Wednesday, December 16, 2015 6:58 am
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has constituted a Special Investigative Panel to probe the bloody clash between the Nigerian Army and the Shiite Muslim sect.
The clash, which began Saturday, continued on Sunday, resulting into the deaths of at least 60 people. Nigerian army said the Shiite members attempted to kill the Chief of army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai.
A statement by the commission,Tuesday said the panel was set up by the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, following a petition lodged against the Muslim sect by the Nigerian Army and “some concerned citizens.”
The statement signed on behalf of Prof. Angwe by Mr. Lambert Okpara said: “In setting the panel, Prof. Angwe stressed the need for all the parties in the dispute to sheath their swords and assured that the commission will get to the root of the matter
“The Executive Secretary noted that the country is operating a democracy which demands that institutions must act within the ambit of the law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“In a democracy, the rule of law is supreme and it is important that we continue to remind everyone about the need to respect each others’ right.”
Angwe said the commission will thoroughly investigate the incident with a view to coming up with a report that will not only address the current issues but also assist in preventing future occurrence.
The panel made up of top management staff in legal, investigations and monitoring departments of the NHRC is headed by Mr Tony Ojukwu, Director, Monitoring Department.
The Army told the NHRC that Buratai was on his way from Dutse to pay homage to the Emir of Zazzau before proceeding to Depot NA passing out parade of 73 Regular Recruit Intake, when “heavily armed sect members numbering over 500 rushed out and barricaded the Zaria Polo/Golf Road in the vicinity of their supposed shrine.
“On noticing the high profile convoy they quickly used heavy stones, logs, tyres and bonfires to block the road. All entreaties to pacify and administration of warning to the sect fell on deaf ears.
“On the contrary, they became more emboldened and demanded martyrdom with gun shots and pelting of the convoy with whatever was available to them.
“This left immediate security personnel of Chief of Army Staff with no choice than to take necessary actions in line with NA rules of engagement to clear the attack and extricate the entire convoy.
“An interim report by the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police vide HQ NACMP/GI/300/167 dated December 12, 2015, is enclosed.
“The sect demonstrated absolute defiance to reason, law and order before launching the attack. The Chief of Army Staff has instituted an investigation into the incident. Furthermore, the Shiite Muslims have been contacted nationwide to let them know that the NA is not against them but was forced to respond to the brutal attack by misguided elements among them. This is forwarded for your information and necessary action,” read the complaint letter signed by Colonel F. U. Mijinyawa for the Chief of Army Staff.”
In the occurrence report attached to the petition, Army told the NHRC that the sect that attacked Buratai was armed with “dangerous weapons ranging from long swords, knives, daggers, sticks, iron rods to catapults.”
“A few of the group members had started crawling in the over grown grasses by the roadside towards the COAS vehicle with the intent to attack the vehicle with petrol bomb.
“Subsequently, they suddenly resorted to firing gun shots from the direction of the mosque and hauling dangerous weapons towards the troops. Despite the troops firing warning shots, the El-ZakZakky’s group continued attempting to forge towards the troops.
“The troops immediately responded in line with the Rules of Engagement (ROE) as the life of the VIP (COAS) was seriously threatened.
“Sequel to the above, about seven of the members of the group were shot dead and the COAS directed that the 10 wounded be evacuated to the Depot NA Medical Centre for treatment while all exhibit items such as swords, knives, cell phones be recovered from the scene. They were subsequently handed over to the Nigeria Police.”
*Reported by Vanguard online