By Najeeb Maigatari
It has been six years since the inhuman massacre of unarmed citizens in Zaria perpetrated by the Nigerian army under the guise of “alleged road blockade” to the then COAS, Tukur Buratai.
According to activists, civil organizations and analysts, the massacre is among the “notable human rights violation since the return to democracy” in Nigeria.
While the Nigerian army claimed that their personnel acted within laws of engagement, a finding by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the attack established by Kaduna State government in 2016 remarks, “The Nigerian army exerted disproportionate and excessive force against unarmed, defenceless civilians”.
The Commission further indicted top army officials for their role in the heinous crime and recommended that they be brought a book. Unfortunately, not one of them has been brought to justice to date, while the victims of the massacre and their grieving families still immeasurably suffer in silence.
In his testimony before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the then Secretary to Kaduna State Government noted that at least 347 people were killed and buried in mass graves. On its side, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria compiled a list of over 700 people missing since the incident.
During the attack, men, women, children and the elderly were mercilessly killed without regard for stipulated laws against such crime. For instance, the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Zakzaky (H), witnessed how his three sons, including a fifteen-year-old Humaid, were gunned down before his eyes.
The breadwinners of several families were killed, thus turning their wives into widows and children orphans. Some families were wiped out completely. For example, Dr. Bukari Jega, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, was killed alongside his wife and only daughter- a 6 months old Batoul; and several other families too numerous to mention.
Moreover, several hundred individuals were fatally shot at very close range during the attack, as a result of which some of them have become disabled, and others are still living with life-threatening injuries of great concern.
The release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and his wife from captivity after spending almost six years in illegal detention is commendable. It signifies a step forward to ensuring justice to the victims of the Zaria Massacre. We, therefore, hope that the President will live up to his words and ensure justice is also served to other families who have lost their loved ones in the incident.
There is no democracy without justice: irrespective of gender, tribe or religious inclination, it’s the pillar to peaceful coexistence in a society. The Zaria Massacre is amongst the recorded crimes against humanity in our time, and we, therefore, six years on, still demand justice for the victims and their families.
Maigatari writes from Jigawa State and could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.