Our heart is saddened over the failure of the civilian Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari to learn from history so as to avoid further triggering of societal anarchy and plunging the Federal Republic of Nigeria into a state of unquenchable and intractable human tragedies. The Buhari Administration has become so destructive that most, if not all of the democratic gains, values and consolidations made over the years particularly since 1999 have virtually disappeared or collapsed. The worst of it all is that Nigeria has lost its “conscience of the nation” (CSOs, rights activists and media) to Buhari Administration’s entrenched governance rascality and brigandage.
Regime Atrocities such as State killings and terrorism are now labelled “fight against corruption” and even tolerated and condoned in the community of CSOs. Human Rights Activists have become Human Rights Destroyers and activist lawyers have turned to agents of darkness and promoters of anarchy; to the extent of advising Gen Muhammadu Buhari to “suspend rule of law for one year in order to fight corruption”. DARKNESS HAS BEFALLEN NIGERIA!!
Throughout the histories of the old and the new, rational territorial political leaderships had avoided triggering off widespread conflicts territorially or off territorially, while the irrational ones got drenched and consumed. Democratically speaking, avoidance of territorial violent conflicts is ensured at all times by rigidly sticking to the policies of good governance and rule of law; negative peace or absence of violence against innocent citizens; and positive peace or absence of structural violence (i.e. political and religious tolerance and inclusion; respect for identity values, political representation as well as equal access to power and resources).
As the saying goes: democracy may not be the best form of government but since the best form of government is yet to be found; democracy remains the best. Among the best modern theories of violence is Democratic Theory of Violence; which sacredly holds that Democracies do not or hardly go to war (violent conflicts) internally or externally except as a last resort, as case may be. Any democratic territory that chooses militarism and militarization as its cornerstone, as Gen Muhammadu Buhari has done, is a government in pieces.
Further, China as one of the oldest countries in the world, dating back to over 3000 BC; during which its Legist School of Jurisprudence existed; sacredly sees conflict as an opportunity to change; meaning that conflict is naturally inevitable and becomes violent if irrationally and beastly managed; and constructive and transformative if rationally and conscientiously managed. Naturally speaking, just as agriculture and crime gave birth to today’s world and its institutions including government; so did foetal protest gave birth to childhood development and intra and inter personal dispute; which in turn, when ill-managed, gave birth to conflict; which further gave birth to violent conflicts or wars as we have them today; if poorly or destructively managed.
By modern military or war science, war (now called violent conflict under UN System) is any widespread lethal action against a population by a group involving the death of more than 999 persons. Violent conflict levied against a civilian or unarmed population by reason of their ethnic, political or religious identities; is regarded as heinous international crimes or crimes against humanity as well as fundamental breach of the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations.
On the other hand, if levied against an asymmetric or weaker armed target population, in total disregard to the Laws of War or Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Protocols such as widespread attacks on non-military objects like women, the elderly, children, and other civilian populations, their dwelling, working or leisure facilities as well as places of worship; this is expressly regarded War Crimes.
The advocacy and technical analysis above is to bring to the fore the unwarranted, unprovoked, coordinated and systematic repression and radicalization of the Shiite Muslim worship in Nigeria by the intolerant Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, coordinated by the trio of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai; the violent Governor of Kaduna State and Lt. Gen Turkur Buratai; the killer Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Apart from the fact that the Muslim body has lost over 1000 of its unarmed and innocent members including women and children, to the Administration of Gen Muhammadu Buhari; a radical Sunni Muslim apologist, buildings and sacred places of worship belonging to the body or the “Islamic Movement of Nigeria or IMN”, have also been reduced to rubbles.
The leader of the Movement, Sheik Ibrahim ZakyZaky, was terminally shot and battered on 14th of December 2015 by soldiers on the orders of the COAS, Lt Gen Turkur Buratai. Sheik Zaky Zaky was shot and battered when his house was raided and set ablaze. According to IMN sources, at least 18 shot bullets were removed from his body and he has gone almost blind. His wife, Mrs. Malama Zeenatu was also shot severally, leading to laceration of her body and removal of at least six bullets from her body. Their three sons: Hammad, Ali Haydar and Humaid were shot and killed on the spot and in the presence of their deadly battered parents. Other three sons of Sheik ZakyZaky: Ahmad, Hameed and Mahmud had earlier been shot and killed by soldiers in 2014; leaving him and his wife with only three surviving children; Muhammad (first and only surviving son), Nusaiba and Suhaila (daughters).
The State violence under reference was unleashed on them on 12th and 14th of December 2015, leading to the death of over 800 members of the Movement and destruction of its sacred place of worship. Sheik Ibrahim ZakyZaky and her injured wife were taken into solitary confinement and detained incommunicado since 14th of December 2015 till date. They have not been charged or tried or released since then. The above regime atrocity has never happened in the history of democracy in Nigeria or any part thereof. The Government of Kaduna State also admitted burying 347 of murdered IMN members in mass graves. Till date, no single perpetrator including Lt Gen Turkur Buratai has been arrested and prosecuted. The world has also slumbered in silence and inaction; aiding and abetting regime atrocities, thereby encouraging citizen militancy and reprisal violence or uprising or insurgency.
As if these were not enough, repression and radicalization of Shiite Muslim worship took another dangerous dimension in early October 2016 when the Government of Kaduna State issued an illegitimate, illegal and unconstitutional Executive Proclamation, declaring the IMN illegal and unlawful society. The ban has further been extended to other States such as Plateau and Kano States; which explains our position that the regime atrocities are sponsored and aided by the Buhari’s Presidency. The Kaduna State Government; backed by the Buhari Administration, also went ahead and instigated mob attacks against members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, leading to the death of at least 25 of its members in the past one week.
Between 22 and 25 deaths or more have been recorded on the side of IMN and some of its important educational facilities were also torched or destroyed. For instant, two IMN members were killed in Kano, eleven in Katsina, four in Kaduna, five in Plateau, among a number of others who died as a result of terminal injuries they sustained following the military and police shootings and Government sponsored mob attacks. Scores of IMN members were also critically injured. Many, if not most of the killings were perpetrated by the Army and the Police and their perpetrators are still on the prowl.
Over 100 members of IMN were also arrested particularly in Kano State where at least 46 females and 40 males were arrested and taken into police and prison custodies and detained till date. Scores of others were arrested in Plateau State and detained. The arrests started since 10th of October 2016 and have continued. Among the arrested are juveniles who were sent to prisons but were rejected by prison authorities, leading to their detention in police cells till date. Despite the fact that spurious charges preferred against them (i.e. unlawful assemblies, breach of public peace, etc) are lightly or administratively bailable, they have been held for a period of seven days without bail or release.
We have carefully followed and studied the developments above highlighted and found no grounds whatsoever to lend credence to the Government crackdown other than sheer intra religious hatred, pursuit of vendetta and attempts to cow and intimidate the leadership of IMN and its members so as to escape responsibilities for heinous crimes against the Movement and its members; having slaughtered in a broad day light and under two days (12th and 14th of December 2015) of over 800 of its members and destruction of its sacred places of worship.
The grounds upon which the Government of Kaduna State, as directed by the Presidency, predicated its recent unconstitutional action of declaring IMN “unlawful society” and its consequent crackdown, are totally at variance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution particularly its Sections 38 and 40. IMN as it is today in Nigeria, is not a violent religious body or a group involved in violent uprising or insurgency. This is more so when the Shiite Muslim body has just marked 40 years of its existence in Nigeria with no records of group violence or insurgency. Till date, there is no concrete evidence or State records linking the IMN to any form of violent uprising or insurgency in Nigeria or any part thereof.
Violence, till date, and in the world over, is measured by its gravity and proportionality. Nonviolent and peaceful religious processions, leading to occasional traffic gridlock on public roads can never constitute grounds for deployment of State brute or repressive force culminating into the massacre of over 800 citizens including women and children in a broad day light. Blockage of public roads during religious processions is as old as Islam in Nigeria particularly in northern parts of the country.
It is also one of the dark marks of the northern ruling oligarchy, dating back to 60s and 70s long before the coming of Shiite Islamism in Nigeria in 1976. Till date, strategic Federal Roads are blocked for hours every Friday by leading northern political leaders such as Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Nasiru El-Rufai and Lt Gen Turkur Buratai, claiming that they are exercising their right to freedom of religion, thought and conscience. Why should the same State now around and selectively deploy brute force and violence against members of the Shiite or IMN?
The allegation levelled by the Government of Kaduna State and its Federal backers to the effect that the IMN “intends to take up arms against Nigeria by maintaining a paramilitary body” is also an extension of criminalization, stigmatization, falsehood and propaganda policies of the Buhari Administration, which it has extensively used and sustained against dissent citizens and bodies since late May 2015 when it came to Nigeria’s Presidency. Under the law (i.e. Private Guards Act of 1986) and by convention, unarmed but uniform paramilitaries are allowed including within religious bodies.
In the Catholic Church, for instance, there exists Boys Scout, Man O’ War, Catholic Mobile Security of Nigeria, etc; so also in Anglican Church, which has Boys Brigade and Girls Guild, etc. Even the Nigerian Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are also known as paramilitary bodies in Nigeria. The IMN’s “HURRAS”; derived from Arabic word, meaning “civilian security guards”, cannot be an exception, provided they are not bearing firearms contrary to Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution. These paramilitaries are merely used to maintain orderliness and other skeletal security and humanitarian services within their religious bodies or localities as case may be.
Our decision to take up this informed advocacy position is to advise and caution Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai and Lt Gen Turkur Bruatai and their co-travellers in Yorean Violence to retrace their dangerous steps particularly as they concern the renewed violent crackdown on unarmed and innocent members of the IMN in Nigeria. Beyond the peaceful conducts of 6m-10m IMN followers in the country despite State’s systematic attacks and repression directed at the Movement, the group’s affiliates beyond the shores of Nigeria are not a push over when it comes to reprisal violence and insurgency. It is also important and advisable for those behind the ongoing religious persecution of Shiite Muslims in the country to carefully study history particularly the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as well as the Hezbollah Uprising in Lebanon and Anarchic State of things in Iraq.
These explain why we maintain that the ongoing religious persecution of Shiites in Nigeria by way of violent crackdown, ban and radicalization of their religious practices are the making of new deadly insurgency in Nigeria. Right to Freedom of Worship and Religion is the oldest human rights in the world. It predates Biblical, Koranic and Mosaic eras. It is through this that Jesus Christ came by way of birth around BC 001 and left around AD 33, leading to the birth of his Church around AD 35. Prophet Mohammed, too, came on account of it, by his birth in 570 AD and departure in 632 AD. As the first human rights, right to freedom of religion was codified as far back as AD 304 by a Roman Catholic Pope.
Its sanctity is unrivalled at all times and it is suicidal to attempt to suppress and repress citizens on account of their religious beliefs and practices and tribal identities. When the collective value identities of a population or group are systematically and rapaciously threatened by the repressive State, the target group can go radical and to any length in defense and preservation of such priceless group values.
The conspiracy of silence presently maintained by the international community must be broken now before it is too late. The international community must call Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his security commanders as well as the violent Governor of Kaduna State to order. All members of IMN arrested and detained including scores of juveniles and married women must be freed unconditionally.
Finally, we wish to extend our deep felt condolences to the leadership of IMN and its followers over the recent lost of scores of its members to Buhari’s State violence and call upon them to remain nonviolent and continue to explore available local, regional and international remedies to bring to justice the trio of Buhari, El-Rufai and Buratai and other perpetrators of regime atrocities no matter how long it takes. The IMN must resist and forestall at all times the ongoing panicky moves by the trio to intimidate it into abandoning its quest to get them account for regime atrocities committed against its unarmed and defenceless members.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL; LLM (c)
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., LLB, BL
Mobile Line: +2347013238673
Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program