Malam Ibrahim Musa, the Editor of Almizan newspaper, a Kaduna-based Islamic publication, for close to 20 years and the spokesman of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, spoke on the clash between soldiers and Shiites last December which led to loss of lives and explained why Islamic Movement will not appear before the Commission of Inquiry
which was set up by Kaduna State Government to find out the remote and immediate causes of the clash which occurred in Zaria in an interview wiith Newsmen.
The commission of inquiry which Kaduna State government set up to probe the clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and soldiers, which led to loss of lives in December, has commenced sitting last Monday. Why did your group boycott the sitting and by so doing lose the opportunity to tell the world your own side of the story?
The Islamic movement believes the commission looks more like an “Indictment Commission” rather than an “Inquiry Commission,” because of the following indisputable facts: First and foremost, some members of the commission have vested interests against the Movement in particular and the Shi’a in general.
Thus, by law, they should be automatically disqualified from participating or serving in the commission. Secondly, Kaduna State Government has demonstrated bias and made pre-mediated conclusions against the Movement.
Thirdly, the Nigerian Army, which is ably represented in the commission too, has vested interests in seeing that the truth of what they did doesn’t come out, given the grievous allegations of massacre, illegal detention, rape, arson and wilful destruction of properties being levelled against it.
Above all, the Movement is not represen ted in the membership of the commission. The composition of the commission has no local or international human and humanitarian rights groups.
But Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, an activist of international repute is on the commission, so is Mrs Khadijah Gambo, a gender activist. In addition, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, an Under Secretary of the United Nations is also a member of the commission. Don’t these personalities represent the ‘’local and international human and humanitarian groups’’ that you refer to?
No, they don’t because we expect the presence of prominent local and international human right bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on the commission.
We would also like to see the presence of Nigerian human rights organisations like Access to Justice and MURIC. These are bodies that are known to have fought various governments on human rights violations. They are more credible because of their antecedents.
Whatever your grouse with the commission, don’t you think that it should have been proper to appear before it and table them? Or better still, why don’t you go to court to challenge the composition of the commission instead of boycotting it?
The issue at stake is that the fairness, independence and impartiality of the commission as required by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are in doubt.
The rule of natural justice require, inter alia, that where likelihood of bias can reasonably be inferred or discovered, whether directly or indirectly, from the surrounding circumstances, then fair hearing is not observed.
This is because justice should not only be done but must be manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to have been done.
As for going to court, we are still consulting with our solicitors on the matter, especially regarding who we are going to drag before the courts, and also which court we will be taking them to. We are even contemplating going to the International Court of Justice in Hague.
Did the Islamic Movement of Nigeria send any memorandum to the commission, even though you have decided not to appear before it?
We haven’t sent any memorandum, because we have been denied even access to our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky.
The commission sent a letter to us on February 2, 2016 urging us to submit memorandum to it. Our solicitors, comprising the learned Femi Falana (SAN) and Barrister Festus Okoye, wrote to the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, requesting to meet Sheikh Zakzaky. He, however, directed them to the headquarters of DSS.
They went there and after all formalities, they were turned back. We are of the firm view that our team of lawyers must see the Sheikh and get instructions and proper briefings from him before the period for the submission of memorandum elapses.
This is in view of the fact that Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. He is also the spokesperson of the Movement as well as the custodian of its properties and documents.
It’s curious that your legal counsels are both Christians. Do you think they will understand the nuances of the case, seeing that they are not Muslims?
The two legal luminaries I mentioned are not the only lawyers that are representing our organisation; they are just the leading counsels. We do have Muslim lawyers in the team.
I can give you the name of Barrister Husain Ibrahim. In any case, the atrocity committed by the Army in Zaria is not a religious problem, it is just a case of the Army proving to citizens that it is above the law.
There is no law in Nigeria that says if the Chief of Army Staff is stopped on a highway as they claim, which we dispute, soldiers can fire on civilians for two days, killing over a thousand.
The judicial commission is not going to probe whether our activities are in line with the Islamic law; so there is no need hire a Sheikh to defend us. To us, Christians are our brothers in humanity and also our neighbours in the country, so why shouldn’t we hire them to defend us?
Apart from Barrister Ibrahim which you mentioned, are there other Muslims on your legal team? Or did you approach some Muslim lawyers who turned down your briefs?
From your question, probably you don’t even think that there are lawyers among us. Far from it. There are many lawyers who are active members of the Islamic movement.
We are ordinary followers of Islam. We are not different from any Muslim in pursuing his day to day means of livelihood. We are engaged in various professions. We are not a sect or a closed group that abhors this and that. We only abhor that which Islam forbids. And what Islam forbids is known to everybody.
So, unlike Boko Haram, your group is not against Western education?
The Islamic Movement has never been against Western education since its inception about 40 years ago. Look, our leader is a graduate of ABU Zaria.
Sheikh Turi, who was shot during the carnage in Zaria and still his corpse has not been handed over to us is a graduate of University of Maiduguri and the International Islamic University in Sudan.
Dr. Mustapha Sa’id is a medical doctor, who has been missing since the military attack on Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence. Within the movement, there are university lecturers, engineers, Doctors, Islamic ulama, businessmen, who are all excelling in their chosen endeavours.
Moreover the Islamic Movement and Boko Haram are poles apart. First and foremost, we are not a product of Western security agencies. Boko Haram and ISIS are all products of the war against Islam which is being waged globally.
And the Islamic Movement is not. In terms of faith, we follow the teachings of the household of the prophet, who are termed Shia, who believe in the totality that there is no compulsion in religion. But the Boko Haram are followers of what they call Sunna. So, we are completely different in all facets of organisational approach and methodology.
Also the Islamic Movement is the only religious group that is independent of any government subvention. That is why we can tell those in power the truth, for they don’t pay us, let alone dictate the tune for us.
But we know of some Islamic religious organisations that have taken from the largesse dished out by Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) from the arms-gate controversy of late.
What evidence do you have that the chairman and some of the members are biased against your group as it was widely reported?
Point of correction, the Chairman of the Commission is not being accused of bias against us.
Rather, there are three members that we have enough evidences that they are not only biased against the Islamic Movement, but they even wish its members dead. In fact, the military attack on the Movement in Zaria was what they have been advocating for decades in their speeches and writings. Those that we are against their being in the commission are Professor Umar Labdo, Professor Salihu Shehu and Malam Salihu Abubakar.
From the writings of these people, they can best be described as a bunch of religious bigots, who are calling for the killings of Shia Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Visit the Facebook page of Prof Umar Labdo, you will see who he really is. So, what business do they have with the commission?
You also disagreed with the decision of Kaduna State government to set up the inquiry because, as you had argued, it is also a party to the crisis.The Federal Government which you prefer to set up the commission is also linked to the crisis because the Army is one of its establishments. Why do you prefer the Federal Government to Kaduna state government?
It is not that we prefer the Federal Government setting up a commission of inquiry to the state government’s.
Our demand is for the establishment of an impartial Judicial Commission comprising representatives of human right groups, but not people who are known enemies of the Islamic Movement.
How can you explain the fact that other parties involved in the crisis have representatives on the commission but the Islamic Movement has none?
The Army, Police, Kaduna State and the Federal Government are fully represented, but not even a sympathiser of the Islamic Movement is on the commission.
Who are the representatives of the Police, the Army and Federal Government on the Commission like you alleged?
You know the commission has 13 members or 14.I think I don’t need to mention their names and resumes, because Governor Nasir El-Rufai has done so already. But among them are retired officers of the police, the Army and the Federal Government agencies.
Although officially no one said that they are representing those bodies, but an adage says “once an officer always an officer.”
The people of Gyellesu where Shiekh Ibraheem El Zakzaky lived in Zaria, had addressed a press conference where they endorsed the action of the soldiers.According to them, the arrest of Zakzaky has liberated them from bondage. Is it correct to say that your group was harassing the residents?
It is not correct that Sheikh Zakzaky and members of the Islamic Movement have been harassing their neighbours. If it is true, the Sheikh will not have stayed there for over 15 years.Not only that, those that are complaining were paid to say what they said against the Sheikh.
But if they care to go back to 2011, it was the Sheikh that prevented the sectarian fight that erupted after the elections from reaching Gyellesu.
Many Christians sought refuge there.Ask the Christian community in Zaria, they can testify further on this. And it was the Sheikh that stopped the infighting amongst the gangsters.
He brokered truce between them, touching on the Islamic spirit of brotherhood. That singular act made Gyellesu almost crime free.Not long after his absence, following the Sheikh’s arrest, the neighbourhood is now returning to its former self – a den of criminals.
But it was alleged that your sect had mounted road blocks all over Gyellesu and whenever the Sheikh drives around Zaria, his convoy disrupted the free flow of traffic.How true is this allegation?
The allegation is false. It is true the Sheikh has a convoy, but it is not like the governor’s convoy or that of the Minister.
Look, Sheikh Zakzaky has millions of followers, which means he also has many enemies, that necessitate his moving in convoy in case of any eventuality.
But the convoy never prevented others from using the road. In fact, we have our own trained traffic controllers, who used to assist in having a smooth flow of the traffic.As for road block leading to his house in Gyellesu, it was mounted after the Army killed his three sons.
And immediately after the election, which saw the downfall of Goodluck Jonathan’s government, the roadblock was removed.They were mounted there as a precaution against any evil plot against the Sheikh by the government and its agents.
Kaduna State government has warned against public processions but your group seems to be defying that order. Last Sunday, your people held one of such processions at Mararraban Jos.Why is the Islamic Movement still holding such processions, seeing that it resulted to killings the last time it was done at Tudun Wada area of Kaduna?
We are just exercising our constitutional right of assembly and protest. We have been wronged as a community, and we have the right to express our dismay peacefully.
This, we have been doing all over the major cities in the North. And they have been peaceful until when we were attacked by the security agents as it happened in Kaduna on the December 15, 2015, where 14 people were gunned down by the police.
We will continue to protest peacefully, this is our right, and nobody can deny us that.
As a top member of the Islamic Movement, have you met with Zakzaky since he was arrested?
I’m not a top member of the Islamic Movement; I’m rather an ordinary follower of Sheikh Zakzaky.
Having said that, it is unfortunate that our solicitors have not met him even as I’m talking to you. Also, none of his followers has set eyes on him.We are worried over this.
We will keep on calling well meaning Nigerians to intervene in this matter.
How serious are his injuries, it was reported that he was taken outside the country for medical treatment.Which country was he taken to?
It was a three man committee of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) that saw the Sheikh sometime early January, but since then, nobody has seen him again.
According to Professor Dahiru Yahya who saw him, the Sheikh sustained six bullet wounds, and he is recuperating well. But imagine yourself being shot six times, how will you fare?
With the death of Muhammad Turi and the incarceration of Zakzaky, who is the new helmsman of the Movement?
Our leader is still Sheikh Zakzaky, so there is no new helmsman.The Islamic Movement is well organised according to the teachings of Islam, therefore there is no problem of leadership.
Is it true that members of the movement are being harassed by security agents and that you have gone underground in order to avoid being arrested?
So far there has not been further arrest of members of the movement apart from those that were arrest during those three days of orgy of violence unleashed by the army.
Nobody has gone underground, because we are just like any other Muslim; we are going about our day to day activities. No any member of the Islamic Movement has committed any offence for him to be arrested.
What does the Islamic Movement really want? Does it want to enthrone an Islamic state in Nigeria? Or it wants to be allowed to practise Islam the way it perceives it?
The Islamic Movement stands for justice, peaceful coexistence and development not only in Nigeria, but the world over.
Every Muslim wants an Islamic community, but it is not enthroned the way it is being portrayed to the world by some ubiquitous groups. But the main mission of the Islamic Movement is to practise Islam as espoused by the Prophet and his household.
Is it true that Iran is mounting pressure of the federal government to release Zakzaky?
Iran is not mounting pressure on the Federal Government, it just sides with the oppressed, which in this case is the Islamic Movement. Don’t forget that over 1000 people were killed by the Nigerian army within two days.
This is a monumental human tragedy. Calls were made by even Britain and US, that this matter should be investigated impartially. So why single out Iran when it made its own call?