The judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI), instituted by the Kaduna State government to investigate the bloody face-off between the Nigerian Army and the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites, had it’s first sitting on Wednesday.
The commission began its inquiry without a representative of the IMN. In the past, the commission had postponed its sitting over the absence of legal representative for the IMN.
It would be recalled that in late December 2015, the Army and the Shiite sect had a violent confrontation that led to the death of several of their members, destruction of their headquarters in Zaria and the arrest of the group’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife.
At the resumed sitting of the Judicial commission, the Army called four witnesses that were with the motor convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-Gen.Tukur Buratai, on the day the trouble started.
The witnesses are: Maj-Gen. Ado Abubakar, Maj-Gen.Adeniyi Oyebade, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman and Brig-Gen. Ayuba Ted Gamma.
The officials informed the commission that it took the Army three day before they could arrest and detain the leader of the IMN.
According to the one of the witnesses, Maj-Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, the army received intelligence that the Shiites were mobilizing themselves to launch an attack.
He narrated how he went around the town in the evening to confirm that the Shiite members, carrying all sorts of weaponry, had began to converge at the Gyallesu area.
Oyebade further stated that the scene of the face-off was more gruesome than what he had seen during the Sierra-Leone and Liberia wars.
“What we saw were very violent extremist group willing to take on the state and they did that so strongly.”
“I’ve been involved in operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia but I have not seen anything as bloody as what I saw in Zaria, I have never been involved in anything as bloody as what I saw in Zaria.”
On his part, the Director of Administration of the Nigerian Army, Maj-Gen. Ado Abubakar, testified that he had reasons to believe that the Shiite had schemed to kill the COAS.
He explained that the Shiite members had allowed other people to gain access through the road on that fateful day but had refused the COAS to pass through. They blocked the roads despite the efforts by the army official to persuade them to remove the block.
Abubakar noted that as this was going on, shots could be heard coming from the Hussainiya. The army officials had to act in order to save the COAS.
He, however, noted that several persons died as a result of the fire exchange and the resulting stampede.
Testifying before the commission, Brig-Gen Ayuba Ted Hamman, the Acting Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, stated that the Shiites were the first to shoot at the Army despite blocking the road.