Our attention has been drawn to a news item entitled “Shiites: Senate vows to protect Nigeria’s sovereignty” by one Friday Olokor, which appeared in the Punch of November 25, 2016. In the said piece, it was reported that “Senate on Thursday in Abuja vowed to defend the nation’s sovereignty and interest against foreign interference”.
It is as if that is not what they were elected to do in the first place. It is the very essence for which huge amount of taxpayers’ money is given to them. So what is so special in vowing to do what you overburden other citizens in fat salaries and bogus allowances as recompense for your services? Certainly, the sneer here is not in the vow. It is also not in the defence of the nation’s sovereignty. It is in the hidden meaning of what they regard as the nation’s sovereignty.
The basis for the assurance was reported to have followed a march to the senators by some chartered dishonest persons under the aegis of an equally dubious platform tagged “Coalition for Good Governance and Change Initiative and other civil society organisations.” They were received by some senators, who were said to have made the remarks that we believe were either borne out of ignorance or deliberately made as part of the whole evil plot.
We acknowledge that soon after the onset of the pogrom in December last year, the Senate (and the House of Representatives) promptly instituted probe into the whole matter and tasked the committee to turn in a report within two weeks of the commencement of the set-up. They sent an invitation to members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, which was honoured out of respect to the Senators (and members of the House too). The rhetoric from the Senate then was never again would they allow citizens to be killed extra-judicially in cold blood like chickens. They swore to get to the roots of the incident and bring to book whoever was responsible, no matter his status.
At that sitting with the Senate committee, we made the following submission: “You would appreciate that the scope and scale of the assault on our members was grave. What happened was neither accidental nor coincidental, but a calculated attempt to go for the Movement’s jugular and hit where it hurts. What took place in Zaria on these fateful days was a massacre by soldiers against citizens they were employed to protect. Anyone who attempts to cover up or justify the actions of these killer soldiers will be a partner in their crime. Lives were consequently lost and property destroyed. So many of our members are yet missing. Our leader, who was severally shot, is still being held incommunicado. We do not have any idea of his state of health. Corpses of those killed have not been handed over for proper burial according to Islamic injunctions. This persecution against the members of the Islamic Movement is on-going with no apparent end in sight.”
We doubt if anything has changed since that December meeting. The Senators never submitted a report or acted in any way to even halt the continuation of the brutality till date. There have been several subsequent visits by members of the Islamic Movement to the National Assembly since then. The Senate never acted. In fact, in one of the last few visits, the police were at hand to trample on our rights to assemble peacefully and protest, right before their eyes! No word of condemnation for that gross abuse of citizens’ rights by a governmental organ before them. This is what makes recent visit by the so-called coalition for good governance and the alleged response of the Senate somewhat devious.
Not for once is the National Assembly heard voicing its concern on the serial violations of our rights as citizens with so much impunity for the past one year now by the present administration. If the senate is so passionate about “good governance” what have they done since the flagrant abuse of rights through serial extra-judicial murder of citizens that has characterized the present administration? What is “good governance” in the continued detention without charge for over eleven months of a family whose house was invaded at night, shot and fatally wounded and are being detained illegally and denied access to healthcare and lawyers? Where were all these noisemakers when hundreds were extra-judiciously killed and hurriedly buried in mass graves in an attempt to hide the heinous crime? The loud silence of the Senate after a public exposure of burial of citizens in mass graves by public officers is deafening.
This faceless “Coalition for Good Governance and Change Initiative and other civil society organisations,” is a shameless group clearly out for mischief. Its potential and desperation in that regard was evident when it told the Senators that we have “disavowed the secular state prescribed in the constitution” and that we have “emphatically declared that it does not recognise the Federal Government of which the National Assembly is the third arm.” These empty declarations should have been dismissed outright by the senators had they known what they were doing, or if it was not a tacit complicity. They did not show any single evidence where we “disavowed” Nigeria or an instance we “emphatically declared” non-recognition of the government. The senators should have at least known that they invited us to appear before their committee and we honoured the invitation. We have written a petition to the President over this on-going pogrom. We have sought redress in Nigerian courts in the most peaceful and lawful ways even in the face of extreme provocation and persecution. Yet anyone still has the audacity to rant the fairy-tale that we disavow the state? This is pure blackmail and from the tone of the senate member that addressed the hired crowd, the Senate has swallowed the venomous hatred dished out to it hook line and sinker.
We believe the distinguished senators and honourable members of the National Assembly should come out openly to demand the release of our leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who has been in illegal detention for almost a year now, and to also demand that the perpetrators of Zaria massacre be brought to justice.
PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF IMN