By Abiola David
A senior human rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, said Monday that Nigerian security forces have killed 492 Shiites between 2014 and 2018.
The lawyer also urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the killings.
The Shiites have been brutally assaulted and killed by security forces in the last couple of years.
Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a leading Shiites organisation, and his wife, Zeenatuddeen, were arrested on December 14, 2015, after lethal onslaught by the military in which over 1,000 Shiites, including three biological sons of Zakzaky, were murdered and their bodies buried in a mass grave.
The Kaduna State government then arraigned Sheikh Zakzaky before a state high court judge, Gideon Kurada, same 2015 for criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide punishable with death.
The Abuja division of the court on December 2, 2016 ordered that the government to within 45 days set free Sheikh Zakzaky and members of his family being held by the authorities since the December 2015 massacre.
The order by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, was sequel to an application filed by Sheikh Zakzaky for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
The judge, while delivering judgement on the matter, said the government should release the applicant and his family members to the police, who shall within 24 hours escort them to a safe place.
Justice Kolawole said failure to comply with the order would attract a fresh course of action by the court against the respondents.
The court further ruled that the respondents; the State Security Service, Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation, should pay a fine of N25 million to each of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife.
Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, however, have remained in detention despite court orders directing that they be freed on bail.
Chief Falana, in a statement released on Monday, urged the NHRC to investigate the “systematic infringements of the fundamental rights and the killings of the 492 Shiites that were recklessly massacred in Zaria, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Abuja by armed military and police personnel from 2014-2018.”
“This is in spite of the duty imposed on the Federal Government to respect the fundamental rights of every person living in Nigeria the Nigeria Army and Nigeria Police Force, it has embarked on the systematic infringements of the fundamental rights of the Shiites to life, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly,” the statement said.
He said the federal government and the relevant state governments have deliberately refused to prosecute “the well-known violators of the rights of the Shiites.”
“In two separate suits, the Kano and Sokoto judicial divisions of the federal high court have upheld the fundamental rights of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to life, freedom of religion and freedom of expression including the right to engage in peaceful processions. But in utter contempt of the federal high court, the Federal Government has refused to release Sheik El-Zakzaky and his wife from illegal custody.
“Both the army and the police have refused to recognise the right of the Shiites to participate in peaceful rallies. As you are no doubt aware, the Federal Government has continued to justify such subversion of the Rule of Law under the pretext of protecting national security.
“The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has also provided defence counsel for the over 500 of its members who have been dragged to various criminal courts and charged with unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace by the Police in Abuja, Sokoto and Kano states.
“It may interest you to know that the 100 Shiites who were charged with the offence of culpable homicide arising from the alleged killing of a soldier in Zaria on December 12, 2015, have been discharged and acquitted by the Kaduna State high court. Following the dismissal of the frivolous charge, the Kaduna state government has turned round to charge El-Zakzaky and his wife with culpable homicide before the high court in Kaduna for the alleged killing of the same soldier!”
Mr Falana highlighted the nine killings carried out by the Nigerian Army since 2014 thus:
- Killing of 35 Shiites in Zaria in July 2014 by the army
In July 2014, the Army killed 35 Shiites including 3 children of Sheik Elzakzaky at a religious convention held at Zaria. Mr. Nasir El Rufai (the current governor of Kaduna state) paid a condolence visit to Elzakzaky in his residence in Zaria. Even though a delegation of the National Human Rights Commission led by its former Chairman, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, publicly condemned the killing of the 35 Shiite and apologized on behalf of the Federal Government the culprits were not brought to justice.
- Killing of 22 Shiites by a bomb in Kano on November 29, 2015
The procession of the Shiites to mark Ashura in Kano on November 29, 2015 was violently disrupted by the Police. Suddenly, there was a bomb explosion which killed 22 Shiites. The Boko Haram terrorist sect was alleged to have claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.
- Killing of 348 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 by the army
On December 12, 2015, the army killed 348 Shiites at a religious ceremony for allegedly disrupting the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai. Although Sheik Elzakzaky was not at the religious ceremony the army invaded his house two days later, shot at him and his wife and set the house ablaze. Three of his children were killed in his presence while other family members who survived the violent attack were seriously injured.
- The killing of 13 Shiites in Kano, Sokoto and Katsina on October 12, 2016, by the Police
Thirteen (13) Shiites were killed during multiple attacks on the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria by the Police and a mob in Sokoto, Kano and Sokoto on October 12, 2016. During the attack, the police injured about 20 other Shiites.
- Killing of 3 Shiites in Kano On November 6, 2017, by the Police
Three (3) Shiites were killed in Kano when the police opened fire on the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria on November 6, 2017, during an annual religious procession in Kano.
- The killing of 20 Shiites in Kano On November 14, 2017, by the Police
Twenty (20) Shiites and a policeman were killed on November 14, 2017, at Tamburawa on the outskirts of Kano city when the Police violently stopped a procession of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
- Sokoto Shiite leader died from police gunshot injuries on February 9, 2018
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Sokoto State, Malam Kasim Rimintawaye died on February 9, 2018 following injuries sustained by him when he was shot by the police during a peaceful march in Abuja to demand the release of Sheik El-Zakzaky from custody.
- Killing of 1 Shiite at Abuja on April 16, 2018 by the Police
On April 16, 2018, the police killed a Shiite while trying to prevent the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria from staging a protest in Abuja to demand the release of Sheik El-Zakzaky from detention.
- The massacre of 49 Shiites in Abuja in October 2018 by the army and police
Over 50 Shiites have been slaughtered in Abuja in the ongoing violent attacks on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria by the army and the police. In defending its participation in the official pogrom, the army claimed that “during the encounter 3 members of the sect were killed.”
Chief Falana, however, urged the federal government to arrest and prosecute the killers of the Shitte group since the government has not pronounced the sect group as a terrorist group.
“We urge you to arrest the extermination of the Shiites without any further delay. Since the nation cannot afford to turn the Islamic Movement of Nigeria into another terrorist organization like the satanic Boko Haram sect, we request the National Human Rights Commission to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the gross violations of the fundamental rights of the Shiites highlighted.”