The Nigerian Army has said its men shot dead about seven members of the Shiite sect in Zaria, Kaduna State, on Saturday while 10 other members of the group were wounded in the bid of the soldiers to ward off an alleged attack by the sect’s members on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
The Army said the shooting by the troops accompanying the COAS convoy was “in line with the Rules of Engagement” to save the life of Buratai from “heavily armed” members of the Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky-led Shiite sect.
This was contained in the ‘Occurrence Report’, prepared by the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police and attached to a petition submitted by the office of the COAS to the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja on Monday.
The petition, dated December 14, 2015, with the title, ‘Letter of complaint against Shiite sect attack on the Chief of Army Staff,’ and with reference number NA/COAS/G1/52, was signed by Col. F.U. Mijinyawa on behalf of the COAS.
The petition was addressed to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Ben Angwe, who received the representative of the COAS, Maj. Gen. Adamu Abubakar, in his office in Abuja on Monday.
The petition stated that over 500 members of the sect rushed out to barricade the road while the COAS was on his way from Dutse to pay homage to the Emir of Zazzau before proceeding to attend the Passing Out Parade of the 73 Regular Recruit Intake.
The Occurrence Report, with reference number HQ NACMP/G1/300167, detailed how the Shiite group members “heavily barricaded” the road, allegedly preventing the convoy of the COAS from passing through for a courtesy visit to the Emir of Zazzau.
The report stated that members of the sect were “heavily armed with dangerous weapons, ranging from long swords, knives, daggers, sticks, iron rods to catapult” at about 2.30pm on Saturday around the Polo/Golf Court on Sokoto Road, where they mounted the barricade in Zaria.
It added that the group defied the soldiers’ warning shots and allegedly started hauling dangerous weapons towards the troops while also planning to launch a “petrol bomb” attack against the COAS’ convoy.
The report added, “However, troops were wary of the group being armed with guns. Some members of the COAS entourage disembarked to approach the armed group to talk with them to remove the barricade to allow free passage.
“All entreaties fell on deaf ears as they insisted that they had to contact their leader, El-Zakzaky, before the COAS would be allowed passage.
“However, as this was going on, unknown to the convoy, some of the members of the group had positioned themselves at strategic locations around the vicinity. A few of the group members had started crawling in the overgrown grasses by the roadside towards the COAS vehicle, with the intent to attack the vehicle with petrol bomb.
“Subsequently, they suddenly resorted to firing gunshots from the direction of the mosque and hauling dangerous weapons towards the troops. Despite the troops firing warning shots, the El-Zakzaky’s group continued attempting to forge towards the troops.
“The troops immediately responded in line with Rules of Engagement as the life of the VIP (COAS) was seriously threatened.
“Troops had to shoot their way through up to the Zaria Post Office area by PZ to provide a safe corridor for the COAS and the convoy to pass through before the arrival of the reinforcement from the Depot of NA.
“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.”
The report stated that the exhibit items were handed over to the Nigeria Police.
“Furthermore, the Nigerian Army School of Military Police Provost Admin Coy was directed to investigate along with the Nigeria Police,” it stated.
It added that a detailed report would be forwarded to the commission when the investigation was concluded.
Angwe assured the visitors that the NHRC would conduct detailed independent investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff said on Monday that he escaped the Shiites attack on his convoy by the special grace of God.
The Army chief told journalists in Abuja after a closed-door meeting with the Senate Committee on Defence alongside the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, and other top officials of the Defence ministry, that the Shiite members were really violent.
He said, “You want to know how I escaped? It was by the will of God that I was able to escape from that place. I think the NTA was there and it aired the clip; it was very clear.
“They were violent, definitely this is very clear, the clips are there. That was what happened.”
Also, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Samaila Aliyu, said the ministry would pay N10.6bn as judgment debts but did not give details of the beneficiaries.
He said, “We have judgements that have been delivered against us. Some have gone up to the Supreme Court. One is for N8.5bn and the other is for N2.1bn. We have backed the request with copies of the judgments.”