Iran summons Israeli Envoy
- More protests in Nigeria, globally
Bloody clash between the Nigerian Army and the Shi’ite Islamist group in Zaria, Kaduna State last weekend has taken international colouration, following condemnation of the violent crisis by the United Kingdom, United States of America, Iran and other countries. Scores of members of the group have been reported killed while a handful of them, including the sect’s leader, El- Zakzakky, are also reportedly held by the Nigerian security agency.
Both governments, while expressing concern that many people were killed during the clash, called on the federal government to launch an inquiry into the incident. American and British governments stated their position in separate statements issued in Abuja yesterday.
The US Embassy in Abuja, while expressing dismay over the killings, advised both the military and the Shi’ite group to exercise restraint to avoid actions that may further destabilize the situation.
Part of the US statement reads: “While many details of the incidents that reportedly 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. The United States calls on the Government of Nigeria to quickly, credibly, and transparently investigate these events in Zaria and hold to account any individuals found to have committed crimes.”
Similarly, the British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright cautioned the security agencies to conduct their operations within the ambit of the rule of law, even as he urged the Shi’ite demonstrators to ensure that their protests are peaceful and within the law.
Arkwright said in a statement that, “Like many across Nigeria, I am following with concern the reports of violence in Zaria over the weekend between the Nigerian security forces and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. I am further concerned at reports that protests in Kaduna have turned violent.”
Sultan summons emergency meeting of Muslim leaders
Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA has summoned an emergency “expanded general purpose meeting” over last week’s massacre of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
The NSCIA is the highest Islamic body in Nigeria, under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III.
Reports said about 200 top Muslim leaders were invited for the meeting called to review the massacre. The invitees have already started arriving Abuja, this newspaper learnt.
“The meeting will hold at 4pm today at the National Mosque,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli envoy in Iran has also been summoned by the Iranian government over the issue. It is not known at time of going to press why Israeli government is being roped into the matter.
Senate launches investigation into the clash
The Nigerian Senate has set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the bloody clash.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, announcing the decision, after 90 minutes closed door session, named Senator Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe North senatorial district as the chairman.
The ad-hoc committee consists of the Senate Committees on Defence; Judiciary and Human Rights; and National Security and Intelligence.
Saraki said the committee has been saddled with the responsibilities of investigating all issues surrounding the attacks and advice the Federal Government on the way forward, even as he urged the parties to embrace peace.
Already, Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Abdurrahman Dambazau, had directed the Inspector General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase to investigate what happened and report back to the government.
Also, the House of Representatives has directed its standing Committees on Defence and Interior to meet with top echelon of security agencies in the country so as to unravel the cause of the Saturday clash in Zaria, Kaduna State between the Nigerian Army and the Shiite Islamic sect.
In a press statement, Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara urged the concerned committees to do a thorough job considering the sensitive nature of the matter and the current security situation in the country.
It would be recalled that members of the Shiite group blocked the route of the Chiefs of Army Staff, thus prompting a confrontation.
The army claims that the group attacked with ‘crude weapons’ and fearing that the life of the Army Chief may have been in danger, lethal force was used to clear a route of escape for him.
National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has already set up a special investigative panel to probe the events.
Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, in setting the panel, stressed the need for all the parties in the dispute to sheath their swords and assured that the commission will get to the root of the matter
Angwe said the country is operating a democracy which demands that institutions must act within the ambit of the law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. “In a democracy, the rule of law is supreme and it is important that we continue to remind everyone about the need to respect each other’s right.”
The panel which is made up of top management staff in legal, investigations and monitoring departments of the NHRC is headed by Mr Tony Ojukwu, Director, Monitoring Department.
Shi’ite rejects FG’s probe, demands release of Ei-Zakzaky
But the Shiites have rejected any panel set up by the government to investigate the matter.
Instead, the group is demanding for the immediate release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzakky, who is being detained by the military.
An Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN leader, Malam Yakubu Yahaya, told the BBC that they will not co-operate with the investigation panel.
The military had accused the pro-Iranian sect of trying to assassinate Army Chief, Gen Tukur Buratai, but IMN denied the allegation and said its unarmed members were attacked and its shrine destroyed by security forces at the weekend.
Series of demonstrations have been staged at various parts of northern Nigeria, calling for the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzakky, as hundreds of Shi’ite followers took to the streets in six major northern cities to express their frustration over what happened.
Nigerian Pilot gathered that Iran, Iraq and other Muslim communities have called for a global protest tomorrow.
Police ban religious processions in Sokoto
In the meantime, the Sokoto Police Command has warned religious groups and other organizations against organizing unauthorized processions.
Spokesman of the command, El-Mustapha Sani, said in a statement yesterday that, “The command is proactively monitoring these developments which area recipe for the breach of the peace and it would not fold its arms and be complacent. Some emerging developments in Zaria and other parts of the country, occasioned by the recent fracas between the military and the members of the Shi’ite sect call for concerted efforts by all the security agencies.
“It is also noteworthy here that all organisations, religious or otherwise, planning to organise any gatherings should seek for the necessary police permit well in advance,” Sani said.
He reminded the residents of the state that all Nigerians had equal rights of worship and movements, stating that no citizen must, in any way, trample on the rights of others in the process of exercising his or her rights.
”The police command, however, wishes to assure all law abiding residents of the state that it shall religiously uphold the sanctity of lives. The command is ever-ready to ensure the protection of all lives and property for 24 hours and the people should continue to be law abiding in discharging their lawful endeavours,” the police mouthpiece said.
Iran urges Buhari not to allow crisis escalate
Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani has reportedly advised President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that “minor disputes must not be allowed to turn into deep differences”, warning that Buhari should issue strict orders that could forestall further attacks.
According to IRNA reports, Rouhani spoke to Buhari on phone asking about the welfare of the injured victims, especially Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the sect.
The agency quoted him as emphasising the importance of unity among Muslims. “Under such conditions that terrorism is a serious threat against many Muslim countries’ security the Muslims need to unite and not permit trivial differences of opinion to lead to acute disputes, since safeguarding the Muslims’ lives is our major and public responsibility,” he reportedly said.
“The Islamic world is more than ever before in need to peace and peaceful resolving of its existing problems “We expect the Nigerian government to relieve the entire bereaved families and injured victims of that disaster and to issue strict orders to prevent the occurrence of any further unrests. A group is after sowing the seeds of discord among Muslim in Islamic countries and therefore it is our duty to preserve Islam’s prestige and the Muslims unity alertly and consciously.”
Rouhani also announced Iran’s readiness to dispatch any special assistance, such as medical and rescue and relief teams to assist the disaster’s victims.
Buhari, according to the report, appreciated the effort of his Iranian counterpart, emphasizing that he realises his responsibility in safeguarding the lives of Nigerian Muslims.
“The Nigerian government is also determined to pursue the precise causes of the occurrence of that incidence and will definitely react to it accordingly,” he was quoted as saying. We will also do our best to restore security in our country and will act against those who have disturbed it.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, also said it observed with much sadness, the altercation between the Nigerian Army and Muslim faithful of the Shi’ite Islamic movement, which led to loss of lives of yet unknown number of the group.
“Our faith is bed rocked on love. We do not only love ourselves, but we also love our neighbours and Shiite Muslims are our neighbours. While we will not want to pre-empt the government and the Nigerian Army, we do however sue for peace,” CAN stated.