The Superfluous Trial of El-Zakzaky

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Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

The federal government and the Kaduna State Government are clearly not being advised appropriately on the Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky case. I am still struggling to recover from the shock of the decision to drag the Shitte cleric/leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, and his wife to a court in Kaduna this week on charges bordering on culpable homicide and unlawful assembly. Of course, the federal government is a party to this dangerous game. El-Zakzaky was to be formally charged on Tuesday but because other defendants were not present, the case was adjourned to June 21. The pro-Iranian cleric has been in the custody of the DSS since 2015 after clashes between soldiers and his followers, left 347 of his followers dead.

The court appearance on Tuesday was El-Zakzaky’s second public appearance since he was taken into custody despite multiple court rulings approving his freedom. On December 6, 2016, a Federal High Court presided over by Justice G. O. Kolawole ordered the release of El-zakzaky and his wife and awarded them N50 million damages. The Nigerian Army and the Kaduna State Government had demolished and set their residence on fire on 15 December 2015. As a result, the Federal High Court also ordered the federal government to provide them with a suitable accommodation. These orders have been ignored by the Buhari administration.

For me, this government should be thinking more about a political solution to this El-Zakzaky quagmire instead of charging him to court. His supporters have been causing chaos on the streets of Abuja in the last six months. It could explode into something more dangerous if El-Zakzaky is convicted. This is because he could face the death penalty. I share the sentiments of the former Ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria, John Campbell, who few weeks back cautioned the federal government to thread carefully in the way it was handling the case of El-Zakzaky, warning that his ongoing trial could worsen the nation’s security.

In his piece posted on the website of the American think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, Campbell said: “El-Zakzaky has claimed to have followers ranging from a few hundred thousand to three million. Whatever IMN’s numbers, it has demonstrated the ability to shut down Abuja, if only for a few days at a time. Were El-Zakzaky to be tried, convicted, and executed-the worst-case scenario – Abuja could very well face the ‘black swan’ of an insurrection.” The former envoy also pointed out alleged similarities between the way the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was treated and the manner el-Zakzaky’s case was being handled, cautioning that Nigeria could have something similar to Boko Haram insurrection.

El-Zakzaky’s health should be of concern to genuine patriots. He is in his mid-sixties and has lost one eye, following the 2015 clash. If he dies in detention, the consequences will be horrendous for this country. “His health has been fading and if you had an opportunity to see him today, it is obvious and clear. He needed a stick to get around. El-Zakzaky’s eyesight is poor. His wife walks with a stick; she was shot severely on her leg,” his lawyer, Maxwell Kyon, remarked on Tuesday after his appearance in court.
Kyon said that this was the first time he had been able to talk to El-Zakzaky after the court ordered that the cleric should have access to his legal team: “We were only able to speak with him and his wife for a period of five to ten minutes.”
Clearly, President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir el-Rufai must have been listening to the counsel of the forces of darkness on this El-Zakzaki case. These evil forces care less if the country is plunged into another insurgency. This country can’t afford another insurrection. It is not too late for Buhari and el-rufai to retrace their steps and embrace a political solution to this issue.

Herdsmen Killings: Enough of Condolence Visits
One of the few things public officers in this part of the world are very good at doing is acting; even when human lives are involved. This is precisely what we have been getting, following the persistent killings by Fulani militias across the country. Each time the killers strike, President Muhammadu Buhari, the affected governor and security agents issue statement or visit the scene, vowing to bring the killers to book. More often than not, nothing happens thereafter. This is the raw deal traumatised residents of Gwaska village in Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State have been getting, following the May 7 Fulani militias attack that left over 70 people dead in the community.

Governor Nasir el-rufai rushed to Gwaska the following day, chanting the same ugly rhetoric: “I came here to share the pains and anguish of our people, the predicament of innocent citizens whose lives were cut short due to terrorism of bandits and criminals who have been tormenting us. I want to say again, that we are not sleeping and by the grace of God, we will overcome this evil act and terrorism being unleashed on our people.” It is almost two weeks, yet, not a single culprit has been apprehended. Nigerians want to see culprits of the Gwaska massacre arrested and put on trial.

Once government fails to arrest and prosecute criminals, crime will persist in that society. That was why few days later, the Fulani militias attacked two communities in Kogi State, killing 10 persons. Two Tiv settlements, one in Ilai, on the outskirts of Mopamuro, and the other in Ido-Gbede of Ijumu Local Government Area of the state were brutalised by AK 47-wielding militia. They also attacked Ukemberagya, near Anyiin, in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State on Wednesday, killing five farmers. For almost three hours, they moved from one village to another, shooting sporadically and razing houses.

Our security chiefs also go about giving deadlines to their field officers to end killings without consequences for failure to meet such deadlines. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, is notorious for this. On Tuesday, he charged troops to end the wanton killings and destruction of property in Gwaska and other communities in Birnin Gwari within three weeks. Speaking while flagging-off the 2 Battalion Forward Operation Base (FOB) for Operation ‘Idon Raini’ at the proposed site in Kanfanin Doka village of Birnin-Gwari, Buratai showboated: “The criminals are not coming from the moon or coming from outer space; they are within this territory. I don’t know why you cannot go to where they are and get them fished out. The killings must stop, the wanton destruction of property must stop, not only within Kaduna State but in the north-west, the north-central and across our country. We must respond decisively and commanders will be personally held responsible for any lapses. You must decide and take appropriate action, anything outside that, you will also be held responsible. We are no longer going to adopt the defensive approach, it must be offensive. Since the battle has been brought to you, you must take it back and crush them wherever they are.”

I am not sorry to say that Buratai’s Birnin Gwari deadline will end without any result. In fact, on the same day he gave the deadline, Fulani militias returned to four communities in Birnin Gwari, killing ten people. This is the Buratai that gave his commanders deadline to end Boko Haram and arrest Abubakar Shekau without result. Yet, heads did not roll. I guess Buratai has forgotten about the Boko Haram deadline.
President Buhari has failed to show good leadership in curtailing these killings. This is why Boko Haram and Fulani militias continue to ravage our country. His service chiefs have repeatedly failed to deliver, yet, he’s keeping them.

This week, frustrated stakeholders in Birnin Gwari under the aegis of Birnin-Gwari Vanguards for Security and Good Governance took their case to Amnesty International (AI), with the hope of drawing global attention to the obstinate carnage in this community. In its petition to AI, the stakeholders regretted that Kaduna state government had abandoned them to their fate hence the recent killings and kidnappings and called on the International human rights body to wade into the crisis before the community is decimated.
I agree with the position of The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, that killer herdsmen are being handled with kid’s glove by Buhari. Rising from its 2018 synod at the St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Amawbia, Anambra State, the Bishop of Awka Diocese, Dr. Alex Ibezim urged Buhari to stop treating the killers with levity. The synod noted that a group that had killed thousands of Nigerians should not be treated as kinsmen.

The church said: “The group (Fulani militias) has done enough havoc to be acknowledged by the global community as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. Between 2014 and 2018, herdsmen had killed over 1,229 people across the country with Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Plateau, Kaduna and Katsina as the worst.
“Most worrisome is the brutality and impunity with which the assailants operate without regard for the law and the sanctity of human life. The Nigerian police and even the military seem powerless to defend the victims from being mercilessly slaughtered in their homes. It is unfortunate that this level of criminal impunity is happening in a sovereign nation with a constitution which declares that the security and welfare of the citizens shall be a major responsibility of the state.

“Perhaps, we need to ask why the police and the military are incapable of protecting the farmers from violent attacks by Fulani herdsmen. Is it true that the Fulani militias are better armed and sometimes outnumber the police? Why is it difficult for the federal government to contain the terror of the Fulani militia? Who are those arming the Fulani herdsmen to unleash mayhem on innocent and defenceless Nigerians?”
Failure to protect lives and property is failure of government. This is the truth that must be told. This administration must face this reality and act decisively against Boko Haram and Fulani militia.

Elegy to Slain Civilian JTF Members
Members of the Civilian Joint Task Force have been defending Borno State against Boko Haram for years. But for them, Maiduguri might have been choked by these terrorists. Hundreds of these brave young men have paid for this service with their lives. They still do, virtually on a daily basis. Just on Tuesday, five members of this militia force were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint manned by them on the outskirts of Konduga, Borno State. “We lost five comrades in a suicide attack. Five others are in hospital receiving treatment,” declared Ibrahim Liman, a CJTF leader in Konduga. This is a special appeal to Governor Kashim Shettima to do the needful for the families of these departed supermen. I will like to see Shettima visiting families of these heroes. Relations of these fallen heroes must be properly compensated. These young men laid down their lives for others to live.

Contentious Petrol Subsidy Payments
Our grumpy governors are finally speaking out against the sustenance of the dubious petrol subsidy regime by the Buhari administration. Over N1 trillion was paid as petrol subsidy last year, with daily consumption suspiciously jumping from about 35 million litres during the Jonathan era to over 60 million litres today. The governors are demanding a probe of NNPC and oil subsidy payments from 2015 to date.

A delegation led by Abdulaziz Yari, chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Zamfara State, who met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday declared: “Many of our international partners are saying that even if we are feeding Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Niger, we cannot consume more than 35 million litres per day.” All these are happening in an era of “change”. Patriots must rise and challenge this questionable subsidy regime.