Nigeria: White Paper on Zaria Clashes

Press Statement
John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
December 8, 2016

On December 5th, the Kaduna State Government in Nigeria issued a long-awaited White Paper on clashes last year that resulted in the deaths of a reported 348 civilians and one soldier. We fully agree with the White Paper’s recommendation that members of the military who were involved in the unlawful killing of civilians must be held accountable and punished appropriately. As the one-year anniversary of this tragic event approaches, we call on the federal government to be diligent, transparent, and expeditious in following through on this recommendation.

We are concerned by the White Paper’s characterization of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) as an “insurgent group,” and urge the Nigerian government at every level to seek pathways for non-violent engagement with all citizens, including minority religious groups. We also encourage the federal government to act on the Abuja high court’s decision on December 2 that IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife should be released from prison within 45 days, as they have been held without charge since the events of last December.

We note reports that the IMN has taken actions that have undermined public order and safety. We call on the IMN to respect public order and cooperate with law enforcement authorities as they carry out their lawful duties.

Respect for the rule of law and the civil rights of all segments of society is a hallmark of democracy. As the White Paper notes, “the right to freedom of worship is a cherished constitutional right” in Nigeria that must be protected. We encourage the people and the government of Nigeria to support these fundamental principles, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or region.