A Nigerian Shiite group, Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, has written to the United States government urging it not to sell weapons or any military hardware to the Nigerian government.
The letter, which was dated August 17 and signed by the head of the Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee, Abdulrahaman Abubakar, cited “appalling human rights record” of Nigerian military as the reason for the group’s “vehement objection to the proposed sale of weapons and military hardware to the government of Nigeria.”
In the letter, the group stated that “the military’s human rights record in Nigeria is utterly dismal and the Nigerian government’s commitment to the rule of law is even worse off.”
It drew the attention of the U.S. government to “incessant refusal of the government to acknowledge excesses of the military in handling civilian matters, but even tries to justify them.”
IMN alleged the examples of “the blatant murder of 34 unarmed civilians in Zaria in 2014, including the children of Sheikh Zakzaky, without the government doing anything about it.
“As if it was not grievous enough, the murderous soldiers returned in December, 2015 with an even more brutal force, resulting in the death of over a thousand innocent citizens. The initial response of the government to this callous disregard for human lives was to say, it was a “military affair.”
The group further alleged that “there is usually no properly conducted inquiries, no prosecutions, no remorse and no public apologies after such acts by the military.”
The Shiites accused the Nigerian government of “shirking in its duties to hold its soldiers to account.”
PREMIUM TIMES has extensively reported the December 2015 killings and the decision of the government to eventually set up a judicial commission of enquiry on that and other alleged human rights abuses by the military. The Shiite IMN, has however, announced its intention to boycott the public hearings, expressing doubt in the composition of the commission.
The group further cited the case of continued incarceration of its leader, Ibraheem Zakzaky, and his wife “after shooting them at point-blank range, treated them in the most humiliating and denigrating manner before hauling them into incommunicado detention without charges for twenty months.
“Even after a Nigerian High Court had ruled that the detention is unconstitutional and ordered their release, the government has continued to contemptuously defy the order.”
The petition therefore called for a complete arms embargo to be placed on the Nigerian military.
It also wanted the embargo to be extended to travel bans and other embargoes for senior military and political leaders “until a genuine commitment to the principles of rule of law, justice, fair play and human rights can be demonstrated beyond rhetoric and half-hearted measures by the government”.