The Kaduna State government has charged leader of the Shiite sect, El Zakzaky and three others (Zeenah Ibrahim, Yakubu Katsina and Sanusi Koki) for offences ranging from road blockages with dangerous weapons, homicide, unlawful assembly, and blocking roads to prevent movement of the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff. The offences stem from the December 2015 protests and clashes between members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (“IMN”) and the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
“The force used by the Nigerian Army resulting in the death of the 349 IMN members was disproportionate”While the JCE recommended the prosecution of IMN members who were “involved in the killing of Cpl. Dan Kaduna Yakubu”, it indicted the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army 1st Division in Kaduna, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, as well as Colonel A.K. Ibraheem, who led the operation that culminated in the deaths of IMN’s members and recommended the criminal trial of both of them as well as the trial of other Army officers “who partook in the killings” while noting that: “The high number of casualties cannot be justified” It is on record that since then, the Kaduna State Government - which established the Justice Garba Judicial Commission of Enquiry - has commenced the prosecution of 259 IMN members for the murder of one soldier Cpl. Dan Kaduna Yakubu, who died during the clashes. However, of the more than 348 persons who were killed by the army, not one soldier, or their commander, has been charged for murder notwithstanding the recommendation of the JCE. The leader of IMN Sheik El Zakzaky, who has lost two of his sons to earlier killings by the military in Kaduna in 2014, has been in detention since December 2015, without charge, and in spite of court orders for his unconditional release. Access to Justice Concerns In spite of promises made by Kaduna Governor, Malam El-rufai to use the “Commission’s recommendations in assigning administrative and criminal responsibility to those who allegedly participated in the violence” and “to punish culprits” his government has completely turned a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated by the military in the clashes. The commitment of the Kaduna government to pursuing after justice for one life lost in the clashes between the army and IMN members, and not for more than 348 persons, is blatantly immoral, constitutionally and ethically, and repugnant to every precept of a democratic government. It is a revulsive and reviling social apartheid policy that ranks one life intrinsically superior to an aggregate of others. It is a horrifying expression of prejudice and disdain against persons on account of their association. Our government now cherry picks the lives, the rights and the people it would defend, and those that are, in its opinion expendable. It is deeply unfortunate and troubling that the Kaduna government has now elevated to an instrument of state policy, the bare-faced social injustice of turning victims of a vicious, brutal murderous aggression into its perpetrators, and treating the aggressors as victims and using the resources of the State and tax payer money to pursue these reprobate discriminatory and recriminatory prosecutions. This is an ominous, foreboding cloud hanging over the rule of law in Nigeria. Our fundamental values as a constitutional democracy are being gravely threatened and imperilled. The Kaduna government does not have a moral or constitutional right to arraign El Zakzaky and others for homicide trial when it is not ready to prosecute and bring to justice, also, soldiers who summarily, wilfully and atrociously killed hundreds of Nigerians at their pleasure. Joseph Otteh Director, Access to Justice.