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Aftermath of soldiers’ night raid on Abuja village

During the raid, as recounted by most victims or residents of the attack in separate interviews with Weekly Trust, no fewer than three persons were…

During the raid, as recounted by most victims or residents of the attack in separate interviews with Weekly Trust, no fewer than three persons were killed. About five others either sustained gunshot wounds or injuries. Also,  accounts by some of the victims also suggest that at least 176 of them were woken up from sleep, brutalized  and dragged into waiting trucks to detention. Scores are still nursing injuries, including gunshot wounds.
Chairman, Gwoza United Association (GUA) in Abuja, Alhaji Tanko Gwoza told Weekly Trust on phone that the army released 153 of the Gwoza indigenes arrested the next day, but held another 23. He said two indigenes of Gwoza were killed on the night of the raid, including a policeman whose identity could not be immediately established. He said, the police officer sheltered himself in Durumi because he could not afford the high cost of accommodation in the city. “We shall stop at nothing to pursue justice and we shall make sure justice is done,” he vowed.  
Abuja residents, including, the police division, Area 1, woke up to shocking news of the violent raid, which was carried out because the area is “harbouring Boko Haram suspects”. Although residents say the police took two dead bodies the next day to the National Hospital Mortuary, they denied involvement.
FCT Police Command’s Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Superintendent Jimoh Moshood said that they are not aware of the raid on the village, adding that since it was a military operation, the police have no further comment.   
Observers in the area told Weekly Trust that they feel the Durumi operation had the trappings of a similar incident in Abuja earlier in the year, in Apo district. Then, a combined squad of soldiers and the SSS invaded and opened fire on squatters who were living in an uncompleted building. Then, also, “intelligence report” was cited and the security operatives killed and injured many. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which investigated the killings found the military and the SSS culpable of extra-judicial action and ordered compensation to families of the victims.  
But victims of the night raid on Durumi said they were persons displaced by insurgents from Gwoza in Borno State, who escaped from the troubled area and took refuge in Abuja. Gwoza is one of the many areas sacked by Boko Haram.
Investigations indicate that many of victims of the Durumi raid have lost relatives and property, forcing them to flee the area to Abuja in search of safety. But after an outcry that trailed the raid, the military later said the raid was necessitated by intelligence reports which suggested that suspected Boko Haram sect members from Gwoza had stealthily entered Abuja and were housed in the area.  
Spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Olajide Laleye, told Weekly Trust that: “The army carried out intelligence operations within the area between Saturday night and Sunday morning, but while the operation was on, those people started firing at our troops.” He denied that more than two persons died in the shooting as widely reported.
But residents insist that those arrested were ferried away in two trucks and eight Hilux vans to the Lungi Barracks, Asokoro. They also said the detainees were harassed and interrogated for days before eventual release.
Abba Abdulsalam, also  from Gwoza, who  says he has stayed in Durumi for many years, gave the identity of the two persons killed as Buba Zakaria  and Ahmadu Adamu, both from Gwoza. Earlier, Ali Hamman and Abba Abbatua are names of those said to have been killed in the raid.
A motor mechanic in Durumi, Mr. Friday Joseph Ebriku, from Cross River state, who escaped the raid unhurt told Weekly Trust that he was sleeping in one of the vehicles parked in his workshop last Saturday when he suddenly heard gunshots,  at about 1: 47am.  It was accompanied by the sound of boots, with shouts of “Bring him down” and “Shoot him” thundering in the still of the night. He said he was too scared to come out of the vehicle, but prayed  fervently to God.  
Ebriku added: “The next day, on Sunday, the soldiers came back again at 7:30am, with a truck.  I am sure they came with the intention to arrest more people, but they did not. All who escaped arrest the previous night disappeared and left only women and little children, who stood outside, staring in fear at the soldiers as they combed the place.”   
Weekly Trust visited the raided village and spoke to some affected residents, and it was gathered from different sources that most of those arrested are displaced persons, mostly students, from Gwoza and other parts of Borno. They found their way to Durumi in Abuja to meet some of their relations. Some of them have resided in the village for long, doing petty trade or menial jobs.    
Another Gwoza indigene who was affected, 25-year-old Ali Mustapha, a student of College of Education, Bama, was arrested, detained and released. He told Weekly Trust that the soldiers came while he was asleep and after he was forcefully dragged away, detained between 6:00pm to 9:00pm before release. “At the barracks, they gave us various physical punishments. No one gave us food or even water.  Nobody was allowed to ease himself decently. The soldiers took individual pictures of us one after another and said they were going to put us on their ‘Red List’.  Later, they took us to somewhere in Area 3, dumped us and left,” he added.   
37-year-old Usman Ahmadu, also from Gwoza, who has stayed in Durumi since 2006,  doing petty trading, recounted a similar account.
In addition, Saidu Usman an indigene of Gwoza and a relation of one of the victims told Weekly Trust that it was unjustifiable for soldiers to raid the village, kill and perpetrate such acts of brutality against innocents on grounds that the place harboured suspected terrorists. “It’s complete falsehood. No Boko Haram member would be allowed in the village by those who have lived there for years. If there is any Boko Haram member in their midst, displaced boys from Gwoza who are still very angry, will not allow them to stay. So, is it rational to say victims of Boko Haram who escaped death in their village, left everything and ran to Abuja for refuge, will still harbour the same insurgents in Abuja?”
Usman also debunked claims by soldiers that victims of the raid fired back shoots at troops. “None of the victims in Durumi fired shots at soldiers as they are claiming. The gunshots heard were from Mobile policemen guarding a nearby location. When they heard the soldiers’ gunshots in the deep of the night, they responded by firing in the air,” he said.
Alhaji Tanko Gwoza, GIA chairman, said  the association was aware of their presence in Abuja,  also doubted claims by the military that Gwoza indigenes who were attacked, arrested or killed in Durumi are Boko Haram suspects, saying the community chases away any person of questionable character. “It’s unfortunate that the soldiers killed them. The IDPs are people whose families have been killed in Gwoza, their businesses destroyed or ruined and soldiers chased them away only for them to find their way to Abuja to be killed by soldiers.”
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial District  described the incident as  very unfortunate, adding that the  youths are refugees from the war-torn, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. He said  majority of them are from Gwoza LGA of Borno state, saying it has been under siege from insurgents  for some months now.
“In fact the town and its environs have been under Boko Haram occupation since August. These youths fled the town to Abuja and other parts of the North where they will be safe,” he said. “Before the crisis, the Gwoza people have established strong presence in Area 1 part of Abuja, as petty traders, artisans, mechanics and other professions. Because some of their people are already on ground in Abuja, when Gwoza  came other attacks from the insurgents, some of the youths fled to the Federal Capital Territory safety.”
Students among the victims include: Mamman Buba (20), an SS2 student  from GSS Ville; Bello Dahaltu(24)SS3 student from GSS Gwoza; Mohammed Mohammed (19) UBE JSS3, Gwoza Wakane; Zubairu Mohammed (33)  SS3 from  GDSS, Gwoza among others. Those with gunshot or other injuries include: Musa Bello, Bala Sule, Musa Hassan, Ibrahim Ali, Lukman Ahmadu and Abba Bello.
Meanwhile, legal practitioners have called upon the NHRC to do more to stop the military onslaught against innocent civilians under the guise of fighting insurgency. The lawyers described the incident as extra-judicial killing, but added that the soldiers should be given the opportunity to explain why they did it.
Prominent human rights  lawyer,  Barrister Festus Okoye said: “These are poor people who cannot go to court unless the human rights groups fight for them. We all know that there is insurgency. Insurgency is a very serious problem but we must fight insurgency with human face. We must stop using insurgency as a licence to engage in extra-judicial execution that has very grave implications on our constitution and human rights laws.” He said that his group was compiling the list of the IDP and human rights abuses which will also be documented for the NHRC.
Another human rights lawyer, Barrister Abubakar Sani, who advocated for the setting up of a judicial committee or panel of inquiry on the matter, was emphatic that nobody has the right to take another person’s life except within the parameters of the law. “So the soldiers need to justify their action. They have to explain why they did what they have done,” he said
Chino Obiagwe, National Coordinator, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) condemned the attack, describing it as deplorable. “Five have been killed and many more injured. We understand that more operations are still going on but that should be curtailed. IDPs do not know where to move to,” she said.
Also reacting to the presence of IDPs from Gwoza in Durumi, the Head of Abuja operations office of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ishaya Isah Chonoko informed Weekly Trust that the IDPs came to Abuja in ones and twos and settled, as such NEMA was not initially aware of their presence. He said, NEMA’s attention was only drawn to it recently when some missionaries on evangelical mission saw their deplorable condition and drew the agency’s attention to it.
But efforts to get comments from the Chairman of the NHRC Prof. Anslem Chidi Odinkalu failed as he was said to have travelled.  
Meanwhile, Borno State  Governor Kashim Shettima was  in Abuja yesterday,  where he held series of meetings with Senator Ndume as well as the  Rep from Gwoza at the Borno State House of Assembly and other stakeholders  over the incident.  A source disclosed that the meeting will discuss, among other issues, the plight of the IDPs from Borno State in Abuja.
Malam Isa Gusau, the media aide of the Governor, said his principal is also meeting other stakeholders, like security agencies and other concerned groups to cross-check all sides of the incident so to take the right steps can be taken. “The governor is very much concerned about the safety and welfare of all law-abiding citizens of Borno and will continue to do everything lawful to promote their welfare wherever they may be,” he said.

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