Glimpses of the range of crimes against humanity carried out by Nigerian Army in Zaria (December, 2015)
Today Monday 16th October, 2017 the sitting of the Presidential Investigation Panel looking into human rights abuses by Nigerian Army is expected to commence in Kaduna. We therefore reflect on the range of offences seen in Zaria genocide and the crimes against humanity initiated and executed by the Nigerian Army including but not limited to:
*1. Mass extra judicial killings:*
On that fateful weekend, the Nigerian Army started the killing spree at about 12:00 noon on Saturday, 12th December. As they shot without provocation, they also dragged the corpses along into large trucks waiting in the vicinity. Contrary to what they sold as the actual cause of opening fire, there was no Chief of Army Staff at that point. There was no road block and there was no procession or any program taking place at the time.
Only a handful of mostly students taking lessons with their tutors and early arrivals for the flag changing event to have held by late evening were in Hussainiyyah at the time. The Chief of Army Staff arrived the scene of the event about three hours later at 3:20pm. That was when the alibi was acted and filmed with their agents performing.
Soon after that, they maintained a siege of Hussainiyyah for almost 20 hours, until in the early hours of Sunday 13th when they threw explosives inside the compound and forcefully made their way. In the process, they further killed scores including the injured in the earlier shooting, who were receiving first aid inside the complex. Again, they parked all the corpses and went away with them.
On that Saturday the 12th at about 9:30pm, soldiers arrived the Gyellesu neighbourhood of Zaria, where the residence of Sheikh Zakzaky was. Most of the members of the Islamic Movement who had come for the event of flag hoisting had gone to the residence or surrounding houses where other members of the Movement lived. These were the ones who came for the program from far and wide but could not make it to the Hussainiyyah because of what was going on there at the time.
As soon as the soldiers arrived, they opened fire indiscriminately and as a result, casualty figures were mounting in geometric proportions. This went on throughout the night and well into Sunday late afternoon. By that time, well over a thousand people were killed. The whole of Gyellesu residence of the Sheikh and surrounding places were littered by heaps of corpses, as attempts at parking the corpses into military trucks by the soldiers could not match the rate of killing. On Monday morning, they came back and continued from where they stopped! That was when they killed the three sons of the Sheikh and also fatally shot both the Sheikh and the wife at pointblank range.
That same Saturday night, another contingent of the Military had proceeded to Darul Rahma burial ground belonging to the Islamic Movement, where scores who could not reach either the Gyellesu residence or the Hussainiyyah took refuge. Again, all the people there were killed in cold blood.
Overall, well over a thousand souls were killed by the Military between Saturday and Monday.
*2. Secret burials in mass graves:*
There were so many corpses than they could park and much more than all the morgues in Zaria could take. Initial corpses were deposited in ABUTH Shika. Others were taken to Nigerian Military Deport in PZ. However, there were many more than they could possibly handle. A decision was made on Sunday to secretly give them mass burial.
To further hide the number of those killed, the site of the burial was chosen to be about a hundred kilometers from the scene, in Mando, in the outskirts of Kaduna. The time chosen for the burial, 12 midnight removes any iota of doubts that there was a deliberate attempt at hiding the figures killed. That the burial took nearly five hours to complete gives an idea of the number of people they struggled to cover.
We reliably know that there are at least two other undisclosed sites close to this confessed place. At the right time, these other sites will be made public.
Witnesses reported that young girls were raped and shot, especially in Hussainiyyah and Darul Rahama. There were reports of other types of sexual assault. Many young girls had their veils forcibly removed. The Sisters forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria had addressed a press conference over this much earlier. Witnesses abound.
*4. Genital mutilation with a view to prevent further reproduction of the group:*
One of the worst crimes committed against the Islamic Movement was a pattern of deliberate attacks and mutilation of the reproductive areas of especially the women and girls. For instance, women shot were shot in the pelvic regions of the body. Others had their breasts cut off. The worst of all, the soldiers verbally abused them saying that even if they survived, they will not live to born more Shiites! Pregnant women had their bellies reaped open and the foetus killed. It was obvious that they wanted outright prevention of further reproduction within the group.
The military quite early in the attacks engaged in criminal, intentional and deliberate setting of buildings on fire. That was what was done to most buildings particularly the house of Sheikh Zakzaky and surrounding houses.
*6. Burning people alive:*
This was what befell most people who were so injured to move away from fire as the military torched the buildings. Sheikh Zakzaky’s elder sister was picked and thrown into the fire while she was still alive. The same fate befell so many others. Beside the weak and injured, the rampaging soldiers also burnt corpses as well.
*7. Burying people alive:*
Witnesses reported that some survivors were buried alive. This was particularly true of those shot in Darul Rahama. There was no certification of deaths before the hasty mass burial.
*8. Wanton destruction of properties:*
This pogrom executed by the Nigerian military involved massive wanton destruction of properties belonging to the Islamic Movement. The destruction of property did not stop at only the places the killings and arson took place, it extended to other places where there was no incident at all, such as Sheikh Zakzaky’s Mother’s house and grave. In Darul Rahama, many graves were desecrated as well.
*9. Forced evictions:*
So many members of the Islamic Movement especially those hitherto resident in Gyellesu were forcibly evicted from their houses.
*10. Wrongful detention:*
Hundreds of other members of the Movement, including the injured, women and very young children were arrested and arbitrarily detained wrongly. Some few died in custody and many suffer from life-threatening illnesses but remain wrongfully detained without access to appropriate medical attention. Others are standing trial forcefully falsely accused of culpable homicide among other framed up charges. The trials are stalling as prosecutors proceed with the cases at a snail pace. Some others remain detained without charges for almost two years now.
Sheikh Zakzaky and the wife belong to the later category. When the Sheikh challenged his detention in Court and obtained a favourable judgement stating that his continued detention by the Department of State Security is illegal, unconstitutional and violates his fundamental rights, the government continues to detain him and the wife almost incommunicado in contempt of that court ruling.
*11. Enforced disappearances:*
The Nigerian army abducted many members of the Islamic Movement, especially girls and young men and took them to unknown destinations. These are probably being held in several underground detention facilities across the country.
The Islamic Movement had brought out a list of over 800 of its members still missing, who might probably be alive somewhere.
By and large, these are by no means an exhaustive list of very serious unspeakable crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian army in Zaria in December of 2015. Although Amnesty International talked about a scandalous mass attempt at coverup, it is expected that the Panel will rise above parochial approach to meet expectations and dispense justice.
We await justice as the World watches. It is actually long overdue for the Nigerian authorities to come out clean about what happened in Zaria between December 12 – 14, 2015.
*© #FreeZakaky Campaign Committee, October 2017*