The chief of army staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has finally opened up on the whereabouts of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the arrested leader of the Shiite sect the Islamic Movement In Nigeria.
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Speaking on Thursday, December 17, during a meeting with a delegation from the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) at the army headquarters in Abuja, Buratai revealed that El-Zakzaky is no longer in army custody.
Buratai made this known when responding to the request by NSCIA to meet with El-Zakzaky. He said the sect leader had been handed over to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.
The army chief, however, insisted that lawlessness must not be accepted in the country, citing the Boko Haram menace that is affecting part of the country.
“As a responsible and law abiding organisation, we will do all that we can to always safeguard lives and property.
“As for the whereabouts of the Shi’ite leader, he is not in our custody; he has been handed over to the appropriate authorities for prosecution because we don’t prosecute.
“What happened was avoidable and unfortunate, we followed the rules of engagement as enshrined in the constitution but what happened still happened,” Buratai said.
He also used the opportunity to deny allegations from some quarters that the army was after the sect members, insisting that the army was only executing its constitutional duties.
Buratai pleaded with members of the public to ignore information and pictures revealed by some media, saying they are not the true situation of what transpired.
Speaking earlier, the leader of the NSCIA, Prof. Daud Noibi, explained that the group was at the army headquarters on a fact-finding mission. He, however, expressed the concerns of the group over the Zaria bloodbath and reiterated the groups’ commitment to return peace to the state.
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Noibi urged the army authorities to allow the delegation to meet with the arrested leader of the sect, adding that the group would make moves to ease the tension that had covered parts of the north as a result of Saturday’s unfortunate and avoidable incident in Zaria.
Meanwhile, Noibi was accompanied on the visit by the secretary general of the council, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede.
Meanwhile, the incident has sparked reactions across the country from various concerned citizens. Protests have ensued in some northern parts and yesterday the Nigerian Senate announced moves to commence investigation into the recent killings of Shiites in Zaria. The investigation panel has senators drawn from the ad-hoc committees on Defence, Judiciary and National Security and Intelligence to unravel circumstances behind the incident.
But, Ibrahim Musa, the spokesman of the Islamic Movement In Nigeria, has put the blame on the Nigerian army for the crisis between members of the Shiite sect and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna state.