You are not a Kangaroo Panel? Then prove us wrong!

An open challenge was again sent to the Presidential Investigation Panel set up to look at cases of Human Rights abuses by the Military to prove its mettle in the discharge of its assignment. This followed a grumble purportedly emanating from the Panel saying that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) refers to it as a “Kangaroo Panel.”

In a swift reaction however, the Islamic Movement through the Freezakzaky Campaign Committee challenged the panel to show the extent of its strength by proving its independence and credibility. Rather than sit and decry a well grounded position taken by the IMN, the Panel ought to have simply worked to prove us wrong.

It will be recalled that the Islamic Movement has been critical of the Panel right from its composition. In an open letter to the then acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who set up the panel, which was also advertised in major Nigerian dailies, IMN expressed serious doubts that the Panel was even structured to dispense justice at all in the first place. It noted that any investigation of the military attack on its members that does not include a way to make Sheikh Zakzaky and others appear and make public public presentation of their case would be “most unfair and unjust.” And this is what is playing out at the moment. The Panel is incapacitated and seems to be waiting endlessly for “permission” from accomplices to the infringement of the rights of Sheikh Zakzaky before it could take his presentation. Additionally, the Panel has compromised fairness and justice already by stating that the Sheikh’s testimony, if at all he would be allowed to make a presentation, will be taken in camera rather than in an open hearing contrary to its initial disposition. This is taken by keen independent observers as a ploy to hide evidence against the Nigerian Army, previously indicted of committing crimes against humanity in Zaria in December, 2015.

If the Presidential Investigation Panel wants to be seen therefore as truly independent and credible, it must insist on removing any thread of barriers to having anyone with petition against the military from making a public testimony, including Sheikh Zakzaky. It must have an open and transparent hearing into all petitions and memoranda. It must not allow itself to be used to launder the image of a discredited public institution, the Nigerian army, whose dismal human rights records is legendary. There is so much yet to be known. There is so much more to be done by this panel if it wants the “kangaroo” label to be cast off from the public outlook of the panel. They can and indeed should prove us all wrong!

#FreeZakzaky Campaign Committee, November 2017