Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has told the Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF) that the group will not appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to investigate the December clash with the military in Zaria until its leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky, is released.
Zakzaky has been in government custody since the violent clash between his group and the military which led to the death of scores of his members. Kaduna State Government had while appearing before the commission revealed that no fewer than 347 dead bodies were given a mass burial after the violent clash between the sect and the Nigerian Army.
The NSGF in a communiqué issued at its meeting on Friday had called on the Shiites to cooperate with the Judicial Commission of Inquiry but the Islamic sect in a statement yesterday signed by its spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, gave the release of its leader as a pre-condition for such cooperation.
“We appreciate the governors’ call, at least it is an acknowledgement on their part that something unfortunate in the history of the North happened in Zaria that if not handled fairly and justly could have long-term consequences for the region and the country in general,” Musa stated.
However, he said, IMN made their points for staying away from the commission very clear and would like to remind the governors and the general public that none of the reasons had been given consideration or addressed by any of the relevant authorities, including the NSGF and all those clamouring for the Islamic sect’s appearance before the commission.
Foremost among the reasons, he noted, is “the continued incarceration of the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who we all know was attacked in his own house towards midnight in what the Army termed ‘cordoned and search’ operation without any justification.”
He said: “The crux of the matter is that there is simply no rational basis for the soldier’s attack in his residence in the first place. In effect justice demands that Sheikh Zakzaky is supposed to be a free man so that he can give his own input to the Commission on his own volition.
“As things stands now, those who are accused of killing at least 1000 people including women and children are roaming about freely, despite admission that they buried at least 347 of those in a night burial in a mass grave in an attempt to hide their crime.”
On the other hand, Musa said, Sheikh Zakzaky and hundreds of his followers who are victims of the brutal military attack are behind bars, with some standing trial for alleged culpable homicide.
According to him, this smacks of gross injustice and bias on the part of the government that set up the Commission, adding that “IMN firmly believes that for justice to be seen to be done, Sheikh Zakzaky should be promptly set free unconditionally”.
Musa also raised the group’s allegations of the lopsided composition of the commission, which he said was done in a way that suggests that the final report had already been determined.
“We have already pointed out to the government and the public that among the ’13 wise men and women’ of the Commission are three people who are well known in their hate campaigns against the IMN. This has not been addressed too,” he said.
He further stated: “What we had expected the NSGF to have dwelt up is not our absence from the proceedings of the Commission but the disturbing facts emanating from the confessions of the Kaduna state government in the mass burial of 347 people and the denial of such a war crime by the soldiers involved. The Army admitted before the panel that it handed ‘few corpses’ for the mass burial. Our records shows that close to 400 others remain unaccounted for.
“Thus the NSGF ought to be sufficiently disturbed that a ‘few’ of their citizens were secretly buried in mass grave by one of their members and even more disturbing is the majority of the victims are yet to be accounted for. Did they task Governor Nasiru Elrufai to explain?.”
“The Islamic Movement sincerely believes it is not too late for the NSGF to demand for the immediate release of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and other members of IMN in detention. It is only when victims of the military attack in Zaria are savouring their freedom just like their attackers that justice might be expected from any judicial commission of inquiry.”