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El-Zakzaky: Hurting memories of a massacre (II)

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El-Zakzaky: Hurting memories of a massacre (II)


  •Shi’ites: Heightening tension through processions


In this piece, MOJEED ALABI concludes his report on the violent crushing of hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), otherwise called ‘Shi’ites’

Lawal Ahmad, 25, just finished participating in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Scheme and lives at Tundun Wada, Gyallesu Area of Zaria. He is a Muslim, but not a member of IMN. But he detests what he described as the excesses of the youth members of the Islamic group.

According to him, the presence of El-Zakyzaky in the neighbourhood is a mixed bag for the residents, saying apart from increased sales for shop owners, the constant harassment by members of the Movement constituted security threat.

He explained; “There were checkpoints mounted almost every kilometre in the neighbourhood and people are subjected to checks of all kinds. Commercial motorcyclists don’t always like to bring passengers to the area, and whenever they do, they drop us off long distance to our homes.

Ahmad, however, condemns the violent attack on the group, saying no soul created by God deserved such ‘inhuman’ treatment the members of the group had experienced.

In a similar development, Mrs. Funmilayo Olowookere, a Yoruba from southwestern part of Nigeria, is a Christian and member of The Apostolic Faith Church, Zaria. She is a cleaner with the ABU Teaching Hospital and was familiar with the activities of the IMN.

According to Olowookere, it is understandable that once or twice in a year, the IMN members embark on procession in the town, and on Fridays, they move from Gyallesu to Hussainiyya, during which some parts of the roads are blocked. She, however, said apart from the usual skirmishes with commuters, the group over the years had been known for its activities and the people plan their activities to avoid traffic they may cause on such days.

Mrs. Ziri Amala, the Women Ministries Director of the Northern Nigerian Union Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Church, who hails from Borno State, married to a man from Abia State, and lives in Zaria, does not see El-Zakyzaky and his organisation as threat to peace in Zaria,

Mrs. Amala said; “The interesting thing is that as long as you do not disturb them, they would always make a way for you to pass, but they have no respect for rules and regulations.

“However, I must say that we were not happy about the massacre. No human being with the faith of Christ in him will like bloodshed. But our prayer is that there should be no retaliation because the whole place now, I mean their prayer ground at the Polo Ground, has been completely destroyed and fenced off. But we are at peace now and we don’t pray for crisis anywhere in Nigeria again.”

Meanwhile, Suleiman Idris, a photographer, is one of those affected by the attack on the IMN as his business has been badly affected.

According to him, the situation had forced him to relocate from Gyallesu Area to an undisclosed location, saying he wasn’t sure he could ever make the kind of money he used to make through the organisation.

“I cannot disclose where I stay now because the soldiers are still everywhere looking for people to pounce on. But I feel the attack had more to it than just what we knew. The military must have been sent by some powerful people who might be feeling offended by the truths being preached by Sheik (El-Zakyzaky),” Suleiman told New Telegraph.

Kaduna State’s intervention

Following the massacre, the Government of Kaduna State immediately waded in, and through its Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA), it completed the demolition and cleared the rubbles and debris at the various sites of the IMN.

Also, on January 11, 2016, deriving his power from Section 2 (1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap 34, Laws of Kaduna State, 1991, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai issued an order, creating the Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate both the immediate and remote causes of the massacre and recommend lasting solutions.

IMN declines participation at investigative panels

Relying on the condition that its leader, Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, be set free before it could participate in the activities of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the IMN leadership refused to take part, insisting that no one shaves the head of another man in his absence.

Investigations by New Telegraph revealed that the lead Counsel to the IMN, Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who had sought permission to meet with the detained leader for adequate briefing before his representation before the Commission, was denied access to his client for many weeks, and so later opted out.

For similar reason, the group advanced  for pulling out from its participation at a probe panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC had set up the panel based on a petition by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who had accused the IMN of attempting to assassinate him.

Inquiry Commission submits report

On April 26, 2016, the Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to Governor Nasir el-Rufai, giving its obsevations and recommendations.

The Commission’s report had read in part; “Considering the nature and organizational structure of the IMN, where the leader has the total control over the members, Sheikh Ibraheem EI-Zakzaky should be personally held responsible for all the acts of commission and omission of the entire membership of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in its clashes with the Nigerian Army for refusing to call his members to order when required to do so.

“The Commission is of the view that the use of excessive force by the Nigerian Army, which led to the heavy casualties recorded in the Cordon and Search Operation, is an act of commission for which the NA is directly responsible. The Commission, therefore, recommends that steps should immediately be taken to identify the members of the NA who participated in the killings of December 12th – 14th 2015 incident with a view to prosecuting them.”

It is important to note that the Commission faulted the Nigerian Army for what it described as its failure to observe its own Rule of Engagement, insisting that only the President is constitutionally empowered to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces, “but may, under general or specific directives, delegate his responsibility for day-to-day operational use.”

The report noted; “It shall be the duty of the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff, as the case may be, to comply with any directive given to them by the President under sub-section 1 of the Section. And in this Section, “Operational use of the Armed Forces” includes the operational use of the Armed Forces in Nigeria for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order.

“There is no evidence before the Commission that the order for the Cordon and Search Operation deploying members of the Armed Forces for the alleged purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and peace, was derived from any delegation of authority by the President and/or the Chief of Army Staff, as provided by these provisions. In addition, Section 218(1) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) vests power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation, in the President and the discretion to, by directions in writing, delegate such power to any member of the armed forces relating to the operational use of the armed forces. There was no evidence that there was the requisite delegation by the President to the Officer who issued the oral order for the deployment of the Officers and Men of the Nigerian Army (N.A) for the Cordon and Search operation.”

Court orders El-Zakyzaky’s release 

After almost one year of court sitting over the case filed by Ibraheem El-Zakyzaky through his Counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, December 2, 2016, ordered that the plaintiff be freed within 45 days.

Justice Kolawole had rejected the submission of the counsel to the State Security Service, Tijjani Gazali, that Mr. El-Zakzaky was kept in protective custody of the SSS, ruling that the decision to hold El-Zakyzaky and his wife, Zeenat, for their safety was not based on law.

“I have not been shown any incident report or any complaint lodged by residents around the neighbourhood that the applicant has become a nuisance to his neigbourhood,” said the judge, adding that the decision of the government to hold the applicant for so long amounted to great danger.

He cited the death of former leader of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who reportedly died in police custody as an example, saying; “If the applicant dies in custody, which I do not pray for, it could result in many needless deaths.”

Justice Kolawole said the government should, within 45 days, release the applicant and his family to the police, who shall, within 24 hours, take them, guarded by escort, to a safe place. He added that the SSS should pay a fine of N25 million each to El-Zakzaky and his wife, making N50 million fine.

Kaduna State Government declares IMN a terrorist group

Rather than working to ensure that the concerned government institutions respect the order of the court, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, few days after the court order, released the White Paper on the report of the Commission of Inquiry and finally labelled IMN a terrorist group, banning its activities in the state.

The government also announced the takeover of all properties belonging to IMN and declared war against anyone who claims to be members of the group.

The White Paper acknowledges that the Nigerian Army abided by its Rules of Engagement and further observed that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry failed to take into account the years during which the activities of the IMN in Gyallesu had threatened peace and security; “thus for all intent and purpose, the IMN is an insurgent group and ought to be treated as such.”

When contacted, the Special Adviser to Governor el-Rufai on Media, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, says the gazette declaring the IMN an unlawful society clearly cites the legal provisions on which the action is based. Adekeye insisted that no known law of the land was breached in the governor’s action.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s stand

Shortly after the military attack on IMN in 2014, many dignitaries across the country, including the incumbent Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari; Immediate past Caretaker Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi, among others, had paid condolence visit to El-Zakzaky in solidarity with the group.

Considering the governor’s current stance against the group, many, who spoke to New Telegraph on condition of anonymity, accused Mallam el-Rufai, of hypocrisy, saying when the governor needed votes, ahead of his gubernatorial ambition in 2015, he curried the group’s favour, forgetting the ‘danger’ it posed to the society.

When asked what could have happened to the governor’s relationship with the group within just one year in office, Adekeye deliberately refused to answer the question.

Perceived foreign influences on the crisis

Many people, including the Chairman of a Kaduna-based non-governmental organisation, Centrum Initiative for Development and Fundamental Rights Advocacy (CEDRA), Dr. John Danfulani, has identified the diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a possible factor fueling the IMN massacre in Nigeria.

The Sunni-Shi’ite crisis, which began at the moment of Prophet Muhammad’s death, was as a result of the divided opinions on who should lead Islam following the death of Muhammad. The Shi’ites, who today are in the minority among the Muslim population globally, held the belief that without sons surviving the founder of the religion, and without leaving a clear will, his closest male relative and his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, was to be the leader.

On the other hand, the Sunnis, who are in the majority and constituting more than 80 per cent of global Muslim population, believed that the caliphate should go to whoever would be best equipped politically to lead the religion. They eventually opted for Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr.

Though Abu Bakr was named the first caliphate, Ali also assumed the throne for 25 years after, but he was assassinated. His death, coupled with the massacre of his son, Hassan and his family, contributed significantly to the war of attrition between the Shi’ites and Sunnis, the two dominant Muslim factions, till date.

Therefore, like many others, Danfulani holds the belief that the standoff between the Sunni populated Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite populated Iran is already impacting the country, saying the crushing of the IMN members by the military might not be unconnected with an expression of Nigeria’s loyalty to Saudi Arabia.

At a media briefing held at the University of Lagos in 2016, Danfulani told New Telegraph, that IMN might be suffering the consequences of the crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This view may have been affirmed by the reported phone call to Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari by the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani who was quoted by the IRNA, just two days after the incident, telling Buhari to ensure that “minor disputes must not be allowed to turn into deep differences.”

Rouhani was quoted thus; “Under such conditions that terrorism is a serious threat against many Muslim countries’ security, the Muslims need to unite and not permit trivial differences of opinion to lead to acute disputes, since safeguarding the Muslims’ lives is our major and public responsibility.

“The Islamic world is more than ever before in need of peace and peaceful resolution of its existing problems. We expect the Nigerian government to relieve the entire bereaved families and injured victims of that disaster and to issue strict orders to prevent the occurrence of any further unrests.”

On his part, President Buhari reportedly appreciated the effort of his Iranian counterpart, emphasizing that he realises his responsibility in safeguarding the lives of Nigerian Muslims.

“We will also do our best to restore security in our country and will act against those who have disturbed it,” Buhari reportedly told his counterpart.

However, investigations by New Telegraph revealed that the Federal Government had seen the phone call as interference in its local affairs. This belief may be reinforced by the government’s decision not to obey its own court order as regards the release El-Zakyzaky, against court order.

Muslim groups intervene

Though, text messages sent to the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, over the matter were not replied as at the time of filing this report, investigations by New Telegraph revealed the efforts of the leadership of the Islamic body to resolve the crisis amicably. However, New Telegraph learnt that the organisation had soft-pedalled when it saw signs of no regret from the Presidency.

Meanwhile, the President of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), an Islamic based non-governmental organisation, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, told New Telegraph that though it had rushed to condemn the actions of the government shortly after the crisis, he would prefer that a middle ground is reached between the warring factions.

According to Akintola, excesses in the name of religion such as blockade of roads and carrying of arms, among others, should not be tolerated by government, but at the same time, two wrongs can never make a right.

“So MURIC will appreciate that those concerned come to a round table to resolve all the contradictions and that laws of the land should be obeyed by parties involved,” Akintola said.

Activists, right groups react

Apart from condemning the massacre, the Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA) has also faulted the Federal Government’s disobedience of its own court order.

According to the Executive Director of the group, Comrade Isiak Buna, the disregard for court is a call for anarchy.

Buna said: “Whenever there is dispute, either between two individuals or between government and individual, it is only the court of law that has the final say, as a reliable forum to settle dispute in a Democratic environment where the rule of law prevails.

Buna said; “The present position of the Federal Government as regards the continued detention of Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky is not in line with democratic tenets. It is a complete violation of court order and can qualify as nothing, but contempt of court.

“So, as a human rights organisation that advocates the rule of law, the HURMA, without any reservation, enjoins the Federal Government to obey court order in order to protect the democratic integrity of the nation. A deliberate violation of such constitutional provision is, indeed, an act of corruption and does not befit a government praised by all in championing the fight against corruption.”

Similarly, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, described the killings of the IMN members by men of the Nigerian Army as a pogrom, saying there could be no basis for such dastardly act.

According to Ogunye, every known law on human rights forbids impunity, and that fundamental rights to life, liberty and freedom of associations are all rights guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.

Jiti, however, cautions against lawlessness on the part of any individual organisation, but also warned security operatives against reckless use of arms, saying their primary responsibilities was first to protect the people, “and not to crush the same people.”

“It is still strange how just before our very eyes the Nigerian Army will descend on fellow Nigerians it is meant to protect. I want to believe, and very strongly too, that if the Chief of Army Staff had avoided the route occupied by IMN, it would not have demeaned the institution. In fact, the same Army could now approach the court to seek an order restraining such procession in future, and if that was now done, and the order, if granted, is now flouted, then the consequences could be meted.

“And these consequences cannot also be in a savagery way as we have witnessed, but in a more civil and orderly way. This is democracy, for God’s sake. I don’t think we need to be reminded of Decree 4 of 1984 which granted absolute power of arrest to the military.”

It must also be noted that similar position was held by the National Human Rights Commission, an agency of the Federal Government, which after it concluded its findings on the matter, advised the warring factions and particularly the Federal Government on ways to achieve everlasting peace.

According to an official of the agency, who craved anonymity, the NHRC had written the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, advising it to respect the order of the Federal High Court, which ordered El-Zakyzaky’s release or appeal the ruling.

“But till date, the Minister has neither communicated us on his intention to obey the order nor appealed the ruling. We have not also seen in practice the implementation of other contents of our recommendations, and this to a large extent, is an embarrassment to the country.”

Amnesty International’s position

In a similar development, the Amnesty International, in its report of investigations carried out on the matter, identified excesses on the part of IMN, but condemned the excessive force used by the military to quell the presumed provocation.

The report by the group states in part; “It is not clear why the army launched such a “military operation” in response to a law and order situation which could and should have been dealt with by the police, and why the military resorted to using live fire against mostly unarmed protesters without any attempt to use non-lethal crowd-control means. The Kaduna State Police Commissioner told Amnesty International he had no information about the incident, which he said had been a “purely military matter.”

“All available information, including consistent accounts from witnesses and survivors from the confrontations at the two locations investigated by Amnesty International, indicates that the military used unlawful and excessive force against IMN supporters, unlawfully killing hundreds of unarmed men and women who posed no threat to their lives or to the lives of others.”

El-Zakyzaky’s brother speaks

The immediate younger brother to El-Zakyzaky, who lives in Jushi Area of the ancient Zaria City, Mallam Badamosi Yako, was moved to tears when narrating his experience during his last visit to his brother in detention, saying the sect’s leader has lost an eye and that the other one requires urgent surgery.

He said after much pressure, the security operatives now allow only blood relations of El-Zakyzaky to see him, and that he goes to Abuja to see him once in a while, adding that the experience of his brother in detention isn’t appealing to encourage constant visit.

He said: “What is the need in visiting someone whose condition has degenerated, yet you cannot help. He was shot in the eye and the only one that he tries to use is even in need of surgery. Yet, the security won’t allow him to see doctors.

“The case of his wife is worse; she still has a bullet stuck to her spinal cord which has not been removed to avoid paralysis. All other bullets are removed, but she is in pains. It is a serious problem, but we believe God will never forsake his own people. We call on Nigerians and international communities to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to free my brother. What else do they want? Our sister was burnt alive, our mother’s grave was desecrated and many other atrocities were committed just because of right of way.”

Palace declines comment

On a visit to the Palace of the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, the Chief Protocol and Information Officer, Alhaji Abubakar Ladan, said it was a matter strictly between the Military and the IMN members and so would not be interested in making any comment.

Any likely retaliation from IMN?

Abdullahi Danladi is a Professor of Polymer Composite and Deputy Dean, Faculty of Physical Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University. He is a personal driver to El-Zakyzaky and one of the leaders of thought of the Islamic organisation in Nigeria.

Danladi also has his two children – Mohammed Abdullahi Danladi (eldest son) and a Masters student in Project Management at ABU, and his second son, Ibrahim Abdullahi Danladi of the International Relations Department in ABU, languishing in detention in the last two years.

But regardless of the situation, he does not believe, and said emphatically that IMN does not believe in violence “and we will never retaliate violently.”

He said: “No one fights the course of Allah for Him, because He knows all. But I can assure you that someday, somewhere; the perpetrators of this heinous crime will pay for it. But that our members will carry weapons is far from our ways of life.”

Danladi says the new twist of events whereby the IMN is being attributed to violence is strange, saying the same El-Zakyzaky was once bestowed with the Kaduna State Man of Peace Award by former Governor Ahmed Makarfi.

He, however, agreed that some youth members of the group have been found to carry items such as knives, catapults and machetes, saying their actions could not be dissociated from the constant attacks the organisation receives from the security agents.

Security threats against New Telegraph’s reporter

Following the proscription order placed on IMN by the Kaduna State Government, it is not only the perceived IMN members that are trailed in Kaduna, but also anyone with any link with the group. Our correspondent (this writer), who visited the state in pursuit of the story was also not spared.

On Wednesday, July 19, 2017 our reporter visited all the three scenes of the violence, including the Hussainiya, Gyallesu and film village, but on returning to his hideout, one of his fixers called around 12 midnight to announce a raid on the people, asking for the reporter who visited during the day.

To further confirm the information, by 9a.m. the following day, Thursday July 20, 2017 the military was on hand at the Hussainiya ground to supervise bricklayers who were busy constructing fence around the whole land space.

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