NHRC Replies Falana On Illegal Killing Of 492 Shiites: “Your Complaint Is Receiving Attention”

The National Human Rights Commission has written a reply to Barrister Femi Falana, SAN on his letter of request for the investigation of the illegal killing of at least 492 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria by the Nigerian Army and Police between 2014 and 2018, stating that the complaint is receiving attention. You will be informed of the outcome of our investigation on the matter in due course.

The reply referenced C/2017/075/HQ, dated 7th November 2018 and signed by Valerie .U. Duruh of the Civil and Political Rights Department on behalf of the Executive Secretary reads:

C/2017/075/HQ                                           7th November, 2018

Falana & Falana’s Chambers
22, Mediterranean Street
Imani Estate
Off Shehu Shagai Way
Maitama, Abuja.


I am directed to acknowledge receipt of a copy of your email/ letter to
the Commission dated 2nd and 5th November, 2018 respectively in respect of
the above subject matter.
2.      The complaint is receiving attention. You will be informed of the
outcome of our investigation on the matter in due course.

3.      Please accept the assurances of the Commission’s warm regards.

Valerie .U. Duruh
Civil and Political Rights Department
For: Executive Secretary

Earlier, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria had written to the commission, demanding an investigation into the killing of at least 492 Shiites by the Nigerian Security forces since 2014.

His letter read:

November 2, 2018

The Executive Secretary,

National Human Rights Commission,

19, Aguiyi Ironsi Street,

Maitama District,

Abuja, F.C.T

Email: info@nigeriarights.gov.ng


Request for investigation of the illegal killing of 492 Shiites by the Army and the Police from 2014-2018


In spite of the duty imposed on the Federal Government to respect the fundamental rights of every person living in Nigeria the Nigeria Army and Nigeria Police Force have embarked on the systematic infringements of the fundamental rights of the Shiites to life, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly. In particular, not less than 492 Shiites were recklessly massacred in Zaria, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Abuja by armed military and police personnel  from 2014-2018. A number of other Shiites who were arrested for demonstrating against disobedience of court orders by the Federal Government were alleged to have been tortured to death in detention camps.


Apart from such state sponsored killings the security forces have violently disrupted the meetings, religious processions, protest marches and rallies convened by the Shiites and thereby prevented them from protesting the illegal incarceration of their leaders.  Since the genocidal attacks unleashed on the Shiites were premeditated the Federal Government and the relevant state governments have deliberately refused to prosecute the well known violators of the rights of the Shiites. However, in view of the shameless denial of complicity in the brutal killing of the Shiites by the army and the police we are compelled to disclose as follows:


1.        Killing of 35 Shiites in Zaria in July 2014 by the army


In July 2014, the Army killed 35 Shiites including 3 children of Sheik Elzakzaky at a religious convention held at Zaria. Mr.  Nasir El Rufai (the current governor of Kaduna state) paid a condolence visit to Elzakzaky in his residence in Zaria. Even though a delegation of the National Human Rights Commission led by its former Chairman, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, publicly condemned the killing of the 35 Shiite and apologized on behalf of the Federal Government the culprits were not brought to justice.

2.     Killing of 22 Shiites by a bomb  in Kano on November 29, 2015

The procession of the Shiites to mark Ashura in Kano on November 29, 2015 was violently disrupted by the Police. Suddenly, there was a bomb explosion which killed 22 Shiites. The Boko Haram terrorist sect was alleged to have claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.


 3.     Killing of 348 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 by the army


On December 12, 2015, the army killed 348 Shiites at a religious ceremony for allegedly disrupting the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai. Although Sheik Elzakzaky was not at the religious ceremony the army invaded his house two days later, shot at him and his wife and set the house ablaze. Three of his children were killed in his presence while other family members who survived the violent attack were seriously injured.


Without any post mortem or coroner’s inquest the army buried the bodies of the slain Shiites in a mass grave in Mango, Kaduna state. The Kaduna state government proceeded to demolish the houses of Sheik Elzakzaky and other leaders of the Shia community in Zaria.  The judicial commission of enquiry set up by the state government to probe the incident recommended the prosecution of the culprits but the Kaduna state government has refused to bring the killers to justice.

4.     Killing of 13 Shiites in  Kano, Sokoto and Katsina on October 12, 2016 by the Police

13 Shiites were killed during multiple attacks on the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria by the Police and a mob in Sokoto, Kano and Sokoto on October 12, 2016. During the attack the police injured about 20 other Shiites.

5.     Killing of 3 Shiites in Kano On November 6, 2017 by the Police

3 Shiites were  killed in Kano when the police opened fire on the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria on November 6, 2017  during an annual religious procession in Kano.

6.     Killing of 20 Shiites in Kano On November 14, 2017 by the Police

20 Shiites and a police man were killed on November 14, 2017 at Tamburawa on the outskirts of Kano city when the Police violently stopped a procession of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.


7.     Sokoto Shiite leader died from police gunshot injuries on February 9, 2018

The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Sokoto State, Malam

Kasim Rinintawaye died on February 9, 2018 following injuries sustained by him when he was shot by the police during a peaceful march in Abuja to demand the release of Sheik Elzakzaky from custody.


8.     Killing of 1 Shiite at Abuja on April 16, 2018 by the Police


On April 16, 2018, the police killed a Shiite while trying to prevent the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria from staging a protesting in Abuja to demand for the release of Sheik Elzakzaky from detention.


9.     Massacre of 49 Shiites in Abuja in October 2018 by the army and police


 Over 50 Shiites have been slaughtered in Abuja in the ongoing violent attacks on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria by the army and the police. In defending its participation in the official pogrom the army claimed that “during the encounter 3 members of the sect were killed.”


Subversion of the Rule of Law by the Federal Government


In his 2017 New Year Message, President Mohammadu Buhari had directed the security agencies to respect the fundamental rights of the Shiites when he said that “As for our brothers and sisters in the Shia Community, we urge them, too, to embrace peace. They must accept the laws of the country they live in. They cannot be islands by themselves. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies must treat them humanely and according to the rule of law.” But while many of the Shiites have been prosecuted for breaching some provisions of the Penal Code applicable in the northern states and the federal capital territory the President has not called the security forces to order for subjecting the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to horrendous brutality and inhuman treatment.


Contrary to the official propaganda that the Shiites do not believe in the Rule of Law they have approached several courts to secure the enforcement of their fundamental rights which have been regularly violated by the security agencies. For instance, Sheik Elzakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zeinab Elzakzaky challenged their illegal arrest and detention at the federal high court sitting in Abuja.  In a judgment delivered on December 2, 2016, the federal high court presided over by Kolawole J. (as he then was) declared the arrest and detention of the Elzakzakys illegal, awarded them reparation of N50 million and ordered the Federal Government to provide them a temporary accommodation since their house had been demolished by the Kaduna state government.


In two separate suits, the Kano and Sokoto judicial divisions of the federal high court have upheld the fundamental rights of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to life, freedom of religion and freedom of expression including the right to engage in peaceful processions. But in utter contempt of the federal high court the Federal Government has refused to release Sheik Elzazaky and his wife from illegal custody . Both the army and the police have refused to recognize the right of the Shiites to participate in peaceful rallies. As you are no doubt aware, the Federal Government has continued to justify such subversion of the Rule of Law under the pretext of protecting national security!


The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has also provided defence counsel for the over 500 of its members who have been dragged to various criminal courts and charged with unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace by the Police in Abuja, Sokoto and Kano states. It may interest you to know that the 100 Shiites who were charged with the offence of culpable homicide arising from the alleged killing of a soldier in Zaria on December 12, 2015 have been discharged and acquitted by the Kaduna state high court. Following the dismissal of the frivolous charge the Kaduna state government has turned round to charge Elzakzaky and his wife with culpable homicide before the high court in Kaduna for the alleged killing of the same soldier!


In the light of the foregoing, you will agree with us that the violent disruption of the religious processions and protest marches of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria resulting in the brutal killing of not less than 492 Shiites from July 2014 to November 2018 constitutes a violation of the fundamental rights of the Shiites to life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression, assembly and association guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act. Although the military and police personnel who killed 49 Shiites in the last week have not been arrested the Nigeria Police Force has arraigned about 300 Shiites with terrorism.

Since the Nigerian Army has no powers under the Armed Forces Act to stop or disrupt any rally or procession convened by any group of citizens in  any part of Nigeria you ought to point out that the violent attacks on the Shiites by military personnel cannot be justified in law. More so, that the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to convene and participate in rallies and meetings without police permit has been upheld by the Nigerian courts. Indeed, based on such judicial decisions,  the Nigeria Police Force has been mandated by the combined effect of the Public Order Act and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to provide adequate security for all persons who participate in public meetings, rallies and processions held in Nigeria.


Our Request


In order to restrain the heads of the Nigeria Army, Nigeria Police Force and State Security Service (who are Sunnis) from further deploying  the machinery of the Federal Government to prosecute an intra-religious war we urge you to arrest the extermination of the Shiites without any further delay. Since the nation cannot afford to turn the Islamic Movement of Nigeria into another terrorist organization like the satanic Boko Haram sect, we request the National Human Rights Commission to conduct a full scale inquiry into the gross violations of the fundamental rights of the Shiites highlighted in this letter.  


Take notice that if you fail to grant our request within seven days of the receipt of this letter we shall not hesitate to report the genocidal acts and crimes against humanity being committed by well known officials of the security agencies to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in contravention of article 7 of the Rome Statute. The request will be anchored on the unwillingness or inability of the Federal Government to prosecute the criminal elements who are involved in the reckless massacre of the Shiites.  


Yours Sincerely,


Femi Falana SAN

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One Thought to “NHRC Replies Falana On Illegal Killing Of 492 Shiites: “Your Complaint Is Receiving Attention””

  1. Shehu Mustapha

    Falana SAN, I sincerely wish you well in your efforts. But personally I doubt the political will of the NHRC to do anything about your petitions. In fact, it is erroneous for someone to believe we have any Human Rights commission in Nigeria. Honestly, the commission is nothing but a tooth less body.

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