The Kaduna State Government today released the White paper on the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria otherwise known as Shi’ites and the Nigerian Army in Zaria in December 2015.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry which examined, among other issues, the immediate and remote causes of the clashes between the Nigerian Army and the outlawed religious group, submitted its report in July 2016. Following the receipt of the report, the Kaduna State Government made the report public within 10 days, and set up a committee of senior public servants to prepare a draft White Paper.
The white paper sets out the views and decisions of the Government on all the recommendations that have been made to it the Judicial Commission of Inquiry. All recommendations that are within the purview of the Kaduna State Government can be accepted, noted or rejected. Those pertaining to institutions or tiers of government not under the direct control of the state government are noted and referred to the appropriate institution for consideration and decision.
After deliberations on the draft White Paper the Kaduna State Security Council, it was subjected to further review the Kaduna State Executive Council which amended and approved the White Paper.
Regarding the clashes in the Gyallesu area of Zaria where the Nigerian Army mounted a cordon and search operation, the White Paper observed that many civilians were evacuated from Gyallesu, but that IMN members rejected the opportunity to vacate the area.
The White Paper also acknowledged that the Nigerian Army abided its Rules of Engagement and further observed that:
the Judicial Commission of Inquiry failed to take into account the years during which the activities of the IMN in Gyallesu had threatened peace and security;
for all intent and purpose, the IMN is an insurgent group and ought to be treated as such;
the sheer numbers of IMN members congregating in Zaria from across the country that night, with many bearing arms, was such that the Nigerian Army was in no position to accurately determine how armed and organised they were and had to be concerned on what their intention for Zaria was.
“With regards to the findings of the Commission on the conduct of the Nigerian Army, the State Government noted the recommendation that members of the Nigerian Army that may have been involved in the unlawful killing of 347 citizens should be brought to trial before a Court of competent jurisdiction.
“The Kaduna State Government is assured that the Federal Government will not condone unlawful killing of any citizen and that this conduct will be further investigated and any culprits identified will first be subjected to court martial the federal authorities, followed civil prosecution the state government.”
“The Kaduna State Government accepted the following recommendations, among others:
1. The IMN is an unregistered organisation that cannot be sued. Therefore, all IMN members and its leadership are jointly and severally liable for all violations of the law in the last 30 years, and are therefore responsible for the clashes and its consequences;
2. Members of the IMN owe absolute loyalty to Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. He therefore bears responsibility for all the acts of lawlessness committed the organisation and should therefore be held responsible, fully investigated and prosecuted;
3. The evidence before the Commission, from the testimonies and memoranda submitted to it the various interest groups and stakeholders, clearly shows that IMN has become a law unto itself; disregarding the authority of the Nigerian State as vested in the police and other security agencies which many a times lead to several confrontations such as the one of 12th to 14th December, 2015 between it and the Nigerian Army;
4. All incidents of violence and aggression the members of the IMN against individuals, groups or communities, which have resulted in grievous bodily harm, destruction of properties and deaths, should be fully investigated and culprits brought to book. Where appropriate, compensations should be paid;
5. The State Government should investigate and repossess all illegally acquired public lands from IMN and utilize same for Public Interest;
6. Without any hesitance, government must demonstrate the necessary political will to proscribe the existing IMN as an unregistered and unlawful association;
7. Mechanism should be put in place for the proposed Bill on Religious Preaching to be passed into law as quickly as possible and implemented.”
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry said that “the failure, reluctance or sheer inability of the State and its security agencies to maintain law and order or hold the IMN members to account for recurring and widespread acts of lawlessness, disobedience to constituted authorities is an important factor leading to the clash of December 12th to 14th 2015.”
The inquiry report further asserted that “the IMN has been steadfast and deliberate in refusing to recognise the legitimacy, authority and the Constitution of the Nigerian State. They have operated outside the laws of the State and the Funtua Declaration is their flagship enunciation of the ideology of confrontation with the Nigerian State, its legal system and its security agencies. The result has been a long tradition of IMN refusal to respect, observe and comply with the laws of the country.” The Commission of Inquiry also highlighted the IMN’s allegiance to a foreign power and its pattern of conduct which suggests that the IMN is an insurgent group.
Two groups in the Shia tradition are active in Kaduna State, with their adherents freely observing their faith. Both groups, Al-Thaqalayn and Rasul A’azam, gave testimony to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, affirming that the Shia faith “can be observed and ought to be protected within the boundaries set and permitted the Nigerian constitution and other laws”. The allegiance of these Shia groups to the Nigerian state, their conformity with the laws of the land and their non-involvement in acts of blocking roads, occupying schools and other acts that infringe on the rights of other citizens stand in marked contrast to the IMN’s utter disregard for laws and the rights of citizens.
The Kaduna State Government has already acted on some of the recommendations, and will now take steps to implement the others. Those recommendations that are solely within the powers and competence of the Federal Government have been appropriately referred for further necessary action.
Government has already acted to declare the IMN an unlawful society and is prosecuting the IMN members alleged to be involved in the killing of Corporal Dan Kaduna Yakubu. Government has also ensured that property destroyed in the clashes have been valued to ascertain reasonable compensation to circumstantial victims.
The Attorney-General of Kaduna State will be liaising with the police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure that there is accountability for the murders and other crimes committed leaders and members of the IMN in the last three decades.
The White Paper rejected any suggestion that the burial of the victims did not conform to the law. “Government observes that its officials complied with the Burial Law of the State. Section 7 sub-section 1 of the Burial Law Cap 20 Laws of Kaduna State Government 1991 requires the burial of persons who die in this type of circumstances within 24hrs. The Interpretation section of Rule 115 Geneva Convention also states that in circumstances of this nature, dead bodies could be buried in a mass grave.”
The White Paper also rejected the Judicial Commission of Inquiry’s view on actions taken to clear structures at the scenes of the clashes, affirming that:
The debris at the Hussainiyya Baqiyatillah and at the residence of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky were removed on the grounds of Public Health and safety. All the IMN buildings that were demolished were constructed without statutory title and building permit as required the Land Use Act and Section 26 of the KASUPDA Law No.12 of 2015.
The said Laws empower the Agency (KASUPDA) under Sections 46 and 48(2) to demolish any building which did not comply with the legal provisions. All the structures so removed violated either the provisions of the Land Use Act or the KASUPDA Law or both.
The sad events of 12-14 December 2015 led to needless and avoidable casualties. They are the product of a legacy of lawlessness, and must never be allowed to recur. Decades of neglect governments and the security agencies of their obligations for vigorous law enforcement and the protection of constitutional rights have bred a dangerous sense of impunity and disregard for citizens and lawful authority.
The Kaduna State Government wishes to reiterate that it will not foreclose engagement with any of its citizens. But it will do its duty to enforce the law and will not compromise the prerogative of the state to defend the rights and liberties of all its citizens.
The right to freedom of worship is a cherished constitutional right. But the constitution did not bestow on anyone or group the right to curtail the rights of others or to apply the right to faith in a way that diminishes or inconveniences others.
Any insistence that religion or religious rites can only be practised as acts of public nuisance and in wanton violation of the rights of others will not be allowed. Every group and individual must abide the law. There is no opt-out from this civilised duty.