The Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Shehu Sani, has said the Nigerian military’s use of lethal force on members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria at the weekend in Zaria, was unjustifiable.
The senator, who gave the Islamic movement’s members knocks for blocking the highway, thereby denying the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was in Zaria as the reviewing officer for the 73rd Regular Recruits passing out parade, right of passage, however, condemned the attack as an “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the military”.
Following the rejection of pleas by some senior military officers for the sect members to clear the road for the COAS’s convoy to pass, the soldiers attached to the army chief opened fire in defence, in what the spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Col. Sani Usman, said was an assassination attempt on Lt.-Gen. Buratai.
The Islamic movement, however, disputed that claim, saying the attack was premeditated as its members were defenseless, and could not have attempted to assassinate the army chief, who was heavily protected by soldiers.
Senator Sani, who reacted to the Zaria killings in a statement on Tuesday, warned that “Silence and neutrality to this, amount to nothing but aiding and abetting a clear and undisguised abuse of fundamental human rights”.
The human rights activist-turned lawmaker while condemning the members of the Shi’ite sect for denying the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff the rights of passage, stressed that “killings and arson is not the legal, civilized and proportionate response to blocking road”.
He added: “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”, Sen. Sani said.