By Abdulmumin Giwa
There is need to correct the wrong impression doing the rounds that there was a clash in Zaria between the Nigerian Army and the Shi’ites, an idea also adopted by the Daily Trust newspaper referring to it as “a bloody clash” in its editorial with the above mentioned heading published on 25th September 2016.
There was no such thing as Army-Shiites clash in Zaria on the 12th to 14th December 2015. What actually took place was a coordinated attack on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and its leadership by the Nigerian Army.
The Nigerian Army carrying heavy weapons attacked the IMN in a killing spree for a period of 48 hours, killing men, women and children, burning some alive and whisking away corpses which they latter deposited in mass graves, one of which was uncovered by the Amnesty International (AI).
There is no evidence whatsoever that the Nigerian Army clashed with the IMN most especially as the entire casualty was on the side of the IMN to the extent that part of the Report of the Kaduna Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) described what the Army did as a massacre even as the IMN was not allowed to say its side of the story.
The idea of propagating the incident as a clash was to mislead the public and hide the incessant mass murder and genocidal attack of the IMN members by the Nigerian regime and it’s Army. The claim that it was a clash is very hypocritical.
More so, there wasn’t any ‘altercation’ between the IMN and the police in the FCT as stated by the editorial. The Nigerian police simply attacked a peaceful protest calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the revered leader of the IMN, His Eminence Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky(H) with life bullets and teargas.
The claim by the FCT Police Commissioner, Muhammad Mustapha, as quoted by the Daily Trust that the police command “is well prepared and possesses the wherewithal to confront any threat to existence of serene peaceful FCT” is funny. The IMN had protested tens of times in the FCT since the illegal detention of its leader by the government and no incident was recorded. There had never been any ugly situation recorded. The last protest march in the FCT raised eyebrows because the Police Commissioner decided to attack the peaceful protest simple. If he had not attacked it nothing would have happened as the protesters would have just protested and gone their way. But he made a situation of it.
More so, there is no law that directs anybody or group towards seeking the Commissioner’s permission to protest, the IMN protest inclusive. It is very primitive and dictatorial to attack peaceful protests by citizens thereby further worsening the bad human rights image of the Nigerian government. It is against all international practices.
Hence, the Commissioner describing the protest as “illegal and with satanic intention” best describes the primitive action he took attacking unarmed and peaceful protest.
As a trained police officer serving public interest he should have advised the government on the best solution to stop the persistent IMN protests by telling the government to respect the Nigerian Constitution and free Sheikh Zakzaky. Instead the Police Commissioner chose to join the bandwagon of sycophants to protect government impunity and disregard to the Nigerian constitution instead of the public interest.
The Daily Trust editorial also made reference to the report produced by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which is not in any way different from the biased report produced by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) in Kaduna. Just as the JCI tactically refused to listen to Sheikh Zakzaky’s side of the story and the side of the story of members of the IMN in jail, so did the NHRC conducted its own sessions in secrecy. Nobody was there to study the memo presented to them by the Chief of Army Staff nor was he cross-examined by the IMN legal team.
It is in contravention of the rules of natural justice and fairness to conduct anything secret on a case of this magnitude that involves thousands of affected families, friends and well-wishers that are hungry for justice to be done. Justice needs not just to be done but to be seen to have been done. In the case of the NHRC it is not seen to have been done.
More so, by the rules establishing the NHRC, only its governing body can establish such a panel of investigation and as the time the panel of investigation was constituted the NHRC had no governing body. It is then extra-judicial and illegal. This only proves desperation from the side of the NHRC to satisfy the COAS and serve his interest.
Definitely, the abduction and illegal detention of Sheikh ibraheem Zakzaky is a violation of the Nigerian constitution which allows for only 48 hours of detention or for the detained to be charged to court. Here is the revered leader of the IMN being detained for over nine months without trial which is an act of impunity.
If the state can flagrantly violate the Nigerian constitution by illegally abducting and detaining the IMN leader and falsely claiming that he is under ‘protective custody with his consent’, what moral right does the government has to point against the IMN as being disobedient to the constitution except in what it interests it as suggested by the editorial? Is the violation of the Army rules of engagement not a violation of the constitution? One is tempted at this point to ask whether the Nigerian constitution is meant to be imposed only on the IMN in Nigeria especially by the government that hardly regards or respects court orders.
“The leader of the IMN should be tried speedily for any offences (if any) established against him and his organization I line with the 1999 CFRN as amended” is a significant quote from the report of the NHRC panel which the editorial sees to be very important.
What is even more important is that it was doubtful if there was anything to use in indicting the IMN leader and so it said “if any”. The Daily Trust editorial was also able to establish that “reason, logic, the law, the constitution, conscience and propriety are all on the side of the Shiites argument” after what the editorial termed “the Shiite efficient propaganda machine”.
Based on a weak support, the Daily Trust editorial called for the prosecution of the IMN leader on the grounds that “Shi’ites are believed by most Nigerians including their neighbors in Zaria, the police, the Army and the government to be essentially lawless who do not respect the rights of others and who do not recognize the constitution of the Federal Republic or the sovereignty of Nigerian state except where its serves its purpose”.
We expected that the editorial should have summoned courage to at least, when it said the Sheikh should be prosecuted, add the clause “or be freed”. It should have sited logical reasons why he should be prosecuted not call for his prosecution based on the beliefs of the self-appointed IMN adversaries.
At least the editorial had already established that “reason, logic, the law, the constitution, conscience and propriety are all on the side of the Shiites argument” and the NHRC is doubtful if the Sheikh should be prosecuted when it called for his speedy prosecution for the offences he allegedly committed saying “if any”, why not simply call for the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky?
If the government was sure it had satisfactory evidences to prosecute the IMN leader the editorial would not be calling on it to prosecute him, it would be talking about something else because the government would have since taken him to court. But because the government cannot boast of any offence he had committed to have warranted this genocide on the IMN is why it is keeping him and deceiving the public that they are protecting him with his consent.
By Abdulmumin Giwa