Between December 12th and 14th, 2015, the Nigerian Army carried out one of the most brutal attacks on citizens in recent memory in Zaria, Kaduna state. By the time they were done, hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) had been killed. Not even women and children were spared.
One of the most high profile of the deaths was of a journalist with the Kaduna State Media Corporation, Ibrahim Usman, who travelled from Kaduna to Zaria to obtain first hand information after the first day of the clash only to be gunned down by soldiers.
347 Shi’ites were killed, according to figures by the Kaduna state government. Civil society organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) believe that the deaths were much higher, possibly over one thousand.
The judicial commission of inquiry set up in January by the state government to investigate the massacre submitted its report last weekend, indicting Major Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1st Division of the Army in Kaduna. Oyebade had only been in charge of that Division for five months when, according to the report seen by an online newspaper Premium Times, he ordered soldiers “to carry out such a large scale operation without recourse to the chain of command.”
It’s easy to forget that shortly after the Army had carried out its brutal action against the Shi’ites, it tried to control the narrative and pin the blame for aggression on the Shi’ites. On the 15th of December, one day after the slaughter, it petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, accusing the sect members of making an attempt on the life of the chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, who was in Zaria for a military event.
In an ‘Occurrence report’ signed by Brig. Gen. A.T. Hamman and submitted to the NHRC, the army said that only “about seven of the members of the group were shot dead” with 10 wounded.
Then a few weeks later as it emerged that the numbers were much higher, Oyemade – the man who the commission indicted for ordering the massacre – addressed the press, defiant and unrepentant. He told journalists on January 5th that the Army had no apologies for its actions because the sect was a threat to peace.
“We know the business of violence but we apply it professionally if the peace of the land is being threatened,” he said.
The report of the judicial commission has shown that Oyemade was right about his expertise in the business of violence but his usage of it was gruesome and inhuman. The committee said that the army’s use of force was “disproportionate” and its treatment of the corpses was “undignified”.
Now that the report has been submitted, all eyes are on the Kaduna state and federal governments, as well as the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army. Will Oyemade be allowed to simply walk? What action will be taken against the butcher of Zaria?
Featured Image: Maj. gen. Adeniyi Oyemade (middle) in September 2013 (Encomium)