The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court has imposed a fine of $3.3mn on Nigeria over the extra-judicial killing of eight citizens in the Apo District of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory.
The regional court, ordered the country to pay a compensatory damage of $200,000 to each of the family of its Nigerian citizens killed and $150,000 to each of the injured by a combined team of soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) during a raid of an uncompleted building the Apo Area of Abuja.
The eight Nigerians killed when the security personnel opened fire on them were later found to be commercial motorcycle (Okada) riders who were taking refuge in the uncompleted building as a result of skyrocketing cost of house rent in the capital city.
Those killed are Nura Abdullahi , Ashiru Musa, Abdullahi Manmman, Buhari Ibrahim, Suleiman Ibrahim, Ahmadu Musa, Nasir Adamu and Musa Yobe.
Eleven others sustained various degrees of injuries from the bullets of the soldiers and DSS operatives. They are Muttaka Abubakar, Sani Abdulrahman, Nuhu Ibrahim, Ibrahim Mohammed, Ibrahim Aliyu and Yahaya Bello.
The rest are Abubakar Auwal, Yusuf Abubakar, Ibrahim Bala, Murtala Salihu and Sanni Usman who were reported to have escaped death by the whiskers.
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), The Incorporated Trustees of Fiscal and Civil Right Enlightment Foundation had on behalf of the deceased dragged Nigeria, the Army and Department of State Security Services before regional court to challenge the legality of the killing of the eight commercial motorcyclists and the injury of others who were armless when the security men invaded their apartment.
In the judgement of the ECOWAS Court delivered by presiding Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, Nigeria was found liable of brutal killing of defenceless citizens contrary to the provision of the local and international law on the fundamental rights of citizens to life.
The panel of three Justices headed by Justice Nwoke condemned the killing as barbaric, illegal and unconstitutional and a breach of the fundamental rights of the deceased to life.
The court rejected the plea by Nigeria that its security personnel killed the deceased in attempt to defend themselves adding that there was no iota of evidence that any of the deceased carried cutlass or guns against the security men when they invaded their house.
Justice Nwoke said that the action of the security personnel constituted a serious abuse of power and misused of firearms against innocent citizens, because there was no conflict that should have warranted opening fire on the defenceless citizens.
He said: “There is no evidence of any attempt that the deceased and the survivals attempted to harm the security personnel. There is no evidence of recovered guns. There is no evidence of bullet or is pellets recovered from the deceased and tendered before this court to prove the claim that the Nigerian security personnel acted in self-defence when they storm the house of the deceased.
“Rather the evidence abounds that the victims were unharmed while the security personnel were the one that open fire on the innocent and the defenceless citizens.”
Justice Nwoke further said that the burden of proof that the security personnel acted in self-defence lays on the head of the defendants and the in the instance case since the burden has not being proved in anyway, we have no difficulty in arriving at a conclusion that claim is baseless and hereby rejected.
Reasonablesseness suggests that an officer of any sort must act without passion or prejudices in a non-conflict zone.
Consideration should have been made with regards to persons who might have occupied the house in error and who are not among the suspected terrorists being looked for by the security personnel.
It could be recalled that a combined team of soldiers and DSS operatives acting on alleged presence of Boko Haram terrorists in an uncompleted building in Apo District of Abuja had on September 20, 2013 carried out a deadly raid on the house and open fire on the commercial motorcycle riders who were using the building as their place of abode.