SHAFAQNA – The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has slammed the recommendations of the official Judicial commission of inquiry into last December’s massacre of hundreds of civilians in the northern city of Zaria as “absurd, biased and unacceptable.”
In a scathing indictment of the report, which has been presented to the Kaduna state government but not yet been officially released, the IMN accused the Commission of blaming the victims instead of focussing on the soldiers responsible for the massive loss of life and bloodshed.
A military assault between December 12-14 on the supporters and property of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria left over 1000 people dead and destroyed many properties and religious spaces belonging to the movement and its members.
The recommendation that IMN leader Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky be held personally responsible for the alleged violence of the IMN comes in for sharp criticism. Not only is this a complete reversal of blame in that no IMN members were proved in the report to have carried out any violent actions, it is also based on representations by the Nigerian army that were allowed to go unchallenged because Sheikh Zakzaky refused to cooperate with the commission after being denied access to lawyers.
Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested along with his wife Zeenat in the attack and the pair remain in detention without charge and unable to access much needed medical treatment.
The report is also criticised for use of language that seeks to draw moral equivalence between the actions of the army and IMN. It routinely refers to the violence as “clashes” when in fact the deadly violence was exclusively one-sided.
The IMN slams the commission’s recommendation that “all the dangerous weapons recovered from the IMN members should be turned over to the Police for further necessary action.* This recommendation is at variance with what the commission itself wrote in the main report (page 54), The cordon and search however did not reveal significant quantities of weapons found. The assumption that the IMN in Zaria was heavily armed was not verified.
The movement is particularly scathing in its criticism of the recommendation that the state government ensure that investigations against all persons under detention in respect of these “clashes between the NA and the IMN on 12th – 14th December” 2015 are concluded and treated expeditiously.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) was set up in response to last year’s massacre but human rights organisations have criticised it for not being sufficiently independent and impartial to be able to hold those responsible to account. In his speech announcing the inquiry, Kaduna state governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai listed a range of grievances against the IMN, which was seen as indicative of bias against the IMN from the start. He was also responsible for demolishing IMN properties before setting up the commission of inquiry.
However the report does at least acknowledge that a massacre took place which was carried out by the armed forces outside the chain of command. It calls for the officers who participated in the operation to be brought to trial before a court of competent jurisdiction.
It also called on the Federal Government to “review the adequacy of the existing rules of engagement pertaining to internal security operations and bring them into conformity with constitutional stipulations and in accord with democratic norms and humanitarian best practices.” This is hugely ironic in that Sheikh Zakaky and the IMN has consistently called for the military to be kept out of civilian affairs. At the inception of the new Buhari government in the summer of 2015, Sheikh Zakzaky repeated his view that the government must restructure and re-orient the mindset of Nigerian soldiers so that they stop seeing civilian citizens as their enemies.