Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, has said that the Leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, whose followers clashed with the military last weekend in Zaria, would be prosecuted for any crimes he may have committed.
His remarks came just as followers of El-Zakzaky expressed lack of confidence in the judicial commission of enquiry proposed by the governor to look into the clash between the Shiite members and the military.
A deadly clash had occured between the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, and El-Zakzaky’s followers who were said to have barricaded the highway during their annual procession. The bloody clash on the highway and a subsequent raid on the residence of El-Zakzaky led to the death of some of his followers, including his son, while several others were injured. The military however issued a statement immediately after the incident claiming that members of the sect wanted to assassinate Buratai.
Days after the army raided the residence of the Shiite leader, Governor El-Rufai made a state broadcast announcing the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the incident.
Responding to reporters’ questions last night in Kaduna shortly governors of the 19 Northern states, under the aegis of Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF), rose from their meeting convened to deliberate on the clash between the military and the Shiites in Zaria, El-Rufai said “The leader of the movement is in custody, he will be prosecuted for any crimes that he may have committed. But that is the decision for the federal authorities. There are state and federal crimes.”
“There is a government and a constitution and we are resolved to follow the constitution and due process,” El-Rufai said.
The Shiite members however took on the governor yesterday for allegedly making indicting pronouncements against them, declaring that they have no confidence in the judicial panel of inquiry to be set up by the state government.
El-Rufai had in a radio and television broadcast to the people of the state last Thursday to douse tension arising from the clash which sparked up protest by the sect members in Kaduna, announced the setting up a panel to investigate the clash.
In the broadcast, the governor cited an attack on Gabari involving the sect over a mosque, leading to the death of three people; illegal occupation of federal roads over a period of four days between Kaduna and Zaria, and the roads to Kano and Katsina; and the entering schools along these routes, using them as rest and recreation points without notice or permission or any concern about the disruption of academic activities.
He also accused the sect of illegal acquisition of land upon which their Hussainiyya headquarters was built in Zaria.
In its reaction, the Shiite sect said based on the governor’s broadcast, it was clear that he was “more like an extremist anti-Shi’ite governor and not a state governor”.
In a statement signed by the President of the Media Forum of the sect, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, the group noted that the governor merely spent time collecting propaganda details indicting the movement.
“In that circumstance, no justice should be expected from a speech made up with details only provided by the antagonistic culprits without hearing from the other party who are the victims in this case,” the statement said.
Responding to the issues raised by the governor point by point, the sect said the government ought to have gone to court to challenge the alleged illegal construction of their Hussainiyya headquarters in Zaria instead of using brutal force.
Usman said the group was astonished by claims by the governor that the sect had tried to forcibly acquire the property of their neighbours and subjecting residents to an illegal curfew” and challenged El-Rufai to cite one particular case where the sect forcibly acquired a property, let alone a time when we imposed curfew.
“We would like to ask Mr. Governor how many disputes over mosques have been reported in the 37 years that the IMN have been there in Zaria? The idea that Shiites will go and take over a Salafi mosque is as laughable as the idea that Christian evangelicals will raid a Catholic cathedral and tell the adherents to get out.
Usman also said: “The governor made mention of the Arbaeen symbolic trek as an instance where we blocked roads for four days when he stated….. Clearly, this is a deliberate attempt to twist the facts. During the Arbaeen symbolic treks, we block only limited part of the road, and this is to protect persons from traffic accidents, control mass movement and avoid chaos on the roads.
“The governor here was trying to give the impression of a complete occupation of a lane for four days. That was not the case. Blocks were only from junction to junction on the roads. The public was informed about these little inconveniences with apologies on public radio and television stations throughout the trek. Road users during the period would be surprised by the governor’s statement.
“How does this compare with similar road blocks by others such as the Military itself that blocks from Jaji to Zaria, and at times from Kaduna to Zaria or within Zaria metropolis during their parades? Citing road block as the reason for this brutal attack is just laughable. Where in the law books is it written that those who block the roads should be massacred without trials?
The group also denied carrying weapons and challenged the governor to mention the weapons found when “they razed our Husainiyya to the ground or Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence.
Rising from their meeting in Kaduna yesterday, the northern governors resolved to support the Kaduna State government to contain the security threat posed by clashes between the Shiite Islamic sect and the Nigerian army in Zaria.
In a communique read at the end of the meeting by the chairman of the forum and governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the governors said they were worried by the situation in Kaduna and had resolved to support the Kaduna State government in its efforts to address situation as well as review the situation as it affects other states.
The governors said issues were exhaustively discussed at the meeting and resolutions were taken to ensure peace and stability in the North.
The northern governors’ forum in its resolutions “reaffirmed that all Nigerians should respect the law and constituted authority; and that every organisation, religious or social should operate within the confines of the law.
The governors also endorsed all steps taken by the Kaduna State government to contain the situation.
They also expressed support for the Kaduna State government in its decision to constitute a Judicial Commission of inquiry to examine the remote and immediate causes of the Zaria incident.
The governors further reassured citizens of their readiness to maintain law and order while respecting constitutional right of citizens to practice their faiths in a manner devoid of infringing the right of others.
The communique said that the governors’ forum “frowned at the arbitrary blocking of high ways through unauthorised processions, causing inconveniences to citizens.
“The Northern governors therefore resolved that henceforth, procession must necessarily be with police permit and protection as prescribed by law.”
They called on “Nigerians, regardless of political affiliation, religious persuasions, sectional or ethnic background to coalesce into a single unit and collectively fight our common tragedy of poverty, destitution and illiteracy.”
Appealing to the media to exercise restraint and avoid inflaming passion or stoking the embers of division and intolerance, the governors called on the citizens to report suspicion and concerns to the appropriate authority.
Earlier, while declaring the meeting opened Shettima had stressed that the meeting was summoned to analyse the situation with a view to adopt measures that will ensure peace and stability in the north.
“We want to look at how to ensure that the incident does not provide room for anyone or group to perpetuate violence in any of the 19 northern States” he said.
Recalling how the Boko Haram sect started it’s murderous activities, the governor said “We already have the serious problems of Boko Haram to contend with. We are not in any way comparing the Islamic Movement with Boko Haram, no.
“But we don’t want the same mistake that happened over the Boko Haram crisis to repeat itself.”
According to him, ” When Boko Haram went wild in July, 2009 with clashes between them and the police in Bauchi on 25th and 26th in Maiduguri, most Nigerians saw the issues as the problems of Bauchi and Borno.
” When they continued to attack Borno and Yobe, it became the affairs of Borno and Yobe States.
“All of a sudden, there was suicide attack in Abuja in 2012 and then everything went out of control and we are where are today”.