The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to investigate the December 12-14, 2015 clash between the Nigerian Army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiite or Shia sect, has indicted the leader of the group, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, for alleged acts of lawlessness by his members.
The 13-member panel headed by Justice Mohammed Garba Lawal, in its reported submitted recently to Governor Nasir el-Rufai which was made public in Kaduna Sunday night, said El-Zakzaky and his members should be held responsible for the bloody clash with the Nigerian Army last December, which led to the deaths of 349 people, including one soldier.
The report also accused the Nigerian Army of “disproportionate use of force contrary to its rules of engagement”, declaring that soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army who were involved in the killing of 348 members of the Shiite sect should be prosecuted.
The panel’s findings contained in the report said 349 people – including one soldier – were killed. “Out of the said 349 dead persons, 347 (excluding the soldier) were buried in a mass grave,” said the report.
The commission said it had received 3,578 memoranda – 132 letters and 3,446 emails – along with 39 exhibits and 87 witnesses’ testimonies in the course of the inquiry and the writing of the 193-page report.
“Members of the IMN owe absolute loyalty to Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. He therefore bears responsibility for all acts of lawlessness committed by the organisation and should therefore be held responsible, fully investigated and prosecuted,” the panel said in its report.
Members of the sect and the army clashed in the Zaria when the latter blocked a major highway during one of its religious processions, in the process blocking access to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was attending the passing out parade of the army depot in the area on December 12, 2015.
The commission noted that “the number of casualities recorded during the incident was too high and cannot be justified”, stressing that “members of the Nigerian Army found to have been involved in the killings should be brought to trial before a court of competent jurisdiction”.
The panel also recommended that members of the IMN found to have been involved in the killing of one army corporal, Dan Kaduna Yakubu, during the incident should also be prosecuted.
It also advised the Nigerian Army to “intensify efforts in ensuring compliance with the rules of engagement and other legal standards” at all times during operations.
The panel in the report also challenged the government and law enforcement agencies to be alive to their responsibilities by investigating all persons allegedly breaking the law, even when such persons belong to powerful religious groups.