Shiites, Army Clash: Rights Groups Caution AI against Making Pre-judicial Statements

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Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The rights groups in Nigeria have cautioned the Amnesty International (AI) to be careful in its remarks and statements concerning the December 12, 2015, deadly clash between the Nigerian Army and Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State, until the Commission of Inquiry looking into the case concludes their findings.

The two civil society groups -Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and Association of African Writers on Human and Peoples Right (AFRIRIGHT)-at a joint press conference in Abuja yesterday, faulted the AI’s demand for probe of the number of casualties of the incident.

They also accused the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nassir El Rufai, of “stoking the embers of hatred and incitement of gullible Nigerians against the Nigerian army by juggling and bandying unsubstantiated and politically inflated number of casualties of the Shiites/army clash without any shred of scientifically provable evidence to back up such sensationally high number.”

The groups through their National Coordinator and Country Director, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Ms. Zainab Yusuf, urged AI and El-Rufai to allow the wheel of investigative justice activated within the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probe panel and the Kaduna State judicial panel to run their full courses.

“We suspect that the jostling for who runs for presidency in 2019 general election may be the ultimate reason for this sensationalism from the officials affiliated to the office of the state governor who may have issued that figure before the state judicial probe panel to rubbish any human rights record the President may flaunt or advertise whether now or in the nearest future within and outside of our shores. The target is President Muhammadu Buhari,” they alleged.

The rights groups condemned what they described as inflammatory and partisan statements, citing the uproar that greeted the testimony by the officials working for the state governor in which a high figure of over 300 persons were alleged to have been killed during the unfortunate encounter between the Nigerian army and the members of the Shiites Islamic movement.

HURIWA and AFRIRIGHT therefore urged Nigerians to disregard, what they described as “the hasty conclusions already drawn by the London-based global rights forum, AI, which had called for a probe on the high figure of casualties even when it is a known logical fact that both the panels set up on that sad Shiites/army clash by the NHRC and the state government are yet to wind up the exercises or issue their respective reports of their investigative activities.”

The human rights groups have also called for the probe of the AI Nigeria Country Director, Mohammed Ibrahim, “the Kano State- born but Zaria educated erstwhile career diplomat who was an official of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) independent rights body and a diplomat in Libya to determine if he has affiliation to Islamic fundamentalism.”

The HURIWA and AFRIRIGHTS noted that the statement issued by Ibrahim-led AI on the testimony by the Kaduna State government has completely eroded the expected neutrality of a human rights organisation.

They said: “It is regrettable that since the last few months that AI opened a country office in one corner of Abuja and appointed Ibrahim as its head, the officials have often uttered statements that portray them as being sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism.

“Why will Nigerians be incited with hate messages against the army based on a testimony of a witness from the state governor who has become very controversial lately?

“Nigerians should wait for the judicial commission and the investigative panel of the NHRC to complete their probe on this unfortunate incident before we draw any conclusion.

“The officials who composed the investigative panel are men and persons of integrity and honour so let’s keep our fingers crossed till the investigation is complete.”