Ibrahim El Zakzaky, El-Zakzaky, Zaria, Shi'ites, Shia
Members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shia group, demand the release of the group’s leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky, who was arrested on December 14, 2015. | AP/Muhammed Giginyu

Concerned Nigerians, a political pressure group, convened by Deji Adeyanju, joined a group of human rights activists and supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, in staging a protests demanding the release of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of IMN, the largest Shi’ite sect in Nigeria has been detained by the Muhammadu Buhari regime, illegally, since December 2015 despite several court orders for his release.

The protesters converge at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, the traditional location for holding protests, on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, only to be sprayed with water by officers of the Nigerian police. When the water did not work, the police tear gassed the protesters.

Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, who addressed the protesters before they were chased out of the Unity Fountain, advised the federal government to respect the rule of law by releasing Sheikh El-Zakzaky.

Shortly after the police violently disrupted the peaceful protest, Concerned Nigerians, issued a statement signed by Deji Adeyanju, the convener and Dr. John Danfulani, the secretary of the movement condemning the actions of the police and saying that agents of the secret police, the State Security Services were involved in the anti-democratic operation.

The group vowed to continue to demand the release of El Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah.

“This morning the officers from the Nigerian Police Force along with men of the State Security Services (SSS) violently  interrupted our peaceful gathering when we sought to press home our demands for the Federal Govt to comply with the order of Justice Kolawole by releasing Sheihk El ZakZaky and his wife Hajia Zeenah Ibrahim from their 485 day incarceration,” the e-mailed statement to The Trent, said.

“The joint security team interrupted our gathering using water cannons, dogs and teargas. They also occasionally fired live bullets into the air.

“All attempts by several people present to speak to impress it on the officers present that our gathering was lawful and peaceful fell on deaf ears.

“This violent interruption is reprehensible, condemnable & constitutes a violation of our rights to lawful assembly as enshrined in the 1999 constitution.

“Until the interruption, people who attended the gathering had conducted themselves impeccably, lawfully and peacefully.

“We are not deterred by these illegal and unconstitutional actions by a government that understands violence and force as its only dispute resolution mechanism. Indeed, everything looks like a nail to a govt who only possesses a hammer.

“We will once again announce the date and venue to continue our agitations. And on the said date, we will again gather in exercise of our constitutional rights and freedoms,” the statement ended.

Nigerian State Declares War On Shi’ites

Following a street clash in December 2015, between the sects members and the Nigerian Army in Zaria, following which the army conducted a house-by-house raid on the sect, killing over 800 members in cold blood.

Governor Nasir El Rufai went on television and declared the group guilty and promised to “end this problem once and for all” as he repeated the dubious claim by the army that there was an assassination attempt on the life of the Chief of Army Staff.

That same month, El Rufai in a destructive show of power ordered the demolishing of all properties, worship centres, schools, tombs, and even a cemetery belonging to the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. The Kaduna State agency, KASUPDA carried out the illegal operation.

On December 23, 2015 the Islamic Movement of Nigeria complained that under the protection of Nigerian Army and the Nigeria’s Secret Police, the Department of State Security Services, DSS, officials of KASUPDA “razed to ground” what remained of the sect’s Husainiyya Islamic centre.

“We are particularly irked by the demolition of our newly bought property adjacent the Husainiyya Baqiyyatullah, a former NTC compound, which they did yesterday. That compound has been in existence since the colonial times,” the statement said.

The Dubious Attempted Assassination Claim

According to the Nigerian Army, it’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buraitai was trying to make his way through a procession of the Shi’ia sect when an assassination attempt was made on his life by followers of El-Zakzaky who is the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. In an attempt to repel the attack by assailants who “brandished dangerous weapons”, Nigerian troops opened fire on the crowd and killed an undisclosed number of people. According to some reports as many as seventeen people were killed.

In an attempt to win the hearts and minds of Nigerian by justifying the killings of Shi’ite faithfuls in Zaria, the Army authorities released a video showing its officers negotiating with followers of leading Shi’ia cleric, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.

But the video released by the army doesn’t prove its claim. It only shows some of Buraitai’s men negotiating for passage, presumably for their boss, and being declined. It doesn’t show the arrival of the army boss to the scene, neither does it show the alleged assassination attempt. It doesn’t show the troops engaging the unruly youth.

Gross Human Rights Abuse Against Shi’ites

Following the street clash between the army and followers of the sect, the Nigerian Army proceeded to invade the home of the leader of the sect, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, kill his son and wife, shoot him four times, drag him out from his house like an animal, bloodied, disrobed, and dump him in a wheelbarrow.

For several months after El Zakzaky was arrested, his whereabouts were sketchy as the chief of army staff claimed he had “handed him over to appropriate authorities”, and the then inspector general of police, Solomon Arase has refused to disclose his location to interested parties.

In a two-day rampage of unrestrained violence, Nigerian soldiers killed 800 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, demolished buildings including a mosque belonging to the Shi’ite sect, and destroyed properties. Associated Press reports that the Nigerian Army has secretly buried their victims to cover-up their crimes against humanity.

The Emir of Kano, Sanusi II has issued a statement on the incident saying that the Shi’ia sect “insults relatives of Prophet Mohammed” and said that the sect’s ideology is “unacceptable to all Muslims”. The King of Saudi Arabia congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on phone calling the brutal crackdown on the minority sect as “fighting terrorism”.

Human Rights Watch has released a report which says that Nigerian soldiers murdered over 300 Shi’ite members and buried them secretly in mass graves to cover up their crimes.

The Kaduna State government admitting to burying more than 370 bodies of the victims of the Army genocide in mass graves.

Two videos have emerged showing the extent of human rights abuses committed in Zaria by the Nigerian Army. Unlike the ‘promotional’ video shot through the eyes of the troops which has been traced to Army Spokesman, Colonel Sani Usman, these videos paint an unsettling picture of a siege on unarmed civilians by a bloodthirsty army, these videos are those recorded by eye-witnesses to these crimes.

In one of the videos, soldiers are seen laying a firing squad around a Shi’ite shrine. in preparation of an onslaught on the sect. The second video shows soldiers going house-by-house committing acts of murder as the victims scream in helplessness.

Legal Reprieve

On December 2, 2016, close to a year since El Zakzaky was shot several times in his home and bundled out of his house with his wife by troops of the Nigerian Army, a federal high court ordered his release and awarded N50 million in damages to the Zakzakys.

The court ordered that the federal government provided the cleric and his wife with a new accommodation and security in any part of Kaduna or Northern region that they prefer within 45 days. The federal government is yet to obey the court order and he remains illegally in detention.

Today, Wednesday, April 12, 2017 marks 486 days that the Shi’ite leader has spent in detention, illegally, on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari.

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