The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has done the nation proud. The commission has shown that with patriotism and dedication to the elementary principles of justice and our common humanity, impunity can be curbed or eliminated in our society. Again, the way and manner the commission handled the case of the unfortunate persons massacred by security agents, shows that justice oughtnot be difficult to attain.
Nigerians from all walks of life heaved a sigh of relief penultimate week when the NHRC, which has been investigating the case of the dastardly killing of a group of squatters in the Apo area of Abuja, indicted the security agencies – Directorate of State Security (SSS) and Army – for the senseless and extra-judicial killing and awarded N10 million for each person killed and N5 million for each wounded person. For the families of the dead and wounded, it is hoped that the modest but symbolic compensation will help them to cope with their losses and pain. We expect the indicted government security agencies or their principal not to waste time in paying the damages to those concerned.
While the compensation for the dead and wounded is commendable, the most important point made by the decision of the NHRC is that if there is the will and the right calibre of people are put on an issue, no one even the dead in Nigeria, would be denied his right. This is a lesson for the Judiciary which literally denies the aggrieved justice by the prolonged delay in reaching judgement. The effort of the NHRC on the Apo killings means that if there are business-minded and honest persons in the nation’s judiciary, the latter would do better to the admiration of the generality of Nigerians and the international community.
It should be noted that as is often the case in Nigeria, there were spirited attempts by the privileged agencies of government indicted to cover up this heinous crime by labelling the murdered squatters as members of the dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram as if that was enough justification to commit murder. However, through sheer doggedness and determination, the NHRC was able to prove that the dead and wounded squatters were poor and innocent Nigerians managing to eke a living in a hostile environment where basic rights of citizens are fast disappearing.
All through the period of investigation spearheaded by the NHRC, the latter employed the principle of natural justice to fair hearing and the use of witnesses as well as the all-important quality of seeking the truth. Not for one moment did the commission leave the public in doubt that its goal was to establish the truth and ensure that justice is done to all,no matter whose ox was gored.
The courageous action of the NHRC in naming names and apportioning blame to the guilty party at a time when much atrocity is committed and swept under the carpet in the name of national security is revolutionary. It shows that it is possible for agencies of government to assist in the war against impunity to create a more humane and law-based society. There is no doubt that Nigerians are pleased with the effort of the NHRC and would definitely expect the commission not to relent in this rare show of transparent commitment to justice.
We are of the view that the faith of Nigerians would be rekindled by the action of the commission and that the image of the present administration would be enhanced. We expect the government to promote this worthy action by speedily complying with the verdict.