By Ben Agande & Ikechukwu Nnochiri,
The Chief of Army Staff, Major General Yusuf Buratai, yesterday, appeared before a Special Investigative Panel that was constituted by the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to probe circumstances that led to the bloody clash between the Nigerian Army and the Shiite Muslim sect.
This came on a day hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shiites) stormed the commission to protest the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky, by Nigerian security services.
Army’s petition The clash which occurred on December 12, 2015, resulted in the instant death of many members of the sect, with others seriously wounded.
However, the Nigerian Army, in a petition lodged before the NHRC on December 14, 2015, maintained that only seven members of the sect were killed during the face-off, with 10 others seriously injured.
It told the commission that the convoy of the COAS was attacked in Zaria at about 2:30pm on that fateful day, by members of the Shiite Sect under the leadership of Ibrahim El ZakZakky.
Army told the NHRC that Buratai was on his way from Dutse to pay homage to the Emir of Zazzau before proceeding to the Depot NA Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruit Intakes, when heavily armed sect members numbering over 500 rushed out and barricaded the Zaria PoloGolf Road in the vicinity of their supposed shrine.
Sequel to the petition, the NHRC, yesterday, commenced investigations into the matter by inviting the COAS to personally appear before it to shed more light on what actually transpired between him and the sect.
In his speech, Buratai, who arrived at the commission around 11:30am amid tight security, insisted that the Army acted within its rules of engagement.
He said the Army, as a responsible organisation, would not tolerate a situation where some individuals or organisations will continue to violate the human rights of others.
He said the Army, having sworn to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria, would always stand against agents of anarchy that do not want rules and regulations or law and order to prevail in the society.
“No society will develop were lawlessness, peace and tranquillity of the average citizen is being trampled upon,” he said.
The COAS said his officers would furnish the NHRC probe panel with sufficient evidence, including videos and photographs, showing how members of the Shiite sect attacked his convoy.
“It is not in the best interest of the nation for such lawless acts to be condoned or for the Army to be unnecessarily condemned in the media. If the Army is ridiculed, then we are not doing our country any service. We must support the Army. We are facing a very serious challenge right now, which is our fight against insurgency.
“With what we have seen, if the Islamic Movement in Nigeria is allowed to move and operate freely the way it has been doing, the Boko Haram challenge will be a child’s play,” Buratai added.
The COAS said he appeared before the NHRC due to his respect for human rights.
“We are here because we know the sanctity of human life which we have sworn to protect,” he said.
Earlier, Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, said the aim of the five-man probe panel headed by Tony Ojukwu, Director, monitoring department, was to unravel the truth behind the Zaria killings.
Noting that the commission received a total of 158 memoranda from 13 states of the federation, Angwe said the commission would be fair, firm and decisive on the assignment.
He said the NHRC will at the end of the probe, which he said would be held in camera, make its findings public. Read full on Vanguard