The senator representing Kaduna Central, Comrade Shehu Sani, has heaped the blame for the disproportionate clash between soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, which left many Shi’ite Muslims dead and several others injured in Zaria at the weekend, on the Nigerian military.
A detachment of soldiers attached to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, had opened fire on the Shi’ite sect members at the weekend after pleas for them to remove the blockade they mounted on the road to allow the army chief pass through, fell on deaf ears.
While the Nigerian Army accused the sect of attempting to assassinate Buratai, who was in Zaria for the passing out parade of the 73rd Regular Recruits Intake of the Nigerian Army, the movement claimed its members were massacred in an unprovoked attack.
Senator Sani said in a statement on Tuesday that the attack was nothing but “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the military”.
“Silence and neutrality to this amount to nothing but aiding and abetting a clear and undisguised abuse of fundamental human rights.
“It’s absolutely wrong for the members of the group to deny the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff the rights of passage. However, killings and arson is not the legal, civilized and proportionate response to blocking road.
“Nigeria is a democratic state. The professional conduct of the apparatus of the state must be done within the ambit of the law and respect for fundamental rights of the citizenry.
“Nigeria as a democratic state must learn to balance its security exigencies with the need to observe and uphold its constitutional and moral obligation to fundamental human rights of its citizens.
“Any excuse to circumvent human rights is a step towards tyranny.
“Northern Nigeria has in the last seven years been neck deep in violence and soaked in blood. Opening a new front will not augur well for the peace and stability of Nigeria.
“The Zaria killings simply affirmed the fact that as a nation we have not learnt our lessons from our painful and hard experience.
“The action of the military is untenable, intolerable and unacceptable and has a serious repercussion to our global image, perception and moral standing.
“In the light of our recent experiences, it’s in the best security interest of our nation to encourage and support religious groups to operate openly.
“The Islamic movement and their leader have repeatedly denounced terrorism and insurgency.
“Zaria killings were avoidable tragedy. The use of force must always be the last resort and not the first resort and must be done within the principles of internationally best practices of rules of engagement.
“We have a duty as patriots to support our military to protect and defend our country, but it must be held to account within the permissible line of morality and the law.
“Those who are in support of the Zaria killings are giving a helping hand to arbitrariness and spitting on a fundamental right that may be used against them someday.
“The enduring spirit of a democratic state is upholding its moral values and achieving its goals. Our ultimate goal of restoring peace and order in our country must not be at the expense of sacrificing those very principles that distinctively separate us from those opposed to our democratic values.
“The right to life and human dignity is foundation upon which all other rights stand. We must learn to defeat ideas with superior ideas and not superior spears.
“I call for peace and justice. I call on President Muhammadu Buhari to launch a full scale investigation”, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debts said.