Nigerians have remained not only perplexed, but also in a state of confusion since the Nigerian Army announced recently that it did not kill protesters at Lekki, an issue that has clearly drawn a line between two camps in the country. There is clearly the camp of the Muhammadu Buhari and his supporters on the one hand, and the camp of the supporters and protectors of the protesters on the other hand.
It has also come to public knowledge that there is an ingoing independent investigation that has indicted the Army, led by human rights activist, Femi Falana SAN. It revealed revealed recently also that they have discovered the barracks from where the soldiers went to Lekki.
From what I know of the Army in the last six years, definitely the soldiers always deny it when they kill civilians because it contravenes their rules of engagement and all internationally accepted standards. There is nothing new about army denying the killing of civilians because it is in contravention of international conventions. As a result, nobody would expect the Nigerian Army to conduct acts of extra judicial killings and take responsibility. There are a lot of things that will follow as a result.
In 2015, when the Nigerian Army killed over 1000 men, women and children in Zaria, burning some of them alive and torturing other to death while killing unarmed civilians striving to dock and hide, at very close ranges, they also came out to deny it. In fact, they even went ahead to clear all the evidences that will prove that they conducted a massacre Zaria.
In connivance with the Kaduna state governor Nasiru Elrufai, they not only demolished the buildings in which they burned people alive, including the residence of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, they also packed trucks loads of the debris to unknown destination. They came back with water tanks and even washed off blood stains on the roads to destroy all the possible evidences of acts of inhumanity against citizens.
Some of those they burned alive at the residence of the Shi’a leader Sheikh Ibraheen Zakzaky include his elder sister, nephew and some house helps.
The Chief of Army Staff Gen. Tukur Buratai shamelessly told newsmen at the peak of the massacre that his way was blocked by the Shi’as and he managed to escape after killing only six people. They sustained denying being on a killing spree in Zaria for over 72 hrs where they killed anyone that looked like Shi’a to them for some time. But the pressure was so much from the Shi’as who were making a lot of revelations.
Reports were then prepared by the Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee and presented to the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch who conducted their independent investigations and found out that many people were actually extra judicially killed or missing. A list of people and their profiles that have been reported to have disappeared since the Army onslaught, numbering over seven hundred was also prepared by the committee and made public.
Voices and videos of victims that escaped were also compiled and a clear picture of what actually took place in Zaria was produced.
It was revealed that the Army in connivance with the Kaduna state government buried the victims in a mass grave at night, at a place called Mando Village, about 80 kilometres away from the scene of the incidence in Zaria town. Some of those buried only sustained bullet wounds but were buried alive as they begged to be killed before they were buried. All the government and the army were after was to clear all evidences proving their crimes.
The HRW called non the Nigerian Army to come clean on the Zaria massacre while the AI released satellite images of the mass grave at Mando village in Kaduna before and after the night mass burial.
At that point the Kaduna state government had initiated a way of cleansing itself of violating Geneva Convention and other international laws by establishing a Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) that was largely biased.
Fearful of further revelations by the AI, the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government presented a report that they actually buried 347 people in Mando at night. That was just one of the mass graves revealed. They did it to innocent unarmed citizens, killing women and children and shamelessly, a lot of people, out of blind support for president Muhammadu Buhari saw nothing wrong with that because the victims were Shi’a and they are despised as a minority faith. Not because they were armed or had any violent tendencies, something the JCI could also not prove even after receiving reports from the opponents and enemies of the Shi’a and sponsored and concocted civil society groups.
More so, the Nigerian Army also attacked and killed the Shi’as in broad daylight in the city of Abuja and concocted lies. A documentary that did an investigative report of a particular attack on the Shi’a in Abuja where 57 of them were killed during a peaceful procession was released by a foreign TV station. The operation in which young men and women were extra judicially killed by the Army was carried out by the Brigade of Guards on that day, the presidential guard, yes.
As a Nigerian, I have witnessed when the Army saw the activities of the AI as a threat to their extra judicial activities and funded a protest in Abuja where the hoodlums, in the name of Civil Society coalitions supporting Nigerian Army and calling on the AI to leave Nigeria staged the protest and attacked the AI office in Abuja. Some vehicles were damaged, windows and glasses broken by the sponsored hoodlums.
I was also part of the protest that came out to counter them a few days later to call on AI to stay in Nigeria and protect the rights of Nigerians. We went to the premises along with newsmen and consoled them.
The Army under Buratai in particular is more like a weapon in the hands of the regime for suppressing innocent civilians who might not be in the good books of the government and not in defense of the public or democratic creeds. This is just image it is depicting. Definitely Nigerian will not be easily convinced by the Army denial of the killing at Lekki.
This makes it necessary for the independent investigation to be allowed to be carried out and the result be made public.
This piece was contributed by By Abdulmumin Giwa, a public affairs commentator.