The Islamic Movement has come out to join in the ongoing discourse on the attempts at enacting a “NGO Regulatory Bill” that seeks to severely curtail the functions of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), stating that it strongly believes the motive of the Bill is related to it.
There has been so much ado about the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) bill before the National Assembly at the moment being considered for enactment into law. Proponents and opponents of the bill have put up different arguments to back their positions especially in the last few days during the public hearing at the National Assembly.
However, few know why Buhari’s government is so opposed to NGOs this time as he was to the press and media or even more during his first coming in mid-80s.
The government’s main but secret grouse with NGOs generally at the moment has a direct link with the way and manner Amnesty and Human Rights Watch in particular as well as several others in general exposed their crimes in the Zaria massacre and other massacres in the country. Recall that the government had attempted using bogus groups and shady characters to conduct paid campaigns justifying their atrocities. However, those phony groups were not a match for well established, renowned and credible local and international bodies when it comes to issues of rights and freedoms.
Additionally, unlike these sham groups whose main motivation was the cash handouts they were given to capriciously make equally fake assertions; these established NGOs have standardized and rigorous methodologies to unearth the truth that is internationally acceptable.
While the government churned out the rumour mill in an attempt to cover up the extent of their crime against humanity, HRW fired the first salvo. After its preliminary investigations, HRW was the first to expose the extent of the brutality in Zaria when in December 2015, just about two weeks into the incident, openly reported that over 300 were killed by the military. The report stated, “The killing of hundreds of Shia Muslim members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), by Nigerian army soldiers from December 12 to 14, 2015, appears to have been wholly unjustified.”
The Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Daniel Bekele said, “The Nigerian military’s version of events does not stack up,” adding that “It is almost impossible to see how a roadblock by angry young men could justify the killings of hundreds of people. At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group.” HRW said it conducted series of interviews with witnesses, survivors, and local authorities and also examined military documents and hospital sources to arrive at the figure of “at least 300 Shia sect members, and likely many more, killed and hundreds more injured,” It also was the first to talk of secret burial in mass graves to hide the heinous crime. “Soldiers quickly buried the bodies in mass graves without family members’ permission,” the report stated. At that point, the official government position was that only 7 probably died and they explicitly denied the existence of any mass grave.
That was followed by Amnesty report of April with damming evidence including satellite images that proved the existence of at least a mass grave and the government’s attempt at masking the evidence. The report by Amnesty International forced the confession of mass grave and burial of 347 in it at the lopsided Judicial Commission of Inquiry that was sitting in Kaduna at the time. Prior to that, the government had vehemently opposed any mass grave or deaths, even at the inquiry.
That comprehensive Amnesty report strengthened the evidence against government especially with the matter taken to the International Criminal Court at The Hague by the Islamic Movement, the opening of preliminary investigation and the ICC Chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda visiting Abuja earlier this year. It looked as if it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Ever since then, government has been openly hostile to Amnesty in particular and other NGOs in general. It accuses them of supporting terrorism and other sundry unsubstantiated charges. The government, either directly or through hired proxies had not come up with more credible data to disprove that of Amnesty at any time. It mainly uses sentiments and emotions to disparage what Amnesty produces based on research with solid methodology.
Now, what is the role of the National Assembly in all this? Again it is all related to the Islamic Movement. Some “powerful” members of the National Assembly along with some governors and the security forces are the actual forces behind the Anti-NGO bill. These NGOs have increasingly being exposing their atrocities and thereby scuttling their use of instigating crises to rake the country. A little bit more of this and how later.
In the wake of the Zaria massacre, both Senators and members of the House of Representatives set up panels and promptly summoned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. The Movement obliged them and was in attendance at the meetings with both committees. The Movement discovered that both committees were more interested in gathering information to further perpetrate the assault or even finish what has been started. They were more interested in knowing who and who is assisting the Movement financially and logistically. That sitting and several petitions with time however, the so-called National Assembly enquiry ended without conclusions or actions.
At the sitting of the Kaduna Judicial Commission of inquiry, in the course of cross examination of the Secretary to Kaduna state government, he mentioned that he was summoned to government house a day after the start of the onslaught on the Movement, where he met the governor having a meeting with some senators deliberating on what to do with the very high number of corpses following the Zaria massacre. He mentioned that it was then the decision to make a secret mass grave was arrived at and he was instructed to carry out and supervise the mass grave digging. Now, who were those senators with Governor Nasiru Elrufai that day thinking of what to do with the large number of people they killed? What were their roles in the planning and execution of the Zaria massacre? It is not surprising if these same legislators move against NGOs they believe may be exposing their heinous crimes.
Yes, terrorism has become the currency of the moment! It is what government uses to perpetrate their crimes! They use it as weapon to paint any opposing view with. They fuel and fund terrorism in order to siphon massive funds from government coffers in the name of fighting terrorism ($1b recently earmarked for that for example), and even much more in the name of mitigating the effects of the terror attacks (grass cutting is only a small example here). These funds are not even open to any form of scrutiny, because they are labeled “security votes.”
Have you not seen how they have been using Boko Haram and terrorism to achieve their aims? That is the very reason why Boko Haram has not ended. Since the inception of this regime, he has sought for ways to form something worse than Boko Haram.
Gaji Galtimari panel that looked at the insecurity in the North Eastern part of Nigeria found out that those supporting and promoting the so-called Boko Haram are in government. Those in political circles and in government look for ways to create a state of insecurity, so as to siphon billions in the name of security votes. When one crisis is fading away, they seek for ways to create many more.
The multiplicity of different crises in the country including cattle rustling and herdsmen menace are in reality government sponsored. That is how top government officials rake their billions. Any attempt by any person or group to expose their misdeeds will be met by the full might of the state! One of the major motivations for the Zaria massacre was the constant exposure of their crimes by Sheikh Zakzaky, who doesn’t mince words about the genesis and purpose of Boko Haram and its variants and offshoots in the country. They thought by their brutality they will be able to kill two birds with a single stone. On one hand, remove the lone but loud voice exposing their complicity in the Boko Haram rip-off, and on the other hand, seize the opportunity to make the Movement a Boko Haram lookalike.
By their miscalculations, if they succeed in eliminating the source that exposes them, there will be nobody to be revealing their misdeeds any longer. They have woefully failed in this mission. The second of this double-edged sword is to prod violence in the same fashion as they did create Boko Haram. They were even quick in predicting that the Movement is (to be) worse than Boko Haram! This too has miserably failed despite all their provocation, lure, prodding or instigations from within and without. The Movement has remained rational and peaceful to their dismay.
Perhaps, after enacting the anti-NGO law, they will withdraw Nigeria’s membership of the ICC too. The Islamic Movement is determined to secure conviction at The Hague for all those who were part of the genocide in Zaria. We have all the facts.