About 35 Shiite Muslims peacefully protesting against Isrealli belligerence were shot dead in Zaria, Kaduna State on Friday 25th July, 2014. Three sons of Shiite leader, Shaykh Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky (Mahmud, Ahmad and Hamid who were all studying outside Nigeria) were among the victims.
Soldiering is a noble profession reserved for heroes and chivalrous citizens. The Nigerian Army is blessed with disciplined officers and men of high integrity but the soldiers involved in this massacre are bad examples who are out to smear the image of our military.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is shocked by the manifestation of barbarism and excessive use of force by the black sheep among the Nigerian military in this deadly operation. We strongly condemn this unprovoked aggression. It is callous, cowardly and inhuman. It is appalling. It is crime against humanity to mow down unarmed civilians.
Shiite procession in Zaria is an annual routine known to all and sundry and they have not been known to turn violent. It appears to us that the Nigerian military is seeking to gain by the bends what they fail to gain at the straights. The military is still interested in power but having realized that military dictatorship has become unpopular all over the world, it seeks to retain power via crude relevance by deliberately creating perpetual turmoil.
We posit that the attack on the Shiites is an indirect invitation to the evolution of another guerilla group. Today was born from the wombs of yesterday. We only need to look back and trace the history of Boko Haram. It was the extra-judicial killing of Boko Haram leader 24 hours after he was arrested and shown alive on television which started what has now become a national gangrene, a regional cancerous tumor and a universal cankerworm.
MURIC is therefore constrained to ask the military to stop plotting the gradual destabilization of Nigeria. The Federal Government (FG) must confront this challenge now and find a lasting solution to it. FG must desist from pampering the military. Instead, the military must be retrained and re-engineered to evolve a culture of respect for civilian authority. FG must be firm this time around and the first step in this direction is to stop involving the military in civil matters like elections and confronting peaceful protesters.
We are aware that FG has promised investigation into the killings. MURIC warns against failed promises. We demand thorough investigation. The panel of inquiry must include civilians and retired judges. Nigerians have no confidence in soldiers investigating themselves in issues involving soldiers and civilians. Soldiers who fail to imbibe the culture of submission to civil norms in a democratic dispensation are potent threats to the survival of our nascent democracy. Those found culpable must be dismissed and tried in civil courts for mass murder.
MURIC will take the case to the international arena if the authorities fail to uncover and punish the perpetrators. Somebody gave the order to open fire. Who was it? Who led the troops from the barracks? The records must be there. This must not be handled in-house by the military. These reckless elements within the military have committed a crime capable of instigating the formation of another ‘terrorist’ group.
Nigerian authorities cannot be unaware of the cause-effect theory of terrorism. This theory posits that what we call ‘terrorism’ is mere smoke. If it is true that there is no smoke without fire, we must look beyond the terrorists if we really want to stop terrorism. Those who started the fire which produced the smoke of terrorism must be checked. In short, if we really want to defeat Boko Haram, we must punish those who engage in extra-judicial killing. They are the military ‘extremists’ and extremists have the propensity either to fuel terrorism or to become terrorists themselves.
Finally, MURIC demands adequate compensation for the injured and families of the dead victims of this military misadventure and unreserve apology from the topmost echelon of the Nigerian military. Our demands can therefore be summarized: one, full investigation and due punishment for the perpetrators, two, adequate compensation for the victims and three, unreserved apology.
These three steps are necessary in order to deprive Boko Haram of potential sympathizers and to forestall the emergence of another guerrilla group.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)