THE Nigeria Police Force has begun an independent investigation into the killing of eight suspected members of the fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in Abuja on Friday.
It was learnt on Sunday that the police authorities did not believe the claim of the Department of State Security that the suspects, who were killed by the SSS and Army operatives in two uncompleted buildings in the Apo Legislative Quarters, were members of the sect.
The SSS Deputy Director (Public Relations), Marilyn Ogar, had claimed that the victims were gunmen who engaged the SSS operatives in a gun battle in one of the uncompleted buildings.
According to Ogar, the SSS operatives were attacked by the suspects when they went to the building on Soji Aderemi Close, off Bamanga Tukur Street, Apo Quarters, to exhume weapons buried in it by people suspected to be Boko Haram members.
One of the 10 survivors, Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed, had told Saturday PUNCH that the government should probe the incident and prosecute those behind it.
He had said, “We are not Boko Haram members; that is a great blackmail; it is not true. How can over 200 people living in an uncompleted building be Boko Haram members? Among us are Keke (tricycle) drivers and operators.”
The counter-terror operation, which commenced around 12.30am, rattled people living in the highbrow residential area.
The survivors are still receiving treatment at the Asokoro District Hospital for gunshot wounds. Some of them were shot in the leg and abdomen. A young boy, Murtala Abubakar, was shot in the lower back.
Our correspondents gathered in Abuja on Sunday that the SSS and the Army officers, who jointly carried out the operation, had yet to tender the weapons that were purportedly buried in one of the uncompleted buildings.
The SSS had claimed that its operatives were digging for arms buried in the building when they came under fire from the suspects.
But it was learnt that the police authorities were not satisfied with the explanation of the SSS and had therefore initiated a probe into the incident.
A top security source told one of our correspondents that police detectives, who went to the scene, did not see any sign of upturned earth or fresh soil authenticating the SSS claim.
He said, “The SSS disappointed the police by not informing us about such an operation in the FCT. But while we wouldn’t want to antagonise our sister agency and the Army by exposing the flaws in the operation, we will however carry out a thorough investigation and submit our findings to the government to avoid another fiasco in future.”
It was gathered that the incident might strain the relationship between the SSS and the police which had been improving in many aspects following the synergy being built by the leadership of the two agencies.
The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Altienne Daniel, confirmed that the command had commenced an independent investigation into the incident.
He added that police detectives would soon submit a preliminary report of their findings “which will be made public.”
The Director of Defence Information, Brig.Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, said that the position of the Army was contained in a press statement issued by the Department of State Security on the operation.
Attahiru said, “There was a press release issued to that effect by the spokesperson of the SSS.
“Look, this was a joint operation between the SSS and the Army. So there is no different position, the position taken by the spokesperson of the SSS is the position of the Army.
“Ogah issued a press release, you should get that release. The position of the Army and the SSS are the same.”
Meanwhile, the northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam led by the Sultan of Sokoto , Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad lll, have flayed the killings.
In their separate reactions on Sunday, they argued that a thorough probe into the incident would unearth the truth.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, said that an investigation was necessary to make Nigerians have confidence in the country’s intelligence community.
The forum, Sani noted, was still observing the happenings in Abuja with keen interest, especially the conflicting reports as well as claims and counter-claims surrounding the killings.
He said, “The ACF is observing the event associated with the killings last Friday in Abuja of the suspected members of the Boko Haram sect with keen interest, especially the conflicting reports and claims and counter-claims of what actually happened.
“It is against this backdrop that ACF calls on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident for the purpose of enabling Nigerians and the world to know the truth needed for inspiring confidence in the nation’s intelligence community for public good.”
The JNI, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, described the Apo killings as unfortunate.
The group, which also expressed shock over “other killings at Benisheikh, in Borno State, Wase, in Plateau State, Kafanchan in Kaduna State and also various attacks in Nasarawa and Taraba states, advised the Federal Government and the respective state governments “to constitute a commission of inquiry over these matters.”
It further urged the authorities to caution the SSS’s spokesperson over the way and manner she handles sensitive security matters .
The JNI statement reads, “A critical overview of these repeated acts of absurdity clearly shows that the manner in which the SSS spokesperson handles reportage of security issues needs serious introspection, because the spokesperson concludes matters before investigation. The case of the Nasarawa State man found with dynamite in Radio House is still fresh in our memory.
“Therefore, the spokesperson should be cautioned. It is most likely as reported by the media that the Apo victims were not Boko Haram members as claimed by the spokesperson.
“It is quite unfortunate, regrettable and condemnable that, after witnessing relative peace in some of these states in recent times, these unfortunate recurring massacres are coming up within 72 hours.”
The ACF and JNI said this as a legal practitioner, Mr. Sunusi Musa, also faulted the claim by the SSS.
He also hinted that his law firm would go to court and offer free legal services (pro bono) to the victims.
The Senate, on its part, said it would welcome any action legitimately taken by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to end terrorism in the country.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Information and Media, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He said, “The Senate will continue to support any legal and constitutional step taken by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration and the security agencies to stop the activities of the Boko Haram sect in this country.
“Nobody is happy with the senseless killings of innocent people by members of the sect and we should all condemn it.”