Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A committee of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), wednesday recommended the detained leader of the Shiite Islamic sect, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, for prosecution for illegal blocking of roads in Zaria which resulted in a bloody clash between the army and members of the Shiite sect.
This is one of the recommendations made by the special committee constituted to investigate the December 12, 2015, bloody clash between members of the sect under the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The clash which resulted in the death of many members of the sect, with others seriously wounded, occurred after the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Yusuf Buratai, who was on his way from Dutse to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau before proceeding to Depot NA Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruit Intake, was allegedly denied passage by members of the Shi’ite sect.
The committee, headed by Mr. Tony Ojukwu which submitted its report to the Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, yesterday maintained that the leadership and members of the sect “were responsible for the abuse of right to freedom of movement of the convoy of the COAS and other members of the public by blocking the public highway on December 12, 2015.”
It said its findings revealed that members of the sect had on that ill-fated day, turned out en mass and blocked the public highway with arms, “becoming riotous and constituting an obstruction on the road and placing stones and bonfire to prevent passage of the convoy of the COAS.”
However, the report said there was no evidence before the panel indicating that the action of the sect was pre-planned or pre-meditated.
“The panel found that the people killed during the incident were given mass burial without first establishing their identities or autopsy or medical report indicating the cause of death.”
As part of its recommendations, the committee said compensation computed in a fair manner by experts should be paid by the Kaduna State Government to people whose properties were demolished after the clash.
“The federal government and Kaduna State Government should be responsible for the medical care and bills of all those that were injured during the incident including IMN leader, El-Zakzaky and his family members.”
While it urged speedy trial of member of the sect that were arrested after the incident, the panel, insisted that persons who lost their lives unjustifiably during the incident, including members of the armed forces, are entitled to compensation from the federal government.
“The appropriate criminal prosecution for blocking the public highway by member of the IMN should be applied to the members and leadership of the IMN for failing to obey lawful directives when requested to do so by law enforcement officials.
“The blockage of public highways or roads for religious purposes or other activities like tax collections should be banned by the federal, state and local governments.”
The head of the investigation panel, Ojukwu, noted that though the sect submitted a harmonised memorandum on behalf of all its members and gave individual and general evidence on the submissions, however, half way to conclusion of the proceedings, it discontinued its further participation, appearance and involvement in the proceedings of the panel.
Receiving the report, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, said he would study it carefully to enable the commission issue a final report that would be forwarded to relevant government authorities.
“The commission will at the appropriate time release to the general public a final report of its investigation into the clash between the army and the Islamic movement.”
He said the NHRC would continue to play its part toward ensuring a balance between national security and right of the citizenry.