Five years after Zaria massacre

During his maiden media chat in December 2015, shortly after Nigerian army’s gruesome massacre of innocent citizens in Zaria, President Muhammad Buhari vowed, as he awaits the report of the Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the attack, that justice will be ensured to the victims of the horrendous incident.

Few months later, the commission finally made public its findings in July 2016, and contained in the report was evidence that the Nigerian Army have, among other crimes, used excessive force on innocent civilians and acted beyond rule of engagement. The KSJCI further established that no fewer than 347 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria were killed and buried secretly in mass grave, which was attested by the then secretary to Kaduna state government in his accounts before the commission.

Part of the recommendations of the commission is that steps should immediately be taken to identify the members of the Nigerian Army who participated in the killings, with a view to prosecuting them. In the same vein, the commission also recommended that the ‘excesses’ of the Islamic Movement be checked in accordance with the constitution, by those in authority.

The president, however, has now for the fifth year going, failed to live up to his promise as the army officials indicted by the commission were rather allowed to roam about freely, and in some instances: promoted, celebrated, hailed and awarded. On the contrary, the government was super quick- with an ultrasonic speed, to ban the activities of the movement and proscribe its membership.

More so, the victims of the massacre- members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, as the commission concluded after extensive deliberations; were further subjected to more sufferings as their homes and worship centers were unjustifiably demolished; their schools destroyed with books and other valuable items been carted away by hooligans; before the eyes of security forces.

Their peaceful protests have since then become target of clampdown by security forces every now and then. From 2016 till date, no fewer than hundred lives were lost as a result of these unprovoked attacks from the very personnel whose primary obligation is to protect the lives of citizens. An issue of a supposed protector turned to murderer.

Amnesty International has described Zaria massacre as the worse human rights violation in Nigeria since the return of democracy. Moreover, the International Criminal Court in The Hague has already open investigation into the attack. Even recently, due to the government’s failure to bring an end to violation of religious freedom, among other things, the United States has added Nigeria to blacklist of countries engaged in human rights violation.

During the massacre in Zaria five years ago, the Nigerian Army extra-judicially killed armless citizens including women and young children. Some people were burnt to death, while others were tortured in a cruelest manner. The most painful of it all was how many young girls were specially targeted in their most private parts as the army cheered, shouted and insulted those they’ve captured alive.

Several families have been wiped off completely from existence and the breadwinners of several others killed, thus turning hundreds of wives into widows and children orphans.

The leader of the Islamic Movement himself, witnessed before his very eyes the merciless cold-blooded murder of his three biological children – Hammad, Haidar and Humaid – in just less than 18 months while three others – Ahmad, Hameed and Mahmoud – were captured alive and tortured to death by the Nigerian military while taking part in an annual pro Palestinians procession in Zaria in July 2014.

Five years on, there seems to be no end in sight to the continued detention of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky or the persecution of his followers; despite the ‘empty promise’ made by the president to protect the fundamental rights of Nigerians,

irrespective of religious or ethnic inclinations. Justice seems too far off, as the victims of the gruesome massacre, to this date, continue to live in state of uncertainty: not knowing the fate and whereabouts of their family members and loved ones.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has published a comprehensive list of over 700 of its members missing in the aftermath of the massacre. The pertinent question as the horrendous incident clocks five years now, is: when will justice be served to the victims of Zaria massacre? Will their families ever be consoled or compensated for the tragic loss of their loved ones?

Najeeb Maigatari,

Dutse, Jigawa state