Femi Falana, a SAN and human rights activist is asking the federal government to prosecute the COAS Gen, Tukur Buratai and his men for their roles in the Zaria clash between the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the soldiers in the convoy of Buratai visiting the state December 12.
The clash, the Human Rights Watch said, saw 300 people dead, and the IMN and the army have been trading blames over the incident. The soldiers accused the Shi’ite members of blocking the road and attempting to assassinate Mr. Buratai while the sect said the military action was pre=meditated.
“Assuming that the Shi’ite members actually blocked the road, why was the nuisance not reported to the police? Are the authorities of the Nigerian Army above the law of the land?” Falana said in a statement Wednesday.
According to him, the army had mopped up the corpses of the sect members, and buried them en masse while the police would allow relatives access to the sect leader Ibraheem Zakzaky held in police custody.
Three hundred of the suspects arrested have also been taken to a magistrate court in Abuja without giving them access to their lawyers. “The suspects were refused bail by the Magistrate who ordered that they be remanded in prison custody,” he said.
Citing a precedent in the Court of Appeal in 1996, Falana told the security agencies the right of access to detainees is not negotiable.
In Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. General Sani Abacha (1996) 5NWLR (PT 447) 198 at 202, the Court of Appeal ordered the Attorney-General of Federation, Inspector General of Police, and the operatives of the State Security Service to allow the wife and personal physicians of the appellant, a political detainee, to have access to him in prison custody ‘at all reasonable times’.
He also cited Section 14(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which compels the police to grant a detainee access to legal representation, access to communication for bail, defence or release.
“Having undertaken to end impunity in the country, President Buhari should ensure that the Chief of Army Staff and all the soldiers who took part in the violent attack and arson in Zaria are brought to book without any further delay,” said Falana.