Recently, the Nigerian Army through its spokesman, Col. S.K Usman Kuka Sheka issued a statement condemning the renowned Human rights group, Amnesty International over its report on the atrocities committed by the Nigerian army in Zaria last December. He accused the organization of being biased, hasty and intruding into the internal affairs of our country, among others, without providing any proofs to counter those that informed Amnesty’s report. Not long after that a mushroom group sprang up casting aspersions on the person of the country Director of Amnesty International, Ambassador M.K. Ibrahim.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) believes that what the Army ought to do is to discuss issues and not personalities. They should have addressed the facts Amnesty Report brought forward using rigorous methodology and meticulous attention to details. They should be addressing the scores of pages containing proofs obtained after an extensive field investigation, which also contain pictures and satellite images. Thus instead of the Army to use superlatives in describing what Amnesty International is not, it should have disputed the incontrovertible facts brandished by the organization to the world espousing the enormity of the war crimes of the Army.
While the Nigerian Army labels the Amnesty Report that took months to prepare as being hasty, it forgot that its own attempt to hide its crime and cover its tracks was more appropriate to be so labeled. Its warped logic would not let them realize that it was dishing out baseless allegations against the IMN without proofs or awaiting the JCI to conclude its work. Probably that is why the Army in the said press release says, “Nothing was mentioned on the rebellious attitude and the violations of human rights by the IMN. Neither did they [Amnesty] bother to ask why the IMN attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff.” If they saw no wrong in maligning IMN without proofs, why should they be irked by solid facts brought up by the internationally acclaimed Rights group?
By now the army should be able to tell the Nigerian public how many civilians it murdered in Zaria. From the highest ranking officer, COAS to the Major who appeared before the Kaduna state judicial commission, they were all incoherent in their testimonies of how many they gunned down in December. If they don’t have skeletons in their cupboards, why is the army economical with the truth?
Another information of great importance to Nigerians is the question of whether the army was involved in a mass grave as elucidated by Kaduna state government? This is a straightforward question, which the army is not doing itself good by shying away from. The army should have addressed this issue, but as usual with those accused of crime against humanity, it rather chose not to talk about that. Even the officers who appeared before the judicial commission in Kaduna were just quibbling.
What Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, told IBTimes UK is a food for thought for the army. She explained that in addition to the 347 people allegedly killed and whose bodies were dumped in mass graves, another 350 have gone missing.
“They have not been found neither in hospitals, nor in prison, nowhere, and they are feared they have been killed. There are allegations of other mass graves and these families are entitled to have their grievances addressed and the army is not doing that,” she continued.
“We hope the judicial commission of inquiry and the National Human Rights Commission are doing their own investigations with the necessary independence and impartiality. The fact that Amnesty has put in the public record its own findings can only help the work of the various commissions that are investigating.
“By burying bodies in mass graves and destroying places where these people were massacred, the Nigerian army has committed an additional crime. They are really in no place to speak about what is appropriate and what is not. They should focus on coming clean and telling the truth and speeding up the process that can hopefully lead to the families of the victims getting justice and reparation and those responsible be held accountable,” Rovera concluded.
The IMN strongly believes the army should not be engaged in justifying the unjustifiable, paying huge sums of money in propaganda involving unknown NGO’s, bereft of credibility and hired integrity-challenged journalists. It should rather realize that a secular national army is supposed to be for all Nigerians and should not be acting the script of Saudi Wahabbis against Shia Islam. We also advice the Army as did the AI to focus on coming clean on this one and own up to its crime here and at The Hague.
IBRAHIM MUSA is the President, Media Forum, Islamic Movement in Nigeria
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