The tragic battle between life and death that consumed the lives of hundreds of members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shiites, in December 2015 in the Zaria sub-city of Kaduna in Northwestern Nigeria has pushed hundreds of children and women to suffer unending sorrow.
The incidents were tagged the Zaria Massacre and the Zaria Genocide as a result of the unbearable loss of lives and properties belonging to the members who were attacked and killed a few hours after a disagreement between the Shiite members and the Nigerian troops.
The military claimed that the Muslim (Shiite) members who were celebrating Rabi’ Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar that commemorates the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), attempted to harm or assassinate the then army chief, Lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai, a situation that triggered a defense by the military.
However, Safiya Umar, Maimuna Munkaila, and Abdullahi Usman Kankiya, who spoke to Daily Episode, maintain that the army fired live bullets indiscriminately at the members with no threat to anyone’s life.
Endless Grief After The Zaria Massacre
“I wish I had heard my husband’s last words before he was killed,” the tearful widow Safiya Umar noted. They could not even allow us to see their corpses. Instead, we heard they were all buried in a mass grave at a location unknown to me until this time. She burst into tears while the children were saying sorry, with tears dropping from their eyes too.
No one can replace him; our lives have changed entirely, and we are only managing by selling recycling products, a business that can only drop support for our meals, not providing what is sufficient as my husband usually provides.
My children’s education has been supported by people with good hearts, but despite that, the children lack so many things that I cannot afford or press someone to sponsor. Had the soldiers spared the life of their supportive father, none of this would be an issue for both of us. she added
Like Safiya Umar, Maimuna Munkaila, aged between 40 and 45, narrates her sad story of similar sorrow. According to her, she was only notified to start observing Takaba, a period in which a widow mourns the passing of her husband for 4 months and 10 days according to Islam’s teachings.
Despite being pregnant, upon hearing the sad news, I burst into tears because I could not imagine a life without such a partner. We plan to live, grow, and raise well-trained children.
He was a true servant of God and a medical doctor who treated the Shiite members whenever the need arose.
He was killed after the bomb, according to a survivor who was shot alongside my husband.
My husband and four others were lined up on the ground and shot; three others died instantly, while the survivor and my husband struggled with bullet wounds until my husband gave up and died. She burst into tears
But till today, I suffer a life without him, most especially for my children when they see other children welcoming their father, playing, or having some fun.
We barely eat, and thighs are difficult considering the country’s economy, in which the people who might have supported us cannot also provide enough.
She claims no one deserved to be killed for an offense punishable by law, and she will never forget or forgive the Nigerian army. However, the brutal killings are evidence that the country is being governed in the wrong way by the wrong people.
Only Allah knows how we survive a daily meal, let alone other necessities, but we continue to hope in Allah because he is the giver who never runs out of supplies. She added
Survivors’ Storylines After the Zaria Massacre
Abdullahi Usman Kankiya, a university student at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, narrowly escaped being killed at Hussainiya, the location where the dispute that turned bloody began.
Kankiya, whose father was among the slain Shiite members at Gyalesu, narrates to Daily Episode that he and his friend escaped while the soldiers started shooting sporadically.
The mission to carry out the massacre on the Islamic movement was pre-planned for the number of armored tanks and military personnel deployed at Hussainiya. He stated
I was about to run when I sighted many of the army positions themselves like they were on the war front. I began to shake and was frightened.
The next thing I heard was gunshots everywhere; our people were just going down by bullet while the army was drowning and uploading their dead bodies in their cars.
I gave myself confidence and started running. I could not even explain or understand how I escaped.
But the most painful thing is that I lost my dad. I was the last person to speak with him, “he added.
While I was on a phone call with my dad, who was trapped at the residence of our leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky, he was counseling me to look after my mum and siblings while he repeatedly said, “Can you hear the sound of the guns?”
I was saying yes, but before I asked the next question, he told me the army had entered the house, and I only heard a sound.
I can’t imagine a life without my hero and everything. Saying goodbye in such a manner is troubling and tragic, but I am confident he is resting well. The army shouldn’t have killed such a freedom fighter; I couldn’t imagine the punishment for someone’s wrongdoing costing the life of someone who wasn’t even aware of the wrongdoing. He added
Mass graves prove the unbearable loss of lives.
Following public outrage over the brutal killings tagged the Zaria Massacre, the Kaduna state government confirmed the burial of members of the Islamic movement in a mass grave at Mando, a location in Kaduna state’s Igabi local government area, through the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Balarabe Lawal.
His revelation validates the claims of many Shiite members who claim they were denied the right to recover the remains of their loved ones and bury them by Islamic law.
According to him, no fewer than 191 corpses were taken from the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria, and 156 corpses from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), making a total of about 347 Shia Muslims murdered at that time.
Despite that, many members were still being killed in many protests that turned violent, which authorities accused members of the Shiite of being violent in a request for the release of their leader and as well while conducting their usual matches, which restrict citizens from accessing free movement on any Nigerian road they stage out on.
Solutions to religious extremism
Experts have advised the Nigerian government to invest hugely in educating the population of the country’s growing youth population, for such can be the alternative solutions to extremism, rights violations, and the resistance to abiding laws and others in the country.
According to Mal. Saminu Garba, who spoke to Daily Episode, noted that Nigeria is a secular country that grants religious freedom, which many believers abuse. This is one of the reasons Nigeria suffers from insecurity, particularly from Boko-Haram, banditry, and other insurgencies; or the ongoing dispute between Shiites and the government, which resulted in the regrettable Zaria Massacre.
Therefore, the government must understand that it is time we make positive changes and provide a country where everyone lives peacefully, and such can only be achieved when lawmakers become law abiders and the government makes a sincere investment in education and entrepreneurship development.