The International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 says the federal government has not held soldiers who were involved in the death of over 300 shi’ites in 2015 accountable.
The US department of state’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour released the report, after recalling that in 2015, soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) clashed in Zaria, Kaduna state.
Over 300 members of the IMN died in the clash and their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was kept in custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since then. despite a court order which granted him bail.
The report said the order which awarded El-Zakzaky a sum of N25 million as restitution has also not been complied with.
“Human rights groups continued to report the federal government often failed to prevent, quell, or respond to violence affecting religious groups, particularly in the north eastern and central regions of the country,” the report read.
“In November, Kano State police fired tear gas and bullets, killing three members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria during its annual Ashura procession. The government continued to detain the leader of the IMN, the country’s largest Shia group, and restrict the activities, free movement, and free association of its members.
“There were no reports of accountability for soldiers implicated in the December 2015 clash between the army and IMN members that, according to a Kaduna State Government report and reports from non-government observers, left at least 348 IMN members and one soldier dead, with IMN members buried in a mass grave.
“The government stated publicly that Sheikh El-Zakzaky, leader of the IMN and a prominent Shia cleric, would remain in what it said was ‘protective custody’ pending the appeal of the December 2016 decision of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the government must release him.
“At year’s end, El-Zakzaky remained in prison. The court also ruled that the government must provide him with a house and pay him and his wife restitution of N25m ($69,600) by January 15; at year’s end, the court’s order had yet to be followed.”
It also noted that human rights observers have expressed concern that a presidential investigative panel set up by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to check such excesses “lack transparency”.
When newsmen contacted Texas Chukwu, army spokesman, over the report, he did not respond to calls or a text message sent to him.