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BEING A TEXT BY CHAIRMAN CENTRUM INITIATIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ADVOCACY(CEDRA) ON ATTACKS ON SHIITES IN SOME PARTS OF NORTHERN NIGERIA ON 23rd NOVEMBER 2016 AT JULIUS BERGER HALL UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS

By STEPHEN LAWAN
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Protocol
I'm here today (23rd November 2016) to discuss basic human rights

violations of the Shiite Muslims in some parts of Northern Nigeria.

And to solicit for support of democratic soldiers and compatriots

living in the South of Nigeria and entire global community on our

advocacy for the respect of the rights of Shiites to worship without

molestation and intimidation by governments and their supporters.

The latest phase of trampling on rights of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria

started in December of 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State. From 12/13

December 2015 the Nigeria Army massacred Shiites, destroyed( through

bombing) their schools and worship centres. And invaded the residences

of their followers and captured their spiritual leader Sheik Ibrahim

El-Zakzaky. The scale of the pogrom and verifiable evidences of

atrocities committed by the military triggered a global condemnation.

That forced the Kaduna State Government to institute a commission of

inquiry. Even without Shiites' participation, findings of the

commission certified most of claims Shiites made in their various

accounts to the local and international audiences.
During the military operations against Shiites in December of 2015,

their spiritual leader Sheik Zakzaky was treated like an enemy

combatant in a war front. The military captured and took him to God

knows where and later handed him over to the DSS. Since then, the

Sheikh has neither been charged in court or allowed to enjoy his

freedom as a Nigerian bestowed with array of rights in our 1999

constitution( as amended). His member's peaceful protests in Abuja and

other cities for his release has not attracted a comment or action by

his adopters. Sheikh has instituted a fundamental human rights case

against the FGN, however, we believe that he should be immediately set

free to enable him seek medical treatment and enjoy his liberty as a

human being.
As Shiites were struggling through using peaceful and constitutional

measures to call for release of their spiritual leader and respect for

their right to observe rituals globally accepted by their sect, some

State Governments added Salt to injury by outlawing their umbrella

body called Islamic Movement In Nigeria(IMN). Such State Governments

paraded all sorts of absurdities as raison d'etat. Their actions

contradicted constitutional provisions that guaranteed right to

worship and beliefs. Sad enough, a day after some Government's

announcement of banning of IMN, miscreants mobilized and killed, burnt

and looted homes of Shiites with impunity. As we talk today, none of

those arsonists, and murderer has been charged to court.

We are also deeply worried with the quality and sincerity of press

coverage of most of the incidences involving the Shiites in Nigeria.

The mainstream press has consciously or otherwise swallowed propaganda

bait of global cum local anti Shiites activism.
On each occasion of trampling of the rights of Shiites, these pressmen

file laughable reportage suggesting a clash or gun battle with members

of Nigeria Armed Forces or Police. By this, their reports are tacitly

lending credit to the fairy tale of governments that while observing

their rituals Shiites move with lethalistic weaponries and other

arsenals that threatened public safety. That is mischievous and

deliberate falsehood that some of us have independently verified and

found to be bunkum balderdash. Is there logic and common sense in

piquing that people who moves in millions carry lethal weapons? Is

their sheer number not enough security for them?
Aside the mainstream press journalistic laziness and hyperactive

biases, they are discriminatory in their dealings with the Shiites.

Many a times, efforts by the Shiites to correct their deliberate

falsehood are refused a ventilating space. Even their well cherished

principle of the right to reply excluded the Shiites. Worse, there

were occasions where their advertorials were not accepted by the

mainstream press. That is not only unconstitutional but unabashed

display of moral and ethical bankruptcies.
The press is a central component of every democratic setting. Because

of their paramount status, they are labeled the fourth estate of the

realm. There can never be a successful democratic society without an

objective and critical press because they inculcate democratic ethos

on the citizenry and check excesses of mandate holders. Sequel to

this, I expected them to be scrupulous in their reportage by avoiding

simplistic and comical notion of governments that is increasingly

demonstrating inability to accept dissenting views or see others

holding and practicing beliefs detrimentally opposed to theirs as

citizens that should enjoy their rights like them.
Foreign missions and representatives of international governmental and

non governmental organizations in Nigeria have also fall prey of the

raw propaganda of government. Their seldom statements on crushing and

flattening of Shiites rights seems to stemmed from contaminated press

reports of the incidences. We expected them to be more professional

and circumspect in their pronouncements. A clear example of

"conscious" misleading statements came from the U.S. State Department

positing that " they are deeply concerned’ by the deaths of dozens of

Nigerians during clashes between individuals participating in a Shia

procession and the Nigerian Police Force in Kano State on November

14." How Can the State Department called that "A Clash"? This is being

economical with the truth because it was a deadly assault by Nigeria

Police against peaceful Shiites brothers and sisters observing the

ARBA'EEN trek. The State Department and others painting the incidence

of a clash to satisfy some ulterior motives, better know that I was

personally in Kano, as an independent observer. I went to verify the

constant tale that Shiites always carry arms while observing their

numerous religious rituals. The trekkers were armless and peaceful.

Now, how can crushing of peaceful marchers amounts to a clash as

spewed by the State Department?
If an individual like me and a non Muslim (Let alone Shiite) can make

it to Kano, why can't the U.S.and other diplomatic community in

Nigeria walk an extra mile to see thing for themselves? Relying on

contradictory and unreliable official statements from government and

security agencies is wrong. The whole world is looking up to the

U.S.because fate has bestowed in her the onerous task of spreading

liberty and democracy in the world. When the U.S.shows unwillingness

to stand with the oppressed and talk straight, it's worrisome. And

diametrically opposed to the very foundation of their Union

established over two hundred years ago. They must not lose sight of

their popular declaration that " all men are born with some

inalienable rights".
There is no denying the fact that, many compatriots chose not to see

or hear this political evil wind blowing since December 2015. Is it

because they are not directly involved? Is it because the wind is

crushing and flattening a religious minority group called Shiites that

are far off our climes? Well, beseeching us not to forget immortal

words of American Civil Rights Activist Dr. Lurther King jnr that said

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere...whatever

affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We must not also forget

the intended counsel enshrined in Martin Niemoller poem titled "Speak

Out ". Let's speak out against infringement of the rights of Shiites.

Let's speak out against continued and disgraceful incarceration of

Sheik El-Zakzaky. Speaking out now and massively is our surest buffer

against this wind of dictatorship that is collapsing all pillars of

rights and liberty. Don't forget, after Shiites and El-Zakzaky, you

might be their next victim. And when that happen, there will be no one

to talk for you.
I know that people living far off Nigeria are finding it hard

accepting incontrovertible cum impeccable realism that these

atrocities are glowing in a democratic Nigeria. Lest they forget, our

legal and legislative structures envisioned to balance executive

excesses are spineless and ineffectual. It can simply be put: we have

supermen that are powerful than our democratic institutions. Charles

de Montesquieu opined,"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is

perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” This

seems to be the order, now in Nigeria. A system and leadership that

arrests people for exercising their God given right to worship and

refused to obey court orders is no democracy.
Thank you.
Dr. John Danfulani
Chairman Centrum Initiative For Development
And Fundamental Rights Advocacy (CEDRA)
NO1 SF7 Zabura Plaza Unguwan Rimi
Kaduna