ICC concludes preliminary investigation into Shiites massacre; continues probe of IPOB killings

IMN Kaduna
File photo of Shiites members during Free Zakzaky campaign in Kaduna and Sokoto states

The International Criminal Court is moving gradually towards prosecution of Nigerian officials involved in the December 2015 massacre of members of Islamic Movements of Nigeria.

The office of the prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal reached its preliminary conclusion into the killings in December 2017, submitted its findings to the Nigerian government and demanded explanations about the incident.

The ICC said the attack on IMN members, which was carried out by the Nigerian Army and condemned by human rights voices across the world, violated international statutes on human rights.

Also advancing at the ICC is its investigation into the gruesome rights abuses and killings of members of separatist Independent People of Biafra, IPOB.

The group has come under repeated assault by the Nigerian security agencies since October 2015 when its leader Nnamdi Kanu was arrested by the State Security Service in Lagos.

Mr. Kanu was later moved to Abuja where he had been standing trial until September 2017 when he disappeared following a military raid on his country home in Umuahia.

PREMIUM TIMES reported the extra-judicial killing and mass burial of over 120 people in one of several attacks on pro-Biafra supporters in May 2016 by security agencies, an incident described as “a genocide” against the Igbo by IPOB leaders.

The ICC has submitted its preliminary findings on the Shiites massacre to Attorney-General Abubakar Malami.

The ICC prosecutors said they relied on the different channels of information, including the findings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government.

The panel had found several Nigerian Army officers culpable in the killings and recommended them for prosecution, including Niyi Oyebade, a major-general who was the Grand Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army 1 Division at the time.

The IMN said it lost more than a thousand members in the attack that took place between December 12 and 14 at its headquarters in Zaria.

A representative of the Kaduna State Government told the commission of inquiry that 347 bodies were handed over by the army for a secret mass burial.

But despite the evidence, the army claimed it killed only seven Shiites who blocked a public road and attempted to assassinate its chief, Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general.

It said troops only used force after it became clear that Mr. Buratai’s life was in danger.

The leader of the IMN, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who was arrested by soldiers during the operation, has remained in the custody of the State Security Service more than two years later — in defiance of court orders that he should be released immediately in 2016.

If the ICC chief prosecutor ultimately gives an approval for a trial to go ahead over the crimes, it would mark the first time a Nigerian would be hauled to The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

But a foreign affairs analyst, Ikenna Nwegbe, said the conclusion of investigation on the Shiites massacre might be a victory for human rights campaigners, but not likely to have any significant impact because of how Nigerian government views the allegations.

For one, Mr. Nwegbe said, the Nigerian government has failed to hold anyone responsible for either the Shiite killings or the atrocities against Igbo separatist agitators.

“Even in the case of Shiites massacre where a judicial panel indicted a major-general, the government didn’t take any action whatsoever,” Mr. Nwegbe said. “Mr. Oyebade is still in the Army till date and even flourishing.”

“On the basis of this alone, it’s easier to conclude that the ICC findings will hold no waters where the Buhari administration is concerned,” Mr. Nwegbe said.

He also decried the fact that there has been no form of compensation for the victims of the Shiites massacre or IPOB killings, a situation he described as a critical aspect of resolving the crises.

“No compensation has been paid to the Shiites or the victims of attacks on IPOB,” he said. “Instead, their leaders are still in custody despite repeated Nigerian court judgements.”

The analyst said a Nigerian government that has not obeyed judicial pronouncements within its borders should not be expected to cooperate with external authorities.

“At worse, Nigeria will pull out of the ICC,” Mr. Nwegbe said, adding that the ICC is still being disregarded in the case of Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudanese leader against whom an arrest warrant has been pending since 2008 and African leaders have refused to enforce.

The Nigerian government declined comments for this story. For three weeks, PREMIUM TIMES pushed several phone calls and text messages in a bid to get reactions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Tope Elias-Fatile, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told PREMIUM TIMES he could not comments because Attorney-General Abubakar Malami did not formally inform the ministry of any development from the ICC.

But during a 2016 meeting with delegates from the ICC, Mr. Malami expressed strong reservations about the investigations being carried out by the tribunal, saying Nigeria will not sacrifice its sovereignty to appease foreign elements.

He maintained that Nigeria had the prerogative rights in handling the alleged crimes referred to in the prosecutor’s 2015 report of activities in the country.

“Let me reiterate that Nigeria retains the sovereign capacity to investigate and punish the alleged crimes referred to in the report and will, therefore, continue present efforts in the above direction,’’ Mr. Malami said during the April 13, 2016 meeting.

Responding, the leader of delegation, Phakiso Choko, said that the prosecutor did not intend to compromise the sovereign rights of Nigeria in investigating crimes and meting out punishment.

He said that most cases referred to the ICC were the ones host nations were unable to resolve through internal mechanism.

Mr. Nwegbe said the fact that the Nigerian government has done nothing about the recommendations of a judicial panel or obey court pronouncements on the crises could mean that its internal mechanism has failed.

Mr. Nwegbe said the civil society would be the ultimate beneficiary of the ICC conclusion.

“They mere assurance that the ICC is not sweeping the case under the carpet is enough to encourage human rights groups to continue pushing for justice,” Mr. Nwegbe said.

Nigeria became a signatory to the ICC statute in 2002, putting it directly under the jurisdiction of the court.

The ICC is also investigating six cases of war crimes in the ongoing war against Boko Haram in the Northeast. Six of the investigations are targeted at the Boko Haram elements while the remaining two are against the Nigerian Army.


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  • The facts

    This is a grave indictment on this government if the article is true.

    • Sword of Damocles

      profoundly grave

    • Sandra

      Only the beginning…!!!!

    • Vi

      It is more than true. Like the analyst said, Nigeria may seek to pullout of the ICC. In the case of the IPOB, an african court ruled in their favour and the government did not abide by it.

      The government has shown gross misconduct and a blatant disregard for the rule of law which the President verbally states he stands for.

      What he says is different from the action and behavioural attitude of he’s government – what does this tell you?

      More and more people are standing verbally to oppose he’s ideals including people who once supported him and what do we find? Crackdowns and bigotry, arrests and threats, surely this will only make the clamour for he’s removal even louder.

  • Damian

    Poor and illiterate journalism by PT…
    ICC’s jurisdiction is war crimes….not riot quelling and it’s aftermath.
    Secondly it’s a court – not an investigative dept; however they only investigate war crimes….last I checked there is no war in Nigeria.

    Seems like very fake news PT…well done.

    • Chidex Izu

      Aren’t you the poor illiterate fellow here…
      PT has just brought to your knowledge what the ICC has been doing about the incidents in Nigeria. If you feel strongly that the ICC is overstepping their jurisdiction, you are at liberty to challenge the ICC.

    • MP-001* [Joint Chief]

      You are the stark illiterate who seems clearly doesnt know that ‘crimes against humanity’ is also within the purview of the ICC. Why then is the ICC still existing today since no active wars are being fought today

    • Ken

      (1) ICC means International Criminal Court. It handles crimes with Int’l dimension, especially those perpetrated using government covers.

      So whether it comes in the guise of riots, uprising, insurrection or war, ICC’s jurisdiction can be activated.

      (2) Agreed, ICC is a court not an investigative agency of the UN. But don’t you think you approbate and reprobate at the same time if you asserted that they don’t have powers of investigations but in another breathe claim that they can investigate in the event of allegation of war crimes?

      Well, to the extent that it is a universal principle of law that courts are not investigative agencies, you are right on your former assertion, but your latter claims as to powers to investigate war crimes are fraught with misconceptions.

      Meanwhile, what do you even define as war? UN categorized Nigeria as a country at war as far back as 2012 as a result of carnage orchestrated by Boko Haram. So next time you want to talk about Nigeria, just have it at the back of your mind that you are a nation at war.

      And again, pls always remember that this is a public domain. I urge you to restrain yourself from frequently coming here to peddle falsehood.

      • manny

        I’m surprised is an igbo man

    • Kenny

      Stop bringing your ignorance to the fore! ICC has the mandate to investigate and prosecute war crimes as well as crimes against humanity such as extrajudicial and genocidal killings.

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_



    To the ICC:

    If you cannot, or do not hurry up and hold the perpetrators of this evil crimes, re: the Shiite Massacre, including the chief suspects, President Buhari, Gov. El Rufai, Sa’ad, Buratai, Sanusi Lamido, Ganduje, Boko Haram, and so on.., then you might as well close down your outfits! This is one of the most egregious violations of human rights in history; almost as heinous is the genocide against the IPOB members. As we speak now, the leaders of Shiite are held incommunicado, and against Court orders, and worse, the fate of the IPOB is feared to be death! YOU MUST ACT NOW!

    At the minimum, please do everything to educate the President of the United States about this issue, if you cannot handle your fiduciary responsibilities; you cannot continue to be a toothless bulldog; the Sunnis of Nigeria who committed this heinous crimes against Shiites, and Christians MUST be held accountable, or this is one big fat JOKE!

    To Igbos:

    Don’t go thinking these crimes against Igbo youths will get swept under the rock! You had better start dealing with this issue of Nigeria soldiers coming to Kanus village and killing all these kids, including Kanu and his family, and you are sitting there looking silly! At least start the process of bringing this issue of President Obama imposing a former military dictator on Nigerians because he is a Sunni, and this guy massacring Christians and Shiites in such numbers! President Trump will NOT like to hear this, and I can guarantee you that he will get to the bottom of this, because he hates everything Obama ever did. I believe that Igbos in diaspora can do the diplomatic leg work that’s required to kick off this justice!

    To Yorubas:

    Keep sitting there looking like slave Mumus, as El Rufai dumps this atrocity on the head of one of your sons. Imagine the laugh that this El Rufai and his gang are getting when they plotted to shift this genocide on the yoruba head? [“The panel had found several Nigerian Army officers culpable in the killings and recommended them for prosecution, including Niyi Oyebade, a major-general who was the Grand Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army 1 Division at the time”.]

  • GusO

    I’m against any government extra judicially killing of it’s people. But we don’t need the self-serving investigations of certain countries by the ICC for the benefit of other powerful nations. These powerful nations do as they please allowing the killings of some selected members of their society without consequences for their killers and embark on bombing of innocent civilians in other countries without the ICC daring to batt an eye. Because of the obvious selective behavior of the ICC, I have always believed that Nigeria should exhibit the courage to leave the ICC like South Africa did. I have always wondered why Nigeria always agree to join certain international organizations when the powerful countries urging them to join them refuse to join the same organizations in the first place.

    • Michael

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because western countries may get away with certain things, that does not mean our own murderous regime should get away with cold murder. Ultimately who benefits from the ICC prosecution? Is it not the poor Africans who have been extra judicially killed. Please this is not the time for silly sentiments

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

      Atleast the citizens in those countries cant be fooled. Such atrocities can never happen this way in those powerful nations as it does in Nigeria. Heads must role and their courts are powerful and respected. African nations haven’t been known to respect their own laws on human rights mostly.

      • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

        may i also add, the jackbooted thugs legally authorised to carry the guns and weary to shoot at their citizens are not loyal to the government or their previous tribes before conscription, They are loyal to the Union jack, the star spangled banner, their Constitutions and mostly the nation, their children and other citizens. For their services to the Politicians, they protect the existence of a government only.

        In Nigeria most of the jackbooted thugs legally authorised to carry the guns and without hesitation shoot at civilians (armed forces) are loyal to their tribes and cultures, their bosses, the government in power, money, religion. Nigerian jackbooted thugs also protect the government either by disobeying the judicial orders, Nepotism, even maybe play a role in cover-up’s or allow tribal clashes to continue. Lets not forget the numerous circumvention of our democracy many many times.

        Truth is law is not black and white only, its grey. The part that states nations allowed to defend themselves by first pre-emptive defensive strikes. But against external aggressors. for Internal aggressors more clarity was defined. you need to go read the earths world court laws.

  • Kickboxer




    Nigeria is signatory to the ICC treaty hence ls bound by international law to abide by its requirements.
    The impunity of taking lives of citizens extràjudicially must be challenged and stopped. So far , the Nigerian justice system lacks the capacity for issuing independent verdicts against the corrupt establishment or government.

    The present regime have blood dripping from their hands and those lives cannot be wished away, they were full citizens and justice must be served .

    • princegab

      Well said, thanks

    • thusspokez

      Nigeria is signatory to the ICC treaty hence ls bound by international law to abide by its requirements.

      Nigerian may be a signatory, but it is up to it whether it wishes to abide by… or not.


        Yes every country which signs a treaty is bound by law to obey such treaty except where it is explicitly stated that it is optional. The ICC treaty is not optional rather a country may choose to withdraw membership if she decides to protect potential convicts.

        Interestingly you cannot be disturbed about the victims or how they were killed and buried and denied?

        • thusspokez

          Treaty ratified member states can declare that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the Court over certain crimes. Further, the ICC prosecutor only begins an investigation if a case is referred either by the UN Security Council or by a ratifying state. But then, although Nigeria has signed the Rome Statute of the ICC 2002, it has however not ratified the treaty.

          Interestingly you cannot be disturbed about the victims or how they were killed and buried and denied?

          Stop appealing to emotional sensibilities. Justice for all the victims may not come now but will eventually come, and from Nigerian law enforcement agencies and judges. You might (rightly or wrongly) dismiss all the current law enforcement agencies and judiciary but think long term.

          Germany continues to prosecute Nazis to this day; US Law enforcement and courts still prosecute racists (e.g KKK) who committed murders of African-Americans 40, 50 or more years ago, and had got off with the help of crooked law enforcement officers and courts. Not to mention sex crimes committed 10, 20, 30… years ago, now surfacing and its perpetrators being prosecuted.

          It is insulting when these foreign institutions are allowed to interfere in Nigeria’s local affairs. Nigerian governments and people must have some pride in Nigeria and stop looking helpless and belittling the country.


            Nigeria has ratified the treaty in 2002 and nothing more is expected. Nigeria is a full member . Comparing the German justice system with that of Nigeria is wishful thinking.

            If the victims were to be directly related to you , it would be a different song however I wish you luck as you trade human lives and justice to protect a number of killers.

          • thusspokez

            Nigeria has ratified the treaty in 2002

            Pay attention please There are two processes involve with regard to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
            [1] Signing
            [2] Ratification
            Nigeria has done [1] (in 2002) but not [2].

          • Paschal Charles

            Shame on you for being the mouth piece of Killers.

      • Peace Forall

        This is why nigeria can never move forward not abiding to any agreement and lawlessness. Nigeria is stinking

  • Sheikh Messi

    The noose is tightening.
    Yet some slaves are still cheering their gOD on.
    The ICC wheel of justice grinds slowly…BUT SURELY.
    When jungle mature, who no know go know.

  • thusspokez

    I suppose that the benighted Buhari administration gave the ICC officials the visa that enabled them to enter Nigeria and, also the permission to investigate Nigerians? Why does Nigeria even support the ICC?

    This Nigerian government is so stúpíd!. Gosh! What happened to the country that I once knew? The country has been taken over by clueless and backward people. The president is backward, and because he knows no better, appoints similar backward people and mediocre as advisers and ministers, e.g., Geoffrey Onyeama(Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau(Mister of Interior). So he has no one with sophisticated understanding of world politics around him. For example, to inform him of the ICC superiority complex on any matters African; and consequently, the threats by many African states to exit the ICC.

    Often called the International Caucasian Court (ICC), it — not even UN — can go into a sovereign country without first obtaining permission from that government. Further permission would be required to have any of these institutions conduct any investigation in the country — which will require permission to interview individuals and public officials, e.g., heads and members of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies involved. Has the benighted Buhari administration really granted the ICC these permissions, and perhaps, including permission to interview him himself? And one day, even present himself at a ICC court in the Hague?

    Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and Obafemi Awolowo must all be turning in their graves. Is this what they fought independence for? So that foreign institutions could walk into their country Nigeria, and do as they please?

    When the ICC demanded that Gaddafi, son , Saif al-Islam Gaddafi be released to them, after the fall of his father, the group holding him told the ICC to piss off and it did. Now what has the ICC done about the enslavement of Nigerians in Libya? Has the ICC commenced investigations into the daily murder of African-Americans by US cops in the US? Did the ICC ever investigate the perpetrators of apartheid in South Africa? Yet it can come to Nigeria and expect the benighted Buhari administration to open the door wide for it to enter, and commence investigations into local issues. What a country!

    • Peace Forall

      Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Obafemi Awolowo did not fough for independence for nigerian government to slaughter her citizens at will and promoting terror against her citizens.

  • Ezekiel. J.

    One sided report by ICC it is fit for waste bin so Buratai should be killed by those terrorists before the officers reacted.

  • Peace Forall

    We told the murderous and lawless regime of buhari and his attack dogs that they will have their day one day in ICC or will join the band of clandestine of Omar Bashir. You cannot solve problems by creating far greater problems. You cannot sustain peace, unity and stability with guns and bullets such stupidity and idiocy can be tolerated only in animal kingdom which we Biafrans don’t want be part of. You cannot massacre and slaughter your supposed citizens and expect peace, unity or stability. You cannot massacre your supposed citizen and want International community to keep blind eyes and be clapping for you. Justice must be done.

  • Otile

    Non of the killers held at The Hague admits doing anything wrong. Their worshipers always portray them as heroes and just leaders, but as always the wheel of justice eventually grinds them down. We can’t wait till Buhari steps down, then he and many killers in his junta will be held accountable for their crimes.

  • Ibrahim Wada Sani

    This is a welcome development.The ICC should also wade into the issues of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen-farmers clashes and prosecute ALL persons involved.