Pro-democracy and rights crusaders in the country’s South-East have unreservedly condemned the continued detention of Shiite Leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, his wife-Malama Zeenatu and numerous followers in disobedience of court orders.

“We call for immediate and unconditional release of Mallam Zaky Ibrahim El-Zaky and his beloved wife-Malama Zeenatu as well as an end to persecution of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria. Those who masterminded the massacre of over 1,130 Shiite members in December 2015 and above including COAS, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai (vicarious culpability) must be arrested and punished locally or internationally no matter how long it takes,” said the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights & Good Governance Organizations (SBCHROs) in a recently released 22-page study.

SBCHROs comprises Intersociety; CLO, Southeast Zone; Centre for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy; Human Rights Organization of Nigeria; Society Watch & Advocacy Project of Intersociety; Anambra Human Rights Forum; Southeast Good Governance Forum; Int’l Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative; Igbo Ekunie Initiative; Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch; Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy & Dev; Society for Economic Rights & Social Justice; Innocent Initiative for Ideal Dev & Emancipatory Leadership in Nigeria; Igbo National Council; Forum for Promotion of National Ethos & Values; Easy Life Initiative for Rural Youths; and Voice of the Voiceless Int’l.

According to SBCHROs, “The unarmed and defenseless husband and wife had been held by SSS without trial since 14th December 2015; a period of over 800 days; after being shot severally at close range and inflicted with terminal injuries by Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai (vicariously) and the Nigerian Army during violent crackdown on Shiites on 12th and 14th December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State.

“Over 1,000 unarmed and defenseless Shiite faithful were shot and killed on 12th and 14th December 2015 by the Nigerian Army led by Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai. The IMN leader also lost three of his sons (Hamad, Aliyu and Humaid) as well as his 70yr old elder sister (Fatima) to Buratai’s men on the spot same day. The violent crackdown on Shiites has continued into this 2018 with no end in sight.”

SBCHROs in the report also called on the Muhammadu Buhari administration “to end government and herdsmen killings and other crimes against humanity.”

The group said: “The present Federal Government under Retired Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari must put an end to slaughtering of thousands of defenseless citizens especially Christians on annual basis by terror Fulani Herdsmen in Northern Nigeria and proscribe the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as well as fish out their leaders and culpable elements and charge them for manslaughter and culpable homicide, respectively, among other felonies committed against the State of Nigeria and its population.

The Federal Government’s silence, inaction and conspiracy over these ethno-religious carnages are not only an invitation to retaliatory widespread violence and ruination of the country in part or in whole but also a gross breach of Section 10 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution which forbids the Federal Government or any State Government from adopting any religion including Islam as a State Religion.

“The first major step towards addressing the present national and sub-national security challenges in Nigeria is total re-organization of the commanding positions and other top echelons of security forces, the police and other para-military organizations in Nigeria. The present Caliphate structure of Nigerian security and policing is totally rejected. They must be restructured in accordance with Section 14 (3) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution or federal character or geopolitical spread.

“The stark reality today is that continuation of the centrality; oneness, unity and national cohesion of Nigeria; steadily and systematically undermined by the present central Government has become an act of impossibility.

“The ethno-religious divisions in the country have continuously thickened with ethno-religious chauvinists taking over and consolidating their grip on power without letting go. In other words, the Nigeria Project has collapsed; requiring urgent re-negotiation by all ethnic nationalities through their representatives before the country goes on full brink. The Buhari Administration must hearken to this wind of change and urgently steer the ship of the re-negotiation of the Nigeria Project.”

Coming nearer home, SBCHROs berated South-East Governors for not living up to expectation, saying: “The Governors of the Southeast Zone are collectively and individually called upon to wake up from their slumbers. They must be proactive and efficient in strengthening the internal and external security of the Zone especially with regard to well oiled and coordinated widespread violent attacks against Christian population and their churches by the terror Fulani Herdsmen such as the Nimgbo tragedies of 14th February and 25th April 2016 in Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu State during which terror Fulani Herdsmen killed at least 50 rural Christian dwellers and injured 79 others.

“The Southeast Governors must desist henceforth from lending their hands and supports by way of supporting, adopting, aiding, abetting or undermining the present and future collective security of the people of the Southeast Zone and their properties; through the raging, disastrous, unilateral and militarist national policy of “Cattle Colony”; using any guise or instrumentality particularly the Federal Executive Council and the National Council of State.

The Governors must also proactively and courageously engage the Federal Government, the President and heads of major security and policing agencies in the country by insisting on making proactive inputs into the overall security structure and composition in the country as well as the posting of commanders of their formations in the Southeast Zone especially in the Army, Navy, Air Force, SSS, Customs and the Police. The current policy of flooding most, if not the entire military and policing formations in Igbo Land with senior and commanding officers of Hausa-Fulani Muslims must be rejected and reversed.

“More concerted efforts are also required from the Southeast Governors at ensuring that the Zone which is the birthplace of the Igbo Nation gets its fair and due share of the Federation resources, appointments, attentions and infrastructural developments. The Governors must ensure that the Southeast is fully factored into the new national railway policy and comprehensive reconstruction of all federal roads in the Zone especially the Onitsha-Enugu and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressways and other important ones.

“The Zone also needs a standard international seaport and construction of a standard bridge linking Ogwu-Ikpere in Ogbaru, Anambra State and Ndoni in Rivers State; which if constructed, will take less than two hours to convey goods and services from Port Harcourt wharfs into the Southeast Zone or any part thereof. The Akanu Ibiam Int’l Airport in Enugu, which is presently a makeshift int’l airport, must totally be upgraded to truly reflect its international status and serve the People of the Southeast Zone and others from major parts of the world particularly Africa, Europe, Americas, Asia and Middle-East.”

This piece first appeared in News Express of 09/03/2018