Kaduna State Government has declared Nigeria’s biggest Shiite group, Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), an insurgent group, saying its activities threatened peace and security.
In a white paper released yesterday on the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) into the clashes between the Nigeria Army and IMN in Zaria, the government said the commission failed to consider many observations included in the memos submitted to it by individuals and groups.
The white paper is coming one year after the clash in which 347 persons were killed.
The JCI had in its report blamed the Army, the federal and Kaduna State governments as well as the IMN for the clash and the high number of casualties.
Briefing newsmen on the white paper, media aide to the Kaduna State governor, Samuel Aruwan, said “All IMN members and its leadership are jointly and severally liable for all violations of the law in the last 30 years, and are therefore responsible for the clashes and its consequences.”
The white paper, Aruwan said, also noted that members of the IMN owed absolute loyalty to Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. “ He therefore bears responsibility for all the acts of lawlessness committed by the organisation and should therefore be held responsible, fully investigated and prosecuted,” he said.
The state government said the commission did not consider the years during which the activities of the IMN in Gyallesu had threatened peace and security.
“The White Paper also acknowledged that …for all intent and purpose, the IMN is an insurgent group and ought to be treated as such,” Aruwan said, adding that two other Shia groups – Al-Thaqalayn and RasulA’azam – are active in Kaduna State, and both gave testimony to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, affirming that the Shia faith “can be observed and ought to be protected within the boundaries set and permitted by the Nigerian constitution and other laws”.
The white paper also rejected suggestion that the burial of the victims did not conform to the law.
“Government observes that its officials complied with the Burial Law of the State. Section 7 sub-section 1 of the Burial Law Cap 20 Laws of Kaduna State Government 1991 requires the burial of persons who die in this type of circumstances within 24hrs. The Interpretation section of Rule 115 Geneva Convention also states that in circumstances of this nature, dead bodies could be buried in a mass grave.”
Aruwan noted that the white paper also rejected the Judicial Commission of Inquiry’s view on actions taken to clear structures at the scenes of the clashes, saying the debris at the Hussainiyya Baqiyatullah and at the residence of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky were removed on the grounds of Public Health and safety.
“All the IMN buildings that were demolished were constructed without statutory title and building permit as required by the Land Use Act and Section 26 of the KASUPDA Law No.12 of 2015,” he explained.
The governor’s spokesman said with regards to the findings of the Commission on the conduct of the Nigerian Army, the State Government noted the recommendation that members of the Nigerian Army that may have been involved in the unlawful killing of 347 citizens should be brought to trial before a Court of competent jurisdiction.
“The Kaduna State Government is assured that the Federal Government will not condone unlawful killing of any citizen and that this conduct will be further investigated and any culprits identified will first be subjected to court martial by the federal authorities, followed by civil prosecution by the state government,” he said.
The state government said it had however accepted the recommendations of the commission that all incidents of violence and aggression by the members of the IMN against individuals, groups or communities be fully investigated and culprits brought to book and here appropriate, compensations should be paid.
The State Government said it also accepted that it should investigate and repossess all illegally acquired public lands from IMN and utilize same for Public Interest.
Aruwan said the Kaduna State Government had already acted on some of the recommendations and will now take steps to implement the others while those recommendations that are solely within the powers of the Federal Government have been referred for further necessary action.
“Government has already acted to declare the IMN an unlawful society and is prosecuting the IMN members alleged to be involved in the killing of Corporal Dan Kaduna Yakubu. Government has also ensured that property destroyed in the clashes have been valued to ascertain reasonable compensation to circumstantial victims,” he added.
There was no immediate response by the IMN yesterday, but the group did not appear before the JCI, insisting that their leader must be released as a precondition for participation.