• Friday, June 21, 2024
businessday logo


Perpetrators of Shiite massacre must not be allowed to go unpunished

Shiite massacre

Civil-military relations describe the relationship between civil society as a whole and the military establishment set up to defend it. The relationship between these two segments of the society has been problematic and political engineers over the ages have been concerned with how to ensure that the guardians of society are themselves effectively guarded and to ensure the subordination of the military – set up by society to protect it – to civilian control. It appears with the global ascendancy of democracy as the most preferred system of governance, the military has accepted its subordination to civilian authority and control. This is also true in Africa, where after a rash of military coups and take-overs, the military has largely come to realise that it is not professionally and emotionally suited for governance. However, total respect for civil society has continued to be problematic.

This is true of the Nigerian military that has governed this country for close to 30 years and had been used to lording it over its civilian population. The military, no doubt, encouraged by retired Generals who have continued to dominate the political space, has continued to treat Nigerian civilians as second class citizens and have often employed extreme violence in dealing with them. The concept of ‘bloody civilians’ is still very rife in military circles and it shows the contempt with which the military establishment holds the civilian population, who, in an ideal setting, are their employers, pay their bills, and who they are supposed to protect and defend even with their lives.


On December 12, 2015, the military took the law into its hands and massacred over 347 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who allegedly blocked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai. Although the military has used several lies to justify the killings, a panel set up by the Kaduna state government to investigate the killings has finally indicted the Nigerian army for the Zaria massacre. Specifically, the panel indicted Maj. General Adeniyi Oyebade, the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army’s 1st Devision in Kaduna for authorising the operation. The Panel stopped short of indicting the Chief of Army Staff General Burutai who also bears responsibility for, and has defended, the killings on several occasions.  From the videos of the encounter between the Army Chief’s convoy and the sect members, it was clear the situation does not require the use of lethal force and teargas, at worse, could have been used to dislodged members of the sect. But the army chose to massacre members of the sect, destroyed its premises and have continued to detain its leader illegally for having the effrontery to stand in its way.


As the Panel rightly found out, the killings are a crime against humanity and those responsible must be brought to justice. As usual, we expect the president to ignore the report of the panel and to retain the Army Chiefs in their positions. He has kept silent over the killings and his body language does not show that he is in the least interested in ensuring that justice is done.


Regardless, the army stands accused of grave killings of civilians and crime against humanity. We call on civil society and pressure groups to relentlessly pursue justice for the massacred up to the international court of justice and should not relent until justice is eventually done no matter how long it takes. It is time the military is made to understand that it is employed and paid to protect and defend society and not to intimidate or kill members of the society.