Ahead of Nigerian Northern Governors Forum’s Emergency meeting in Kaduna Leaders of Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria yesterday, in Abuja, itemized five conditions for possible truce, chief among them the immediate release of their spiritual leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky.
The sect also insisted that the killing of its members by Nigerian soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State, was unprovoked.
The group, which claimed that more than 300 of their members were shot dead during the Saturday and Sunday showdown, said it could not account for most of their corpses till date.
Also, the Nigerian Army yesterday released a video clip detailing how soldiers in the convoy of chief of army staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, were pleading with the angry members of the Shia group to remove barricades and let the top soldier’s convoy pass.
Addressing Journalists in Abuja, the group’s Media Forum Secretary, Abdulmumin Giwa, and Yola leader of the movement, Abdulrahman Abubakar, said they had incurred both human and material losses as a result of the clamp down on them by soldiers.
Presenting a catalogue of demands to the government of Nigeria, the embattled group’s leaders said: “We want the army to hand over our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, to us immediately for medical care. We ask the military to release all our arrested members. We ask for the army to stop molestation of our members; all corpses of our brothers and sisters killed by the army should be released for proper Islamic burial. We want full compensation for the lives lost as well as our properties destroyed, and we want a full-scale investigation and prosecution of culprits involved in the killing of our members.”
Giwa said that since the Saturday incident, their members have continued to suffer more deaths with the Tuesday incident when men of the Nigerian Police Mobile Force attacked their members and killed four.
“We had no premeditated plan to attack the chief of army staff as claimed by the army,” said Giwa. “On that fateful day when we were getting set to celebrate the Maulud of our holy prophet at the Husseiniyya prayer ground, the Nigerian Army came and stationed a detachment of soldiers there and the military presence created tension amongst our members. Even when the COAS came to pass, there was no incident at all. But two hours later, soldiers came back and began to open fire on our members. More than 300 people were killed there.”
Sheikh-ZakzakyAccording to him, later in the night, the army went to Gellesu residence of leader and opened fire on our members, including our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, and three of his children. More deaths were recorded there; in fact the death toll was four times more than what was recorded at Husseiniyya.
He claimed that most of the dead bodies were evacuated by the army and taken to unknown places.
The two spokesmen of the group said El-Zakzaky had called some of the members shortly before soldiers picked him up, to tell them that he sustained bullet injuries in his eyes and in his right shoulder.
“He informed his only surviving son that he was bleeding profusely and that the corpses of his three sons: Hamad (18), Ali (16) and Humeid (13) were lying dead in front of him at the time the soldiers were shooting into his home,” said Abubakar, the Yola leader of the sect.
Denying the allegation that they had armed sect members during the faceoff with soldiers, the duo of Giwa and Abubakar said their group had been known as one of the most peaceful and responsible religious bodies in Nigeria.
“We have never been associated with any form of violence in many years of our existence. In fact, we have been rated as the highest donor to the blood bank in Nigeria”, said Giwa.
The group said the video clips made available by the Nigerian Army showing their (sect) members in open confrontation with soldiers on the security detail of the chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, was not a true reflection of what led to their members dead.
Senate Wades Into Army, Shi’ite Face-off
The Senate yesterday waded into the crisis between the Nigerian Army and the Islamic Movement Group (Shi’ite) by setting up an investigative ad-hoc committee, comprising chairmen and vice chairmen of committees on Defence, Intelligence and National Security, Judiciary, Army, Police Affairs, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, to investigate the bloody clash with a view to ensuring that peace reigns in the country.
Senate also lamented the loss of lives and properties during the clash and appealed for calm by the affected parties and the general public while the investigation continues.
Conveying the decision of the Senate after its closed-door session, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told journalists that senators unanimously resolved that the heads of the seven committees which form the ad-hoc committee, would be chaired by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Ahmed Lawan.
Northern Governors summon emergency meeting in Kaduna, call for calm
Governors of the 19 northern states under the auspices of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) have called an emergency meeting to discuss recent happenings in the region, particularly the recent fracas between the Army and Shi’ites followers which led to many deaths in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who doubles as chairman of the Forum, announced yesterday that the 19 governors will be holding an emergency meeting on Saturday in Kaduna. The venue and time of the meeting has been communicated to members of the Forum, he noted.
Shettima’s spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, said in a statement issued at last night that the decision followed consultations between the governors yesterday night. He said the northern governors were worried at the situation and hence their resolve to wade into the matter with a view to frontally addressing the problem.
The governors called on citizens and all parties associated with the incident in Zaria to be calm and exercise restraint, assuring that far reaching steps will be taken to guarantee the restoration of normalcy, just as they asked all citizens to live according to the laws of the land.
Reps To Meet Top Security Chiefs, Probe Army, Shi’ite Clash
The House of Representatives said it has ordered its two relevant standing committees to meet with the top officers of the country’s security agencies in order to unearth the root cause of last Saturday’s clash between men of the Nigeria Army and followers of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ite, with a view to finding lasting solutions.
A press statement signed by the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, yesterday said Speaker Yakubu Dogara urged the committees to do a thorough job considering the sensitive nature of the matter and the present security situation in the country.
Normalcy Returns To Kaduna, Zaria As el-Rufai Visits destruction Sites
Normalcy has been restored both in Kaduna metropolis and Zaria city following Saturday’s clash between the Nigerian Army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ite, that the led to the death of many persons.
Our correspondent observed the return of normalcy as business shops and commercial banks yesterday opened for business.
Our Correspondent also observed that soldiers had taken over the three premises of the Shi’ite group they pulled down during the fracas.
The state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, visited Zaria yesterday to assess the destroyed sites.
Governor el-Rufai, who was accompanied by top government officials during his second assessment visit since the clash occurred, visited the destroyed residence of the sect’s leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky at Gyellesu; the sect’s coordinating centre, Hussainiya, within the city, and resource centre/cementary built in Dambo village, suburb of Zaria.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State governor has called on traditional rulers and other stakeholders to continue preaching peace in communities.
El-Rufai, who made the call at a meeting with traditional rulers and 23 Interim Council chairmen before proceeding to Zaria on assessment visit, said he was in constant touch with the federal government over the clash in Zaria.
He said: “The meeting is to rub minds together in view of the current security situation in the state and country as a whole. We will continue to partner with traditional rulers in preaching peace in our communities. Our government will act promptly in any security issue. I am calling on all our traditional rulers not to hesitate to get in touch with us in any security matter. We commiserate with the emir of Zazzau over the unfortunate incident in Zaria. I am in touch with the federal government over the clash in Zaria.”
On his part, the Emir of Zazzau, Dr Shehu Idris, commended the governor and security agencies for maintaining peace in the state, saying traditional institution would continue to assist government in bringing permanent peace to the state.
US, UK Govt Calls For Peace
The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom have called for peace and sustainable governance in Kaduna State.
A statement made available to Newsmen, signed by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, noted the US government’s deep concern over reports of violent clashes in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He said, “We are dismayed to learn of multiple civilian deaths. It is essential that all sides refrain from actions that further destabilize the situation.”
Referring to Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau’s trip to Zaria yesterday, the envoy said, “Speaking as a friend of Nigeria, I am sure Minister Dambazau’s trip to Zaria was the first step in the timely, transparent investigation to which I am sure President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration are committed.”
In a separate statement, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, said, ‘’I am further concerned at reports that protests in Kaduna have turned violent.”
He noted that Nigeria’s religious and ethnic diversity adds a great deal to the country’s rich culture.
‘’It is important, therefore, that Nigerians of all faiths are allowed to assemble and worship freely. I call on the security forces to conduct their operations within the rule of law, and for demonstrators to ensure any protests are peaceful and equally act within the law,”he added.