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Judicial commission of inquiry to probe soldiers’, Shiites’ clash

A judicial commission of inquiry will look into the weekend clash between soldiers and members of the Shiite Islamic sect in Zaria, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said yesterday in a broadcast. The composition and terms of reference of the commission of inquiry will be announced within two weeks.

The governor banned processions, blockage of roads, obstruction of public highways and occupation of public facilities to inconvenience citizens in Kaduna State.

He assured the people that the government was committed to securing the state while upholding the rights of every citizen.

Also yesterday, the police said 10 members of the sect were being probed for their involvement in the attack on a police station in Kaduna.

Saturday’s fracas that led to the death of yet unspecified number of sect members during the clash with soldiers in the convoy of Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen Tukur Buratai, broke out after the sect’s members blocked the highway as the army chief’s convoy made its way to the Zaria Military School for graduation of the regular recruits of the Nigerian Army Depot.

All efforts by senior officers to persuade them to clear the road for Gen. Buratai’s convoy were rebuffed. Thereafter, a clash broke out, leading to the death of some of the sect members. Sect leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife were taken to military custody. Sect members claimed that the leader’s son was among the people killed.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have set up ad hoc committees to probe the clash.

El-Rufai said: “We have witnessed sad events in Zaria. There have been tragic consequences and needless loss of lives and we extend our condolences to the families that have been affected.

”In this sombre moment, the government has directed that steps be taken to address the humanitarian fallouts of the security operations.

”Everyone has a fundamental right to their faiths and beliefs, but no one has any right to practise their faith in ways that diminish, distress or inconvenience others.

”Henceforth, no person or group, under any guise will be allowed to block any road, obstruct public highways, occupy public facilities or inconvenience citizens in Kaduna State.

“Anybody that needs to march may do so, but they cannot take over public facilities or disrupt social services and commercial activities in Kaduna State, and any march or procession can be undertaken only with the prior knowledge of, and protection of the police to prevent the breakdown of law and order.”

Enumerating what the government had learnt from security reports regarding the events in Zaria, the governor explained that the Kaduna State was persuaded that the interests of accountability and transparency are best served by a judicial commission of inquiry that will allow all claims to be tested with judicial rigour.

“The commission of inquiry is to be set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act. It will examine the immediate and remote causes of the Zaria incident, and assemble a factual and authoritative account that the government can study and act upon.”

The governor added that he will not tolerate any escalation of lawlessness, insisting that “the government continues to invest heavily in security as a foundation for the successful execution of our economic and social agenda to develop Kaduna State.”

Noting that Kaduna State has endured too many upheavals in its recent history, the governor asked for a collective stance for peace. “We all should jointly say ‘no’ to actions that divide people, reject conduct that ignores or violates the legal and constitutional rights of others and oppose practices that contest the prerogatives of state institutions to safeguard and protect every citizen.”

The police yesterday began investigating 10 members of the sect for their alleged involvement in the attack on a Police Division in Kaduna.

Kaduna police spokesman Zubairu Abubakar said the police arrested the 10 suspected members of the movement when they allegedly attacked the Tudun Wada Divisional Police Office in Kaduna on Tuesday.

He alleged that the suspects were arrested with dangerous weapons, including cutlasses, long knives and materials suspected to be substances for making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

He said suspects would be arraigned in court as soon as investigation is concluded by the police.

He said no member of the movement was killed or injured by the police during the incident, contrary to the statement issued by its spokesperson, Malam Ibrahim Musa, which alleged that three persons were shot dead by the police.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Tudun Wada Police Division was attacked when the policemen attempted to disperse hundreds of members of the Islamic movement who marched around Tudun Wada and Tudun Nupawa in the city.

The sect members were protesting the reported arrest of Sheik Zak-Zaky in Zaria by soldiers last Saturday.

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