Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state has on Thursday, December 17, issued an official statement on the deadly clash between the Nigerian Army and members of the Shi’ia Islamic Movement, which left more than 60 people dead in Zaria.
Text of State broadcast by Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai, on the recent clash between the Army and Shiites in Zaria; 17 December 2015.
Dear People of Kaduna State,
We have witnessed sad events in Zaria and a part of Kaduna metropolis over the last few days. As your Governor, it is my duty to address you on the incidents, and explain the events that preceded the tragedy of last weekend. We shall also outline how we intend to prevent a recurrence.
As you are aware, military operations have taken place in Zaria between Saturday, 12 December and Monday, 14 December 2015. There have been tragic consequences and needless loss of lives, and we extend our condolences to the families that have been affected. In this sombre moment, we have also directed that steps be taken to address the humanitarian fallouts of the operations. The State Government is carrying out after action review of the theatre of operations with a view to compensating those whose vehicles, real property and other assets were damaged as a result.
The Kaduna State Government has been informed that on Saturday, 12 December 2015, the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, reported an ambush and attempted assassination at a roadblock mounted by members of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky’s Islamic Movement of Nigeria. Clashes broke out as soldiers mounted operations to repel the attack, remove the obstruction to a major public highway, and to contain and arrest the perpetrators.
When the security agencies sent reports of the clash to me a little after 3pm on that day, I initiated steps that I thought could calm the situation. I called Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky on the phone to get his side of the story, and thereafter visited Zaria for on-the-spot briefing and assessment and visited the Chief of Army Staff.
The army and the police have since addressed the press on the security operations and the aftermath. We have also seen video clips aired on national television and online to show the extent to which the Nigerian Army tried to reason with the persons that were intent on obstructing a public highway without any justification. The avoidable weekend tragedy in Zaria has a background based on information available to the Kaduna State Government.
What the Kaduna State Government has learnt
Based on reports from government organs and security agencies, we have learnt the following:
• There had been tension in parts of Zaria since Thursday, 10 December 2015, when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria were alleged to have attacked Gabari, a community on the outskirts of Zaria, in continuation of a dispute over a mosque. Like the previous attack, this second assault on Gabari also took three lives. The alleged bone of contention was that the El-Zakzaky movement wanted to take over a mosque they did not build in Gabari. The mosque had been sealed by the authorities following the collapse of the arrangements that had enabled various sects to amicably share its usage.
• In the last two weeks, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has also illegally occupied federal roads. Over a period of four days, they took over one side of the federal expressway between Kaduna and Zaria, and the roads to Kano and Katsina. They entered schools along these routes, using them as rest and recreation points without notice or permission or any concern about the disruption of academic activities.
• The Husainiyah building, the headquarters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, was put up without statutory title to the land, and in outright defiance of a stop-work notice issued by KASUPDA in 2010. When KASUPDA followed up with a demolition notice in the same year, the then authorities chose to look the other way, and allowed the sect to complete a building that had neither title nor planning approval, and which the appropriate agency had determined was in violation of planning and development regulations.
• The successful completion of this illegal building on a major road subsequently led to a pattern of inconveniences being inflicted on members of the general public. There were various reports and complaints that the sect was harassing members of the public, and inflicting hardship on commuters. At their headquarters and in other areas where Zakzaky’s movement had structures, they had tried to forcibly acquire the property of their neighbours; this is apart from subjecting residents to an illegal curfew.
• Government also received reports that the Islamic Movement of Nigeria acted like a parallel state, with total disdain for the formal structures of the Nigerian government and little regard for the rights of non-members. Whenever community, traditional or political leaders invite the sect to dispute resolution meetings, they often declined the invitations. In addition, members of the movement are alleged to openly carry and use offensive weapons.
• Following the Zaria incident, Shiite members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria have tried to upset the peace in parts of Kaduna. The security forces have responded firmly to the situation in the Tudun Wada area of Kaduna Metropolis. Violent actions by sect members on Tuesday, 15 December 2016, included the use of Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs against the security forces.
Judicial Commission of Inquiry to be established
As the security operations in Zaria are wound-down, the Kaduna State Government is persuaded that it is vital, for reasons of accountability and transparency, that a factual and authoritative account of the events be painstakingly assembled. The Kaduna State Government has therefore decided that under the powers conferred on me by the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry will be established to examine the remote and immediate causes of the Zaria incident. This inquiry will be open and will enable all allegations and claims to be tested with judicial rigour. The government will act promptly on the conclusions of the inquiry, and forward recommendations requiring action by the Federal Government to Mr. President. Details of the composition and terms of reference of the judicial commission of inquiry would be made public within the next two weeks.
Commitment to security and constitutional rights
In the meantime, Government reiterates that it cannot permit an escalation of lawlessness. Therefore, civil security patrols, supported by the military when necessary, will continue to enable the state to maintain order, reassure residents and keep the peace. Our government continues to invest heavily in security as a foundation for the successful execution of our economic and social agenda to develop Kaduna State.
Fellow citizens, Kaduna State has witnessed too many upheavals in its recent history. These tragedies have taken too many lives, maimed people, destroyed communities and hurt development. We all should jointly say no to actions that divide people, reject conduct that ignores or violates the legal and constitutional rights of others and oppose practices that contest the prerogatives of state institutions to safeguard and protect every citizen.
Everyone has a fundamental right to their faiths and beliefs, but no one has any right to practise their faith in ways that diminish, distress or inconvenience others. And no one can be allowed to justify unlawful and anti-social behaviour on the grounds of religion. Only conduct that conforms to the Constitution and the laws of the country is valid, and it is the duty of the state to vigorously enforce that. No responsible leader or institution should teach their followers differently.
Henceforth, no person or group, under any guise will be allowed to block any road, obstruct public highways, occupy public facilities or inconvenience citizens in Kaduna State. Anybody that needs to march may do so, but they cannot take over public facilities or disrupt social services and commercial activities in Kaduna State, and any march or procession can be undertaken only with the prior knowledge of, and protection of the police to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
The Government wishes to assure every resident of Kaduna State that it is committed to fostering harmony, maintaining law and order and keeping the peace. Our Constitution rightly protects the freedom of worship, as well as the right to liberty, security and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone is entitled to these rights equally. We swore to uphold the Constitution, and our commitment to these values is unwavering. We will similarly protect these rights evenly.
We urge all citizens to be vigilant as they go about their normal activities, and to report any suspicions or concerns to the appropriate authorities. Let us all redouble our commitment to sustaining the peace, and to uphold each other in our God-given humanity.
While the crisis raged, the Kaduna State Government visited Zaria, and issued appeals for calm and peace. We have taken our time to make this formal broadcast due to the imperative to gather as much information as possible amidst the welter of conflicting claims, the urgency of restoring peace and the need to consult with the federal authorities.
God bless Kaduna State
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
May the souls of the departed find peace
May the Almighty God Restore and Preserve Peace throughout our state and country, Amen.