A Nigerian human rights group, Access to Justice, has recently called on the Nigerian government to perform an independent inquiry into the shoot-out that occurred on March 30th at the headquarters of the State Security Services (SSS) in Abuja. The incident resulted in the deaths of 21 people, both detainees and guards.
How the shoot-out began is still largely unknown. SSS spokesperson Marilyn Ogar released a statement claiming that the gun battle began after a detainee escaped from his cell and disarmed an SSS agent.
She stated, “His attempt to escape drew the attention of other guards at the facility who fired some shots to warn and deter others.”
The detainees were suspected members of the Nigerian terrorist organization, Boko Haram, and had yet to be convicted for their crimes.
Executive Director of Access to Justice, Joseph Otteh, believes that the government should make the results of the inquiry public. He also asks that any person found to have killed a detainee without lawful justification be brought to justice.
In his statement, he stated, “The death of anyone associated with this sect [Boko Haram] must be subject to the highest scrutiny to avoid people getting away with clear homicides only by the sheer unpopularity of the victim’s ascribed label, particularly when it is remembered that military and security forces fighting terrorism in Nigeria have repeatedly acted with impunity and committed grave crimes against many innocent people, in a largely unchallenged way.”
Otteh is referring to an incident that occurred on March 14th, in which the Nigerian SSS killed some eight hundred unarmed detainees at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri. This was a clear violation of human rights, as well as a major abuse of power. Access to Justice has become increasingly concerned with the security force’s actions towards detainees across the country.
It is still unclear whether Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration will proceed with the independent inquiry or not.
Access to Justice stands to be one of the only human rights organizations following up on the March 30th attack.
– Mollie O’Brien