Introduction: In a quick dissection of the “report” of the Kaduna state Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JUDCOM) into the Zaria Massacre, it was shown to befilled with so many fallacies and that great efforts needed to be done to sieve the grains from the chaff.
X-raying a section of the ‘report’ (Chapter 11, that deals with TOR (j) “TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN TO ENSURE THAT ADMINISTRATIVE OR CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY IS FURTHER DETERMINED BY THE APPROPRIATE ADMINISTRATIVE OR JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES FOR ANY IDENTIFIED ACTS OR OMISSIONS” ), it is shown that it is a sham and it is maintained that its recommendations are a complete charade overall.
11.2 RECOMMENDATIONS As to what Judicial, Administrative and Criminal actions may be recommended for acts of Commission or Omission identified above, the following measures considered appropriate are proposed.
That although it is not within the mandate of the Commission and indeed, it lacks the legal competence to level criminal charges against any individual or organizations, there have appeared to us that certain acts of commission or omission identified under several TORs above amount to criminal conduct.
These include but not limited to:
(i) Cases of violent assaults and murder by the IMN
When we pointed out that JUDCOM was a commission of indictment and not of Inquiry, few people had believed us. When in the wake of the brutal assault against IMN a conglomerate of groups opposed to IMN led by Dr. Datti Ahmed, the President of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria met in Kaduna with the JUDCOM Secretary in attendance, spurious allegations were crafted and shared to groups to present to the JUDCOM in order to paint IMN black. The groups were also tasked with formulation of more outrageous allegations against the IMN to present to the JUDCOM. The Secretary of JUDCOM had told them the bigger (the lie), the better. Dr. Datti told them this was their chance and they must utilize it. With assurances from JUDCOM that whatever they brought forward would be stamped without any check, they did not disappoint. They did just as required of them. Fictitious cases were therefore crafted and presented at the hearing. JUDCOM has also kept its own side of the bargain. It is reporting “Cases of violent assaults and murder by the IMN” without being specific.
In the course of the open hearing and in their report as well, the case of the murder of one Umar Danmaishiya in Sokoto was ascribed to IMN for instance. The facts of the case however are as follows: On the 18th day of July 2007 a person named Umar Danmaishiyya was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Sokoto State of Nigeria. The deceased was a prominent and outspoken Salafi critic of the IMN. The following day, a combined team of the Nigerian Army and the Mobile Police force launched a massive and unprovoked attack on IMN members in Sokoto. Several members of the IMN were killed, maimed or arrested and tried for the murder. Members of the IMN in Sokoto were cleared of all charges against them including that of murder of Umar Danmaishiyya, and were discharged and acquitted (See judgement in suit No. SS/7C/2008). That case went up to the appeal courts. IMN awaits the full payment of all compensation in that case awarded by the courts against the Sokoto state government.
As a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, one would have expected a detailed fact check on specifics of such alleged violent cases and murder – what cases, dates, and places, involving who and who etcetera before reporting same verbatim and holding IMN responsible. However, since the goal is blackmail and mischief, those were not necessary. It would suffice to label the IMN as violent and murderous. They imagined that with proscription of the IMN in the horizon, none will bother going beyond the label.
Allegations of kidnapping of young boys by the IMN for its leader
This is one of the biggest of these spurious allegations that they deliberately decided to make as a standalone allegation for effect. Like the others, no specifics were given. Which young boys were kidnapped, where are the parents of the young boys, who actually did the kidnapping, where and when these kidnaps took place and what does the leader of the IMN do with the kidnapped boys? At that rate, isn’t it miraculous that they did not say the Chibok girls were kidnapped for the IMN leader as well?
(ii) Allegations of forming a parallel authority by the IMN
This is a time-long allegation. It was one that even President, Muhammadu Buhari mentioned with so much disgust and animosity during his maiden media chat. He repeated the same as reason why his government had to clamp down violently on the IMN while fielding questions on a foreign TV news channel in Qatar. It was also the clearest indication that the President was not only briefed about the clampdown, he sanctioned and ordered it. The governor similarly levelled the same allegation during his state broadcast on the incident when he said: Government also received reports that the Islamic Movement of Nigeria acted like a parallel state, with total disdain for the formal structures of the Nigerian government…” It was the same song all over. The President would not ‘wait’ for the findings to sing it. The governor similarly sang it in the state broadcast. Even the defence minister chanted the same song while answering questions from American news channel. So many Wahabi/Izala/Salafi leaders as well as traditional, community and other leaders with too much hurt in their hearts parroted the same singsong in their hate messages fed to the JUDCOM. This allegation became of such importance to the JUDCOM that it is repeated in (vi) below.
Evidence however will suggest otherwise. Firstly, neither Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky nor any of the members of the IMN has ever renounced his citizenship of Nigeria. We hold Nigerian Passports and hold stake as bonafide citizens. IMN has not claimed any part of the country as its own territory. It does not have its own anthem, flag or currency. Secondly, many members of the IMN are tax payers in various ways at various places of work or commercial activities. Thirdly, several of IMN-owned groups or associations such as the Shuhada Foundation, ISMA Medical Care Initiatives, Almizan newspaper and many more are registered with relevant Nigerian regulatory bodies. Furthermore, the IMN always resorted to courts and Nigerian legal system to seek redress whenever they felt aggrieved. IMN has written petitions to places as high as even to the office of the President of the federation and to virtually all other relevant offices in the formal structures of the Nigerian government. Clearly, all these do not suggest a parallel state with ‘total disdain’ for formal structures. However, JUDCOM’s blinding prejudice is borne out of baseless official stereotype.
(iii) Allegation of use of excessive and disproportionate force by the NA against poorly and crudely armed members of the IMN leading massacre of hundreds
Even this obvious admission of guilt by the government would not go without taking an unjustified swipe at the IMN. The JUDCOM has admitted that a massacre indeed took place. “The high number of casualties cannot be justified” (Page 85). They also admitted that Nigerian Army carried out the massacre. “The actions of troops of the Nigerian Army were also found to be contrary to Rules of Proportionality by International Standards.” (Page 76 of the report) and also “it did appear that the Nigerian Army did not adhere strictly to the provisions of its Rules of Engagement and the Code of Ethics during the operation.” The use of excessive force by the military is simply engraved in their DNA it seems. Recently, a High Court Judge, while delivering his ruling, stated that the Nigeria army and other security agencies must learn to discharge their duties in accordance with the law. “The respondents (EFCC and Nigeria army) have not behaved as if they live in a civilised society. They behaved like we are still in the military era,” the judge said. “They must learn to behave themselves and act within the basic provisions of the law.”
Not only was disproportionate force employed in the brutal attack of December 2015 in Zaria, it was clear the military went for the kill. That was not the first time that the Military was attempting to assassinate Shaikh Zakzaky. In fact, he has escaped many assassination attempts, siege or ambush by the Nigerian security operatives or their agents. Newspaper reports are replete with these instances over time. In 2009, the Shaikh openly declared that the government was after his life and they had planned to bomb his house and afterwards commit massacre. Ever since then, the military had carried out several attempts at Shaikh Zakzaky’s life, and on at least two of such occasions, shots were actually fired at the convoy of Shaikh Zakzaky. In July 2015, soldiers laid ambush on his convoy on its way to Abuja. About 10 weeks before the December 2015 massacre was carried out, Shaikh once again exposed the plan for the massacre in exactly the way it was eventually executed in December 2015. Thus, the foundation for the massacre was long laid and it never abated. Clearly, it was pre-planned, and it took years to plot and execute.
What is baffling is how JUDCOM can clearly identify the use of excessive force by the military, state in their report under Constitutional Responsibilities of the Armed Forces of Nigeria that Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) mandates the Armed Forces of Nigeria with among others suppressing, insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly, and yet be silent on this glaring violation. It therefore shied away from giving recommendation on what is to be done with those that ultimately gave the orders.
(iv) Allegation of importation and stockpiling of weapons by the IMN through the agency of some Lebanese resident in Nigeria and Nigerian nationals among the IMN
This again is yet another baseless allegation that is not backed by facts. Once again, no specifics were given. We were told that this particular allegation was what informed the Military cordon and search operations in various places including inside graves. JUDCOM had stated earlier on page 52 of their report that “The cordon and search however did not reveal significant quantities of weapons found. The assumption that the IMN in Zaria was heavily armed was not verified.” Yet, they retain this allegation simply because they want to justify the original reason for the clampdown by all means. They are quick in pointing out a widely publicised incident of alleged arms importation and stockpiling said to have been uncovered by DSS in Kano by some Lebanese in 2013. The government through the DSS had tried hard to link the IMN with that to no avail. When the courts finally freed the accused, the matter was not much publicised. This is what they appear to showcase as importation and stockpiling of weapons by the IMN through some Lebanese and IMN members.
As a judicial commission of inquiry, it would have been expected that they would have conducted a thorough inquiry into these allegations. Had they done that, they would not have failed to realise that this matter had been taken to court of law in Nigeria, with the accused discharged by the courts as reported in the Nigerian dailies. (See Vanguard, November 30, 2013). IMN was never part of that case or any other case whatsoever to do with importation and stockpiling of weapons.
(v) The allegation of formation of a government within a government), etc.
This was repeated here not only to swell the figures of allegations against IMN (see the etc attached to the end meant to show they are so many) but also for impact (and perhaps emphasis). It is discussed above.
Overall, it seems fairly obvious that JUDCOM was a typical commission with a pre-determined mandate and report. IMN had pointed out this right from the outset. Inclusion of some members known to be fanatical arch-enemies of IMN as manifested in their utterances, actions and writings pointed to this fact. That stripped the JUDCOM of any credibility and impartiality and this can now be clearly seen in their report and recommendations. It makes it look more like an “Indictment Commission” rather than an “Inquiry Commission”.