There was confusion in Abuja on Friday as operatives of the State Security Service raided a building in Apo Quarters, killing eight people.
Though the SSS claimed that those killed were members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, eyewitnesses and survivors denied the security agents’ claim.
Survivors alleged that the attack was masterminded by the owner of the of the building that was raided, who they said had strong connections in government, adding that it was done to force them out of the premises.
Earlier, the Deputy Director, SSS, Public Relations, Marilyn Ogar, had in a statement claimed that the victims were gunmen who engaged the SSS operatives in a gun battle.
The SSS spokeswoman said the security operatives were attacked by the sympathisers of the sect when they went to a building on Soji Aderemi Close, off Bamanga Tukur Street, Apo Quarters, to exhume weapons buried in an uncompleted building by people suspected to be members of the Islamic sect.
She further stated that the attack was sequel to information obtained from two Boko Haram elements, Kamal Abdullahi and Mohammed Adamu, who had earlier been arrested for terrorist activities. She added that the suspects led the security team to two uncompleted buildings where arms were purportedly buried.
In a statement issued on Friday, Ogar said, “No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements within the area, which prompted immediate response from the security team. As a result, some persons were injured and 12 others have been arrested in connection with the incident, and are making useful statements.
“Normalcy has returned to the area. Members of the public are advised to go about their normal businesses, as appropriate security measures have been emplaced to ensure the safety of citizens in the FCT,” the statement read in part.’’
The SSS advised Nigerians to be vigilant and promptly report suspicious activities to security agencies.
But survivors of the attack denied being members of the Islamic sect. They told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the over 200 people living in the houses attacked couldn’t have been Boko Haram members.
The survivors told one of our reporters on their hospital beds that contrary to allegations by the SSS, they were not Boko Haram members.
Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed from Zamfara State who spoke on behalf of others through an interpreter at the Accident and Emergency Department of Asokoro Hospital, told SATURDAY PUNCH that the government should probe the sporadic shooting and prosecutes the masterminds accordingly.
He 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; shoemakers and many others. Some of us are married with children.
“The owner of the house instructed security men to get rid of us; he used his contact in government to descend on us. This matter must not be swept under the carpet. It is unfortunate that we are being treated like this. The government should investigate what happened and get those behind it prosecuted.”
Mohammed further explained the genesis of the problem. He said, “About one week ago, we caught two thieves who stole some electrical appliances in the uncompleted building where we stay. We informed the security man guiding the place because we pay him N200 every week, even though we are aware that the money does not get to the owner of the building.
“Immediately after getting hold of the culprits, we put a call to the owner of the house, who we understand, is a highly placed (senior security officer). When he eventually came, he pardoned the thieves and set them free. But we were not aware that he had given one week ultimatum to the security man to send all of us away.
“Instead of informing us, the security man packed his belongings and sneaked out, leaving us to our fate. But at about 2:30 am last night, we saw about five trucks of armed security men. They opened fire into the air and out of fear, we started running for safety. That was when they got the opportunity to shoot sporadically and in the end, many people died.
“I ran and hid myself under a car that was parked, not knowing that they had seen me. They opened fire on me and that was what affected my two legs. The government should investigate the owner of the house.’’
Though Ogar was silent on the number of casualties, one of the eyewitnesses told Saturday Punch that seven bodies were brought out of the building dead while one of the injured ones died on the way to the Asokoro District Hospital.
A combined team of SSS and army officers were keeping watch over the area and checking motorists when our correspondent visited the scene on Friday.
An eyewitness, Sani Abdullahi, told our correspondent that he had gone out around 12 am to buy food when he saw security personnel in six pick-up vans on Aderemi Street taking positions on the ground with their rifles aimed at an uncompleted building.
Abdullahi said that the people had been squatting in the building for about four years, noting that they were known to engage in menial jobs.
He said, “one of my friends, Tahir, was behind me when we saw the security men. He ran back, but I told him he should find out what was happening before running away. As we were talking, one of the men released a shot into the air and another one released five rounds, so I took off and hid at a nearby house. I quickly removed the white shirt I was wearing so that it would not give me away and I jumped the fence into another compound.”
Abdullahi, a driver, explained that the SSS men laid down flat on the ground and fired rapidly at the two uncompleted building for some time, adding that seven bodies were later brought out while the injured ones were taken to Asokoro District Hospital.
According to him, one of the injured died having sustained gunshot wounds in the stomach.
Abdullahi added that the intensity of the gunfire from the SSS personnel attracted policemen numbering about 30, but they left when they saw that it was a security operation
He explained that he and other neighbours later entered the building and found a magazine containing 30 live rounds which was given to the Emir of Garki, who gave it to the Garki Divisional Police Officer.
“A retired Customs Controller who lived on the street came out with his armed security detail to see what was going on; a senator also came and the Director-General, SSS, also came to the scene in the morning,” he stated.
Another eyewitness who identified himself as Danjuma said he initially thought it was a robbery operation, but the intensity of the gunfire indicated that it was not.
He said everybody in the area ran away when they heard the gunshots, adding that the incident was frightening.
“The gunfire was frightening and my friends and I ran when we heard the gunshots. I know some of the people in that building, they have been living there for some time and they are mostly Keke NAPEP drivers, mai-ruwa and so on. I am surprised that they are being labelled as Boko Haram, but I believe the security agencies know better,” Danjuma stated.
Meanwhile, two people were killed on Friday in fresh attack by unknown gunmen in Wase local government of Plateau state.
The gunmen, numbering over 20 were said to have launched the attack on Nbiyak village of Kadarko district of Wase. Nniyak is a community inhabited by the Tarok ethnic group.
They were said to have shot sporadically in the air as residents made efforts to flee, setting many houses ablaze.
A member of the community Samuel Wuyep who confirmed the attack to newsmen, said that the attack came after rumours that the community was to be attacked .
He said, “There have been rumours that some people suspected to be Fulani were planning to attack our village, we reported the rumours to security agencies in the area but they ignored the threat. The attack was actually carried out as rumoured and they killed two people, I also know some people are missing and have not been found.’’
Spokesman of the Special Task Force, Captain Salisu Mustapha was not available for comments