it has turned a security issue.”
Also reacting to the incident, former Police Commissioner Abubakar Tsav, appealed to the legislators and the judiciary to promptly investigate the killings with a view to establishing the true identity of the victims.
Speaking to The Nation yesterday, Tsav said he is worried about the disparity in the statement of the SSS and the accounts of international news agencies as well as the local media on the incident.
The former Lagos Police boss said only an independent investigation by appropriate agencies will reveal the truth about the shooting incident.
“The situation now is that there is confusion over the entire incident. It has become very difficult to simply believe the account of the SSS. We all are aware that some of the survivors and even neighbours are saying those killed are not Boko Haram members. And this is an issue about the killing of human beings. While we should do nothing to prevent our security operatives from doing their job, it is also important for us to be sure that they do not resort to extra-judicial killings.”
He said if truly those killed were Boko Haram members, weapons recovered during the raid should be shown to the world and those arrested should be paraded for us all to see.
Human Rights Congress of Nigeria, (HURICON), a development focused and democracy inclined rights group, also condemned the confusion trailing the shooting incident and demanded an independent, dispassionate and definitive investigation to unravel the truth about the incident.
The group also criticised the SSS for not giving enough insight into the incident 24 hours after nine people were killed and several others injured.
HURICON, in a statement endorsed by its National Coordinator, Dr. Saheed Amitolu, also took a swipe at what it called the unprofessional approach of the SSS as far as the Abuja shooting incident is concerned.
It said, “The SSS should know better than to expect Nigerians and the whole world to just believe their verbal submission that these men are Boko Haram members. There are ways to do this and one of such is the presentation of evidences to back the claim.”