Leaders of the Shi’ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have given more insights into the death toll from the sect’s clash with soldiers in Kaduna State last weekend.
The violence erupted when the Shi’ites, during a procession in Zaria, reportedly attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai. The soldiers said that they used minimum force to disperse the crowd.
In a petition they sent to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, the group claimed that soldiers who led the attack on its procession killed about 1,000 of its adherents between Saturday last week and yesterday.
The movement also sent copies of the petition to Buratai, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA).
The IMN protem spokesman, Mallam Abdul-Mumin Giwa, who signed the statement on behalf of the organisation, alleged that there have been several attempts by the soldiers to cover up the “increasing level of casualties” since the conflict began.
Giwa told journalists in Abuja yesterday that soldiers have been taking away corpses to unknown destinations, fuelling fears that ‘’many of our people may have been buried in mass graves in certain places.’’
The group also claimed that the home of their leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, had been razed, their mosque, Hussainiyah Baqiyatullah, reduced to rubble, while countless numbers of their members have been displaced, arrested or killed.
Against this backdrop, the IMN made eight immediate demands on the Federal Government but did not indicate what it would do if they are not met. The demands are:
*Immediate and unconditional release of El-Zakzaky, who the military says is in protective custody with his wife;
*Release of all their members in the custody of the Police and the Army;
*Cessation of the molestation of their members who should be allowed to be met by the International Red Cross;
*Release of the corpses of all those killed;
*Payment of full compensation for all property destroyed, and
*Payment of “diyyah” (compensation for families of victims).
Receiving the petition of the IMN in the presence of local investigators from the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu of OSIWA indicated that it is not the death toll from the crisis that matters now, but the need to hear from the survivors what happened.
Meanwhile, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, has expressed the US government’s deep concern over reports of violent clashes during the past several days between the Nigerian Army and the Shi’ite group in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He said that while the details of the incidents that began on December 12 remain unclear, “we are dismayed to learn of multiple civilian deaths. It is essential that all sides refrain from actions that further destabilise the situation.”
Also yesterday, the Senate, after over one hour closed-door session on the clash, resolved to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the unfortunate incident.
The Upper House therefore set up an Ad-hoc Committee to probe the clash. The committee is headed by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, Ahmed Lawan, with members drawn from the committees on Defence, Intelligence and National Security, the Judiciary, Army, Police Affairs, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs.
Similarly, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto and Founder, The Kukah Centre, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has appealed to both parties to sheathe their swords. He asked the Federal Government to act fast to prevent the violence from escalating.
Kukah spoke on Wednesday at the inaugural forum on Religion and Social Transformation in sub-Saharan Africa, organised by The Kukah Centre in partnership with the Department of Intercultural Theology, DePaul University, USA.
Bishop Kukah observed that religion is not responsible for violence although people stand on its platform to perpetrate it.
Originally published on authorityngr.com