They were suspected terrorists, who planned to bomb some key installations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), according to Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika.
The victims, who residents and rights activists claimed were artisans and tricycle operators, were killed in an uncompleted building in Apo. One died in the hospital, raising the toll to 10. No fewer than 13 others were injured in the assault.
Gen. Ihejirika got support from Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Bala Mohammed.
The two officials spoke at a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence.
Gen. Ihejirika told the committee that the police were left out of the action because it was a specialised operation.
Besides, the Army boss said the operation was not the first of its kind as his men have succeeded in intercepting several intended terrorist attacks on the FCT.
According to him, there was information that a terrorist group was hiding explosivesaround Apo. This, he said, was thoroughly investigated and a move to remove the explosives was launched.
Mohammed corroborated Gen, Ihejirika’s account.
He said the attack, which was coordinated by the Commander, Guards Brigade, was to intercept hidden improvised explosive devices (IED) in a cemetery.
According to Mohammed, there was planned operation, which he described as an isolated terrorist operation to bomb some critical installations in the FCT, such as the Radio House, shopping malls as well as churches on September 22.
He said: “It is imperative to mention here that the military, in collaboration with other security agencies have been working assiduously round the clock to ensure the containment of the heinous activities of the men f the underworld and particularly the Boko Haram in the FCT.
“The intelligence information available to the Guards Brigade confirmed that a number of IEDs to be used for the Sunday operation were buried in a cemetery in Apo area.
“The need to act swiftly to recover the explosive devices was necessary, hence the operation.
According to the minister, the intention was not to kill but to remove the improvised explosives devices.
“According to the security agencies, on approaching the identified uncompleted building which was claimed to harbour the explosives.
“The security operatives were fired at, which led to exchange of fire and the resultant casualties.
“As a civil and highly responsible administration, our immediate concern was how to manage the collateral damage that ensued from this genuinely intended operation.
“It is highly probable that some innocent persons might have been injured, which again highlights the danger of living with people unknown to you.”
Mohammed said as a fallout of the incident, owners of abandoned uncompleted buildings in the FCT would be sanctioned.
He lamented that legal constraints had been hampering the authorities on taking actions on the abandoned and undeveloped property.
Mohammed said: “We, as an administration, are hamstrung and constrained because the legal system in the FCT is such that we do not control the Judiciary. We are impeded by so many litigation impeding our capacity to enforce building regulations.
“This has resulted in the incidence of double allocations and about 5000 cases were uncovered after a recent census conducted by the authorities.
“In consideration of the circumstance, therefore, the FCT administration is prompted to again reiterate the need to sanction owners of abandoned uncompleted buildings in the FCT where a number of criminal operations are hatched.”
“The administration has issued a directive to the Development Control Department to take stock of all abandoned buildings in the federal capital city, with a view of taking decisive steps to clear out these hideouts and squatters, settlements and the appropriate sanctions to be applied,” he added.
The minister also debunked claims that the twin duplex where the shooting took place was owned by a retired Army officer.
He said the plot was allocated in 2009 to Adunni Oluwola Salisu who, according to him got the approval to develop the property located off Abba Kyari Close, Apo Legislative Quarters Zone E.
The Bello Mutawalle-led Committee called for the demolition of the uncompleted twin duplex where the killing took place.
But some members of the committee called for caution and urged the committee to defer its decision and allow the Senate to conclude its into the matter.
The FCT administration would no longer condone any delay by developers in completing their buildings after being allocated of land, the minister said yesterday.
According to him, “very soon, we will take a decisive action on uncompleted buildings in the FCT.
“We will ensure that all buildings that have exceeded the two-year period approved for buildings are demolished.
“If we cannot demolish, we will make it a Police Post, this time, we will take a definite action,” he said.
The minister blamed the inability of the FCT Department of Development Control to carry out its mandate on court injunctions obtained by developers.
He said between 3,000 and 5,000 double allocations existed in the territory due to revocation and re-allocation of plots as a result of court injunctions.
According to him, 100,000 illegal buildings have been identified since he took over.