Despite losing over 300 of its members after a massive clampdown by the Nigerian Army, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, has said it will not appear before a government panel established to review such rights abuses.
The hundreds of members of the Shiite group were killed in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State, when the army clamped down on the IMN members after it accused them of blocking a road and plotting to kill the Chief of Army Staff.
The leader of the IMN, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was also arrested and has been in government custody without trial since then.
Nobody has been prosecuted for the killings which was condemned by local and international human rights groups.
In what appears a response to agitations for an independent investigation into the killings and other such human rights abuses by the military, the federal government earlier this month set up a judicial commission to probe the abuses.
The commission, inaugurated by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on August 11, has seven members and is headed by a justice of the court of appeal, Biobele Georgewill.
However, two weeks before the panel is set to begin its public hearing, the IMN has said it will not appear or make any presentation before the panel.
The group questioned the credibility of the panel and said it would not appear before the panel unless its concerns are resolved.
In a petition dated August 17, addressed to Mr. Osinbajo and signed by Abdullahi Danladi, the group raised concerns about the composition of the panel.
“From the composition of this panel, it is noted that the military, the police and security agencies are all represented. This is not the case with the well-known community of victims of the alleged military violations such as us. With due respect to members in the panel, the “eyes” of the world renowned human rights bodies are also not on this panel.”
The petition seen by PREMIUM TIMES also accused the presidency of appointing a close ally to the army chief and a member that served in an earlier panel by Kaduna State as members of the panel.
“We noticed that even a member who served in the Kaduna state judicial commission is included. Similarly, another member who enjoys the confidence of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and who similarly served in the military investigation panel set up by the COAS himself that absolved the army of any wrongdoing has been included in this presidential panel as well. The sum of all this is that the independence and impartiality of this new panel is not in any way guaranteed.”
“In what ways will this Presidential Investigation Panel be different from what the judicial commission of inquiry into Zaria incident set up by the Kaduna State government? Beyond perhaps its scope (now also looking at other rights abuses by the military in other places and time) we note very many similarities, which do not instil confidence in the process,” Mr. Danladi said.
Although the group did not categorically state in its petition that it would not appear before the panel, its spokesperson, Ibrahim Musa, said the IMN would not appear. Mr. Musa said this in a follow up telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.
Mr. Osinbajo, when President Muhammadu Buhari was away on medical vacation, appointed the seven-member judicial commission.
He listed members of the judicial commission to include Mr. Georgewill as Chairman; and Patrick Akem, a major general, as member.
Other members are Wale Fapohunda, Hauwa Ibrahim, Jibrin Ibrahim, Ifeoma Nwakama, and a representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
“The Commission is expected to commence work immediately and submit its report within 90 days,” Mr. Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, said.
The commission announced its schedule of public hearings and called for memoranda from affected persons and institutions on August 14. It will hold its public hearing in Abuja from September 7 to October 6.
Some of the allegations that have been levelled against the military by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as several PREMIUM TIMES investigations, include extra-judicial killing of over 300 Shiite protesters in Kaduna in 2015, the extra-judicial killing of dozens of pro-Biafra protesters in the South-east, and that of suspected Boko Haram members in the North-east.
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