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Nigerian Court Orders Police to Pay N300 Million for Killing Shiite Members

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KADUNA, Nigeria – In a landmark decision, the Federal High Court in Kaduna, Nigeria, has ordered the Nigeria Police Force to compensate the families of three Shiite members who were killed during a religious procession in 2022.

The court mandated a payment of N300 million in total to the parents of the deceased.

Justice Hawa Buhari, presiding over the case, ruled on April 22, 2024, that the police violated multiple constitutional and international rights, including the right to life and freedom of religion, as laid out in the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

The families of Jafar Magaji, Aliyu Lawal, and Muhsin Badamasi, who were killed while participating in the Ashura Procession in Zaria City, will each receive N100 million.

Shi'ites Abuja Buhari
Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria preparing the bodies of members killed when the Nigerian Army opened fire during the group’s protests in the capital Abuja in October 2018 | Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

The judgment also stipulates a 10 percent annual interest on the compensation until fully paid and requires the police to publish a public apology in a national newspaper.

The court’s decision followed the consolidation of three separate lawsuits filed by the next-of-kins of the deceased against several police officials, including the Inspector-General of Police and other local commanders.

Shi'ite Protest Abuja Police
Scene of Violence: Shi’ite protest in Abuja for the release of Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria who has been illegally detained by President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015. The protest happened on Monday, July 22, 2019

The applicants, represented by attorneys H.G Magashi, M.D Abubakar, and Dr Yusha’u Shaikh, argued that the police action was “illegal, unconstitutional, and a flagrant violation” of the fundamental rights to life and religious freedom.

Despite a preliminary objection by the respondents seeking dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, Justice Buhari affirmed the court’s authority to hear the case.

This judgment arrives amidst ongoing tensions and incidents of violence involving religious groups in Nigeria, spotlighting the ongoing challenges in ensuring police accountability and the protection of fundamental human rights in the country.

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