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Gboko 8: Rights Commission Condemns Extra Judicial Killings

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, (THEWILL) â€' The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday declared extra judicial killings illegal, saying the Federal Government does not support such .

The Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Bem Angwe, who declared this while receiving a petition from the Concerned Gboko Indigenes on the alleged killing of eight young men by soldiers at the Dangote Cement Company in Gboko, Benue State, said the Federal Government was against the killing of innocent Nigerians.

He called on security agents to exercise restraint while on civil duty, saying there was no protection for any security agents who killed people other than as allowed by the law.

According to Angwe, President Goodluck Jonathan has demonstrated his commitment to protecting the rights of Nigerians by signing the NHRC (Amendment) Act of 2010 into law.

He said the law conferred on the commission enormous power to investigate human rights violations in the country.

Angwe therefore advised the Concerned Gboko Indigenes to continue to maintain the peace, as he assured them that the commission would investigate their petition.

The group, which gave a graphic account of the alleged killing of the eight youngmen by soldiers at the Dangote Cement Factory in Gboko, Benue State, was , led by the Gboko Local Government Area Deputy Chairman and the community's lawyer, Bem Nenge and Yandev Amaabai, respectively.

They said the youths were killed on March 18 when the soldiers allegedly shot indiscriminately at unarmed members of the community, who were protesting the shooting of one of them â€'Terhile Jirbo â€' by a soldier.‪

Presenting the petition to the Rights Commission boss, Amaabai, said Jirbo was shot in the mouth when he refused to eat his feaces , as allegedly directed by one of the soldiers providing security at the cement company.

According to him, the latest 'unprovoked killing,' is one in the series of atrocities perpetrated against the community and other Tiv communities by soldiers.

This particular instance is pure de-humanisation. It all began when one young man, Terhile Jirbo went to defecate in a bush around the company and one of the soldiers demanded he remove his faeces with the use of his mouth.

It was the inability of the young man to comply with this obviously unlawful 'order' that infuriated the soldier, who shot him in the mouth with an AK 47 assault rifle. The victim is being attended to in a private hospital in Gboko.

It was well after the severally wounded young man was taken to the hospital that aggrieved youths, who started protesting, were directly shot at by the soldiers attached to DIL, Gboko Plant. Seven defenceless, unarmed youths, including a young lady, were cut down in their prime, while several others, with varying degrees of injuries are being treated in various hospitals in Gboko.

While the community was thrown into deep mourning, grief and wailings, the soldiers put the corpses of the slain youths under a tree and cordoned off the area, while the company carried on with the business as if nothing untoward had happened.

It was indeed another source of pain and anguish to parents and relatives of the young men when sponsored announcements over the air and newspaper reports by the company, described the youths, who were murdered in cold blood, as thieves.

'Even if they were thieves, one wonders whether they were supposed to be killed extra-judicially. But even the death of criminals is, at least, reported to their families and relatives. In our case, the company has maintained a heart-rending nonchalance and aloofness.'

The group, which included members of the Local Government's Legislative Council, is demanding among others, the sum of N20 billion from the Federal Government as compensation to the families of the victims of the extra judicial killings.

It also urged the Rights Commission to investigate the priority of deploying soldiers to protect a private company, as it called for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from the company to prevent a recurrence of such incident in future.

While accepting the petition, Angwe assured that the commission would investigate the allegation and ensure that adequate punishment is meted out to the perpetrators.

'The commission will take up this case, investigate all the allegations and ensure that justice is done,' he assured as he disclosed that the commission will begin its investigation by first, ascertaining who authorised the deployment of soldiers to a private company when there is no war and the reason behind such deployment.

He however commended the group for not resorting to self-help, saying it was wrong for anybody, in a democracy, to resort to brute force and undemocratic means in dealing with others