By Abdulmumin Giwa
The Special Investigation Panel of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chaired by Mr Okechukwu Ojukwu has just submitted its report on the Zaria massacre of December 12th to 14th 2015 to the Executive Secretary of the Commission Prof. Bem Angwe.
The NHRC Executive Secretary said the blocked public highway by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) infringed on the freedom of movement of the Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai.
He also said that the IMN should make public apology to the COAS for blocking his way and infringing upon his right to use the highway. He added that those arrested in that effect should quickly be prosecuted.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Army told the Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) in Kaduna during its sitting that the convoy of the COAS cleared its way through, killing only seven IMN members when they blocked the way and no arrests were reported to have been made to that effect.
Those presently in detention either in Kaduna Central Prison facing cropped up charges by the state, or in anonymous military detention facilities across the country or with the Department of State Service (DSS) were all abducted by the Army at the Gyallesu residence area of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, the revered leader of the IMN and not at the Hussainiyyat where the said blockage took place.
In the case of the 191 IMN members in Kaduna Central Prison facing cropped up charges, including the killing of one soldier while no arrest of the soldiers who killed over 1000 IMN members was made, most of them were abducted by the Army at Gyallesu area five kilometers away from the Hussaiiyya. Also the abductions were made two days after the said blockade incident took place.
The remaining IMN members in the prison were arrested by the Nigerian Police in Kaduna metropolis on the 15th of December 2015 for protesting against the Zaria massacre. In effect, nobody was arrested at the Hussainiyyat for blocking the COAS convoy. The COAS had since killed those who blocked his way and passed.
The abduction of the members of IMN took place more than five kilometers away from the Hussainiyya Baqiyyatullah two days after the said road was blocked and those arrested were never arrested at the scene of the incident. More so, all those at the scene were killed and their corpses taken away by the Army as they cordoned off the area.
This implies that nobody was arrested for blocking the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai but over 1000 people were killed by him within the next 48 hours of the blockage for a yet to be known reason.
With these facts on ground, who then is going to be prosecuted for blocking the COAS convoy? Is it the seven people he said he killed or who?
Definitely the NHRC is only making an empty statement to justify the claim by the COAS that his convoy was blocked by the IMN members for which the Army spent two days in a killing spree where they massacred over one thousand innocent and unarmed civilians.
The surface information made available to newsmen never mentioned the 347 IMN members mass buried by the Army, nor the remaining over 500 other members of the IMN missing since the pogrom. It only recommended that compensations be paid to families of those killed from both sides without stating the figures.
The Nigerian Army initially never mentioned having any casualty until it realized the extent of the damages it had done committing mass murder of civilians without any casualty onn its side and claiming that it was a clash. So the Army mysteriously produced one dead soldier they claimed to have been killed by IMN members who was never examined and certified to have been killed by the IMN by an independent doctor.
For this, the Kaduna state government which was holding about 200 IMN members in prison for disturbing public peace and other charges added the killing of the soldier as one of the charges against the almost 200 of them. One would wonder how 200 unarmed civilians would kill a heavily armed soldier in the midst of hundreds of other armed soldiers.
No soldier was arrested, detained and prosecuted for the killing of over 1000 IMN members to further show that it wasn’t a clash but government committing genocide on a mminority.
Apart from this fabricated case of killing a soldier no other soldier was killed but the Kaduna state government told the JCI how it assisted the Nigerian Army in mass burying over 347 IMN member killed by the Nigerian Army.
Prof. Angwe also mentioned that soldiers found violating the Army rules of engagement should be prosecuted but he refused attributing the fault to the COAS for ordering the use of excessive force on unarmed civilians including women and children and engaging in extra-judicial killings for 48 hours. Who is going to be prosecuted for carrying out the orders of the COAS? Is it the individual soldiers or the COAS that gave the order? More so, the General Officer Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna Maj. General Olaniyi told the JIC that he acted on orders from above.
Members of the IMN killed by the Nigerian Army did not fall from the sky, they have relatives, friends and loved ones and no serious mention of any compensation was made in that regard. What manner of investigation is this where human beings killed are just referred to as if they were ants swept away?
For the sake of balance, fairness and natural justice, the call that the IMN should apologize to the COAS for blocking his way should have been complemented with a similar call on the COAS to go and kneel down before the leader of the IMN Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, with live media coverage, and beg his forgiveness for killing three of his sons, shooting him and his wife severally, burning his elder sister alive, setting his residence ablaze and killing over 1000 of his followers for a claim of road blockage he knew nothing about.
The NHRC should have also asked the COAS to render public apology to Nigerians for terrorizing civilians and violating the Army rules of engagement through extra-judicial killings of over 1000 unarmed men, women and children.
The commission should have also told the COAS to publicly apologize to over 1000 families he had unjustly infested with sorrow tears and blood by either turning the mothers into widows, the children into orphans and to the hundreds of children born after the pogrom whose parents he had killed.
If it was actually a Human Right Commission wanting to bring about peace and tranquility and not wanting to satisfy the greedy whims and caprices of the COAS, the NHRC should have also demanded for such public apology to be made by the COAS as well, as the rights violations from his side were even more brutal and uncivilized.
Already, reputable and independent human rights organizations including the Amnesty International (AI), the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) of London have all in their various investigations indicted the Nigerian Army of genocide and crime against humanity asking the COAS to come clean on the Zaria Massacre. It is not surprising that the NHRC is different because it is not independent.
The NHRC made an impossible recommendation to ban blockage of public highways which is part and parcel of the Nigerian culture during its events and merry makings. Such a ban would only infringe on the rights of the citizenry as well. Politicians, carnivals, Churches, Mosques, Sports Fans, Labor Unions, Entertainers, Traditional institutions and a lot of others all block highways during their grand activities and are all entitled to it. Even the Nigerian president resorted to blocking highways before he could win elections. So it is truly foolish for one to ban the use of highways by citizens when the need arises just to please the COAS and make his case genuine.
Lastly, it is very important to note that the Zaria massacre as purported by the commission was not a clash nor was it spontaneous but a plotted and well-coordinated military attack on the IMN by the Muhammadu Buhari regime. There is no evidence to prove anything like a clash between the IMN and the Nigerian Army. Heavily armed troops laid siege on the IMN members chanting anti-Shiite slogans and killing anybody they identified as a Shiite and in some cases even seeking the help of thugs from Gyallesu to identify the Shiites from among the captives. If the thugs say he is Shiite the soldiers will then kill him or torture him to death and if they say he is not Shiite they will release him. How could this manslaughter be described as a clash?
Anyway, everyone is aware that the NHRC is yet to have a governing body as its affairs are under the supervision of the Executive Secretary and not an appointed chairman. The laws establishing NHRC does not give the Executive Secretary the power to set up an investigation of this magnitude. The NHRC is in the best position to tell why it had run an investigation and produced a report.
Until the report is made public for proper scrutiny, the surface information made available leaves a lot of doubts as to where the NHRC is heading to though it claimed it would be fair to both sides.
By Abdulmumin Giwa