President Muhammadu Buhari has given something of a reaction to the murder last December of hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigerian by men of the Nigerian Army.
For eight months since the Army’s brutal crackdown, the president has maintained a discomfiting silence, unmoved by the outcry from human rights organisations of the Army’s heavy-handed tactics that involved the killing of women and children. He only spoke once during a media chat about the incident, almost dismissive of the atrocity but saying he would await the outcome of a judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government to probe the incident even though the Army is a federal institution.
On Tuesday a statement from the State House said: “The President is studying the details of the report before announcing appropriate response in due course.”
The commission indicted the General Officer Commanding, 1 Division of the Army, Maj. Gen. Adeniyi Oyemade, and some other officers for the brutality.
President Buhari “assured international and local human rights groups of appropriate response” over the report, saying he is committed to human rights.
Critics however point out that the president’s actions since coming to power last year runs contrary to his promise to respect human rights. The Nigerian Army has consistently engaged in extrajudicial killings under the administration with the two most prominent examples being the murder by soldiers of Shi’ites in Kaduna and members of the Indegenuos People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha. In the two cases, the government failed to give the massacres considerable attention.
The leader of the Shi’ites, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is being detained by the military and has not been allowed to see his family or lawyers since December contrary to the constitution. Worse still he has not been charged to court in a flagrant abuse of his rights.
The rest of the presidency statement contained little further details, promising that the federal government will follow due process in responding to the report and “act in the larger interest of the public to prevent such violent incidents.”