The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court has fined Nigeria $3.3m for the September 2013 killing of eight citizens at Apo district in Abuja.
The regional court ordered the country to pay a compensatory damage of $200,000 to each of the family of the deceased citizens and $150,000 to each of those wounded.
The tragic incident occurred after a combined team of soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) carried out a raid on an uncompleted building at Apo.
The late citizens, whom the DSS had claimed were insurgents, were later found to be commercial motorcycle operators who were taking refuge in the building.
Those killed were Nura Abdullahi , Ashiru Musa, Abdullahi Manmman, Buhari Ibrahim, Suleiman Ibrahim, Ahmadu Musa, Nasir Adamu and Musa Yobe.
Those who sustained wounds were Muttaka Abubakar, Sani Abdulrahman, Nuhu Ibrahim, Ibrahim Mohammed, Ibrahim Aliyu , Yahaya Bello, Abubakar Auwal, Yusuf Abubakar, Ibrahim Bala, Murtala Salihu and Sanni Usman.
A non-governmental organisation (NGO), The Incorporated Trustees of Fiscal and Civil Right Enlightenment Foundation, had on behalf of the deceased taken Nigeria, the army and the DSS to the regional court to challenge the legality of the killings.
In the judgement of the court delivered by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, Nigeria was found liable of brutal killing of defenceless citizens contrary to the provisions of the local and international law on the fundamental rights of citizens to life.
A panel of three justices led by Nwoke condemned the killings as barbaric, illegal and unconstitutional and a breach of the fundamental rights of the deceased.
The court rejected the plea by Nigeria that its security agents killed the deceased in an attempt to defend themselves, adding that there was no evidence that any of the deceased carried arms.
Nwoke said the action of the security agents constituted a serious abuse of power and misuse of firearms, arguing that there was no conflict that should have warranted opening fire on the defenceless citizens.
“There is no evidence of any attempt that the deceased and the survivors attempted to harm the security personnel. There is no evidence of recovered guns. There is no evidence of bullet or pellets recovered from the deceased and tendered before this court to prove the claim that the Nigerian security personnel acted in self-defence when they stormed the house of the deceased,” he said.
“Rather the evidence abounds that the victims were unharmed while the security personnel were the ones who opened fire on the innocent and the defenceless citizens.”