In a bid to counter the allegation credited to the Christian Association of Nigeria that 800 people were killed during the 3-month violent attacks on many communities in Southern Kaduna by armed herdsmen the Nasir El-Rufai administration has announced a figure of 204. The official figure was reported to have been compiled by the National Emergency Management Agency and the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency. Both agencies have continued to make relief materials available to thousands of people whose houses were set ablaze as well as children and wards whose parents and guardians were brutally killed during the crisis.
The National Peace Committee led by a former military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has commenced moves to promote "peace" between the assailants and the family members of those who were killed.
At the end of a meeting with Governor El-Rufai in Kaduna last week, General Abubakar said that peace could only return to the area if the people were ready to dialogue and forgive one another. Thus, the directive of President Buhari that the criminal elements who perpetrated the orgy of violence be fished out and prosecuted is likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "peace."
Since the Committee is interested in the restoration of peace in Kaduna state, it is pertinent to draw the attention to the case of the Shiites. The State government had revealed at a judicial commission of inquiry last year that the Nigerian Army had massacred 347 Shiites when armed troops opened fire on them in Zaria for causing a traffic jam which interrupted the movement of the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff on December 12, 2015? However, the Kaduna state government aided and abetted the Army in the secret burial of the bodies of the slain Shiites in a mass grave in Mango village, near Kaduna? As if those atrocities were not enough, the Kaduna state government proceeded to demolish the houses of the Shiites leader, Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky. Apart from witnessing the gruesome murder of three of their children, Elzakzaky and his wife who were subjected to horrendous brutalisation from the troops have been detained without trial since December 14, 2015.
Having lost his right eye, Elzakzaky has applied to seek medical treatment abroad. But the request has been rejected by the State Security Service. In a grand display of impunity, the order of the Federal High Court that the couple be released from detention and be provided with accommodation by the government which has rendered them homeless has been treated with disdain. Meanwhile, the Kaduna State government has refused to prosecute the soldiers who killed the 347 Shiites as recommended by the judicial commission of inquiry which it had set up. In the same vein the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Buhari has refused to direct the army authorities to constitute a court-martial for the trial of the military officers who issued the illegal order for the genocidal acts.
With respect to the incessant killing of farmers by armed herdsmen in various parts of the country the Committee members should be told that the temporary reconciliation of murderers and victims cannot guarantee lasting peace. The Committee should impress it on the state governments where there is livestock to embark on the establishment of ranches and abattoirs. Our political class ought to learn from Botswana which is an arid land with the Kalahari Desert extending to the western part. Yet that country which is the largest producer and exporter of meat and meat products in Africa has successfully eliminated clashes between cattle rearers and farmers by establishing ranches and abattoirs.
While the National Peace Committee is commended for the initiative of promoting peace in Southern Kaduna the state government ought to be told that peace without justice will continue to elude the State. Therefore, Governor El-Rufai should be advised to direct the Attorney-General of Kaduna State to set the engine in motion for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the well-known criminal elements who massacred 347 Shiites and the 204 people in Southern Kaduna. In any country, which operates under the rule of law the perpetrators of violence are not treated like sacred cows.
Femi Falana SAN