By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - A court representing 15 West African countries fined Nigeria a total of $3.25 million over a botched early-morning 2013 raid on suspected terrorists that shot dead eight motorcyclists.
Nigeria is “liable for the brutal killing of defenseless citizens contrary to the provision of local and international law on the fundamental rights of citizens to life,” said Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court late Tuesday.
The three-member panel rejected the Nigerian government’s argument that security operatives had opened fire on the victims in self-defense, insisting that their action amounted to an abuse of power and misuse of firearms.
“There is no evidence of any attempt that the deceased and the survivors attempted to harm the security personnel … to prove the claim that the Nigerian security personnel acted in self-defense when they stormed the house of the deceased,” the court said in the ruling.
“Rather evidence abounds that the victims were unharmed while the security personnel were the ones that opened fire on the innocent and the defenseless citizens,” it added.
The ruling spring from a 2013 raid on an uncompleted building in the capital city Abuja by a team of soldiers and secret police. The security team said they had information Boko Haram members were operating from the building.
The victims were later found to be mostly motorcycle riders squatting at the uncompleted building due to high rents in the city. The country's National Human Rights Commission condemned the raid.
Eleven others sustained various injuries from gunshots as they fled the scene of the incident in the popular Apo Quarters – spitting distance from the official residence of the country's federal parliamentarians.
In the ruling, Justice Nwoke ordered Abuja to pay compensatory damages of $200,000 to the family of each of those killed and $150,000 to each of the injured.
The case was filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Fiscal and Civil Right Enlightenment Foundation NGO on behalf of the victims.