The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, have urged the Nigerian government to investigate the killing of several members of the Shi’ia sect during a clash with the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The army had on Saturday clashed with the group. The exact number of those killed is yet to be ascertained.
CAN and NSCIA are the highest decision-making bodies of the two major religions in Nigeria, and serve as the umbrella bodies of all Christian and Muslim groups respectively.
While CAN urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and probe the killings “to avoid the escalation of the crisis”, NSCIA set up a seven-man contact committee to meet with all parties “in the interest of peace and security in Nigeria”.
A statement by the national secretary of CAN, Musa Asake, said although the body would not pre-empt any action to be taken by the government and the Nigerian Army, it would sue for peace between the two contending parties.
CAN demanded the setting up of a judicial panel of inquiry to establish the cause of the crisis and prevent a reoccurrence.
It drew the president’s “attention to the fact that similar circumstances as this led to the escalation of belligerence from the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, also known as Boko Haram”.
While urging that no harm should be done to the spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, CAN said the establishment of the panel would help forestall fresh insurgent activities in the country.
The association said it “observed, with much sadness, the altercation between the Nigerian Army and Muslim faithful of the Shia Islamic movement, which led to loss of lives of many members of the Shiite”.
“Our faith is bed-rocked on love. We do not only love ourselves, but we also love our neighbours and Shiite Muslims are our neighbours,” the Christian body said.
The Christian body however condemned reports by an Iranian Network, Press TV, which reportedly claimed that CAN had colluded with Boko Haram and the Nigerian Army to perpetrate the killings of Shi’ia Muslims.
“This is a most unfortunate accusation especially given the fact that CAN has consistently sympathized with the Shias over previous clashes with the authorities,” the association said.
“We urge the Iranian backed Press TV to be mindful of its reportage in order not to stoke religious tensions in Nigeria. We work on the assumption that that is not their intention.”
The association also called “on all lovers of God, be they Christian or Muslims, whether Sunni or Shia, to keep the peace and await judicious action from constituted authority”.
On its part, the Muslim body, NSCIA, set up a seven-man committee to meet with all parties involved in Saturday’s clash.
The decision to set up the committee was taken at an expanded general purpose committee meeting comprising notable Muslims and heads of all Islamic organizations in Nigeria.
The meeting held on Wednesday at the National Mosque in Abuja.
The Secretary General of the NSCIA, Is-haq Oloyede, who spoke with reporters at the end of the meeting, said Muslim leaders decided to come together “to express their concern about what is happening in Zaria and call for restraint on the part of all stakeholders in the interest of peace and security of Nigeria”.
He said NSCIA had also decided to call on the Nigerian government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the incident.
“Council also decided to set up a seven-man contact committee to meet with all parties and call for caution that we should await the report of the commission of inquiry,” he said.
The group’s scribe said, Daud Naibi would serve as the chairman of the committee, while Muzammil Hanga, Abubakar Tsav, Ibrahim Suleiman, Yusuf Ali, Abubakar Siddique and Is-haq Oloyede would serve as members.
Mr. Oloyede, a professor, said the judicial panel inquiry that should be set up by the government should include all relevant persons and organisations, including the NSCIA.
“If possible members of the group concerned should also be represented on the commission so that whatever comes out would be something that is credible and would be seen as impartial,” he said.
Mr. Oloyede said another decision taken at the meeting was a call to all Muslims in Nigeria to take advantage of the next Jumaat prayer on Friday “to offer special prayers for this country”.
He said with adequate prayers, God would aid the return of peace to the country.
Mr. Oloyede also called on the government and citizens to always adhere to the laws of the land.
“We continue to call for caution from all parties including the aggrieved and we call on the government and the citizens of this country that the best way to solving any grievances or infractions is through the rule of law.
“We should always seek the law as a solution to any of the problems we have, rather than self-help either on the part of the government or the citizenry,” he said.
The meeting was chaired by the supreme leader of the NSCIA, the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, and was attended by several Muslim leaders across the country.