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The response of both the federal government and the Kaduna State government to the violence in Kaduna in November 2002 has been marked by an absence of effective action and, crucially, a lack of resolve to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.

One of the critical questions which remains unanswered is why orders were not given to deploy special “strike force” units that had been set up in strategic locations in Kaduna since 2000, with the precise purpose of preventing the kind of violence which erupted again in November 2002. Following the violence in 2000, several units totalling about fifty soldiers had been stationed in various locations in Kaduna; according to one source, they had been instructed not to wait for government orders before intervening to quell any disturbances. Yet none of them were deployed when violence first erupted in November 2002. To this day, there is considerable anger and incomprehension among the residents of Kaduna on this point. Had the special strike force intervened at the first signs of violence, it is likely that the situation could have been contained and many lives could have been saved.87 Instead, the situation was allowed to escalate and the few police who were deployed were either overwhelmed by the scale of the violence, or were more intent on committing acts of violence themselves than in controlling or preventing them. The military who were eventually sent to the area on November 22 may have prevented some acts of violence, but they too, like the police, were responsible for serious human rights violations themselves.

In an interview with the newspaper Weekly Trust, Kaduna state governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi stated that since the 2000 riots, a system of weekly security meetings had been put in place, and one such meeting had even taken place on November 20, the day of the attack on the office of ThisDay: “Our preoccupation at the meetings has always been to assess the security situation in the state and take measures where necessary […] On Wednesday when we learnt about the burning of the ThisDay regional office we immediately went into our scheduled security council meeting and the council identified the ThisDay incident as a danger signal. We then resolved and passed clear and specific instructions to security outfits in the state which we expected would be carried out.” 88 The governor did not disclose why the instructions were not carried out.

When Human Rights Watch met the Police Public Relations Officer in Kaduna, he was evasive about the situation and claimed not to have precise information about the events. He said that the police had counted seventy-three dead but that the real number was probably higher as corpses of Muslim victims were removed quickly. He claimed that since the 2000 violence, the police had intensified security measures and reinforced flashpoints in the city. He told us: “In the latest crisis, we put enough policemen on the ground. We did our best. Our best is what you see today.” He claimed that the police reacted immediately to the attack on the office of ThisDay, even though numerous eyewitnesses said that no policemen intervened at all at that time. When asked why the special strike force had not reacted, he said: “If there is a riot, the police will be brought in. Then the military are brought in to complement them. That is what happened. The police is at the forefront. It depends on the gravity of the situation. It was manageable. We were able to contain it.”89

In the aftermath of the violence, President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Kaduna on November 28 for a meeting with the governor and religious leaders; he also visited some of the injured in hospitals, as well as sites for people displaced by the violence. President Obasanjo and Governor Makarfi condemned the violence, described it as well-organized, and promised that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.90

A committee set up by the Kaduna State government to assess the amount of damage has since reported that 109 churches, thirty-nine mosques and hundreds of other buildings were destroyed during the violence.91 In April 2003, it was reported that the federal government had released “an undisclosed amount of money for the rehabilitation of churches and mosques burnt or vandalized” during the November riots and that the Kaduna State government had appealed to the federal government to increase the amount provided.92 However, in May, the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) launched an appeal for funds to rebuild churches destroyed in the violence, complaining that none of the financial compensation promised by the state government since 2000 had been received93 — a statement backed up by complaints from many other organizations and individuals, both Christians and Muslims, who told Human Rights Watch that they had received nothing in way of compensation for loss of life and destruction of property in the 2000 riots, let alone the 2002 riots. The federal government had rejected a recommendation for compensation put forward by the commission of inquiry into the 2000 violence set up by the Kaduna State government.94

Investigations and arrests

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, there were calls from nongovernmental organizations and others for the Kaduna state government to set up a panel of inquiry. In similar situations of inter-communal and other violence in Nigeria, it has become almost standard practice for the government to set up a panel or commission of inquiry; this was the case, for example, following the February 2000 riots in Kaduna, the Zangon-Kataf riots of 1992, and many other instances of violence in other states of Nigeria. However, in many cases, such initiatives have amounted to nothing more than a token exercise on the part of the government to demonstrate that it is taking the matter seriously; even when the members of such panels have carried out thorough and impartial investigations and produced detailed reports, the results of their inquiries have rarely been published. Even when they have been published, in the form of government white papers, they appear to have had little impact on the situation; few of their recommendations have been implemented and their findings have rarely led to prosecutions.95 In the case of the November 2002 riots, the Kaduna State governor stated explicitly that he had no intention of setting up a panel of inquiry, but that instead, those responsible for the violence would be charged and tried promptly.

About 350 people were quickly arrested in connection with the riots, within just a few days of the start of the violence. Most of those arrested were boys or young men accused of looting or rioting, but not killing or instigating the violence. There were also numerous reports of arbitrary arrests of people who were not involved in any criminal activity at all. Most of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Kaduna believed that those arrested did not include the individuals responsible for organizing or planning the violence. Human Rights Watch made efforts to find out the identity of those who had planned the violence, as all the evidence available indicated that it had been well organized; however, the results of our inquiries did not enable us to pinpoint specific individuals who may have played a leading role.

Christians who were arrested appeared before the magistrates’ courts, while Muslims appeared before the Sharia courts. (The two systems have operated in parallel since the extension of Sharia to criminal law and the creation of Sharia courts.) In both categories, most of the defendants were reported to have been released on bail within a few weeks; they were charged with a range of offenses including manslaughter, assault, destruction of property and disturbance of the peace. Others were released later, and the charges against them were dropped.96 A local researcher reported that even the court officials and prosecutors he spoke to in Kaduna were not sure of the exact number of people charged in connection with the November 2002 riots or the status of their case files. It would appear that the matter of the arrest of suspects became politicized by both Christian and Muslim groups. Sources in Kaduna who monitored this and previous crises in Kaduna State believe that as on earlier occasions (notably following the 2000 riots), the state government, in a bid to appear neutral, gave in to pressure exerted by Christian and Muslim leaders and assented to the release of most suspects; most believe that the cases of those released on bail are unlikely to result in prosecutions.97

Some people were released on the grounds that they were under eighteen. The Police Public Relations Officer told Human Rights Watch: “We don’t have minors [in detention] per se, but in a riot, you arrest whoever you see.” He confirmed that some minors had been released because of their age.98

The governor promised to investigate the many reports of shootings by the security forces, but to date has not made public the progress of any such investigation. In the case of the extrajudicial killings in Kabala Costain and Kabala Doki, as described above, the police claimed to be investigating some of these cases in response to formal complaints by local residents, but to date, none of the suspects have been charged, and the few who were arrested have all been released. In addition, there were allegations that efforts on the part of the police to investigate the matter may have been thwarted by an intervention by the governor who feared that such an investigation would be politically damaging for him.

There were a few arrests of more prominent community or religious leaders, most of whom were released within a short time. One of those arrested was Nafi’u Baba Ahmed, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria.99 He was arrested on November 30, 2002 and released without charge on December 2. Nafi’u Baba Ahmed alleged that he was arrested because of his outspoken criticisms of the governor’s record and policies; he claimed that the governor regarded him as an obstacle to his bid for re-election and that his arrest was designed to intimidate him. He said that before releasing him, the police asked him to sign a document undertaking not to hold any meetings; he refused to do so.100 Both the state government and the police denied that Nafi’u Baba Ahmed was arrested because of his criticisms of the governor and claimed he was arrested on suspicion of inciting violence prior to the November crisis.101 Other sources in Kaduna alleged that just a few days before the riots broke out, Nafi’u Baba Ahmed had threatened “trouble” if the governor failed to apply Sharia properly. It has also been alleged that his arrest may have been connected to his reaction to interviews broadcast on an independent television station owned by his brother, in which Islamic scholars condemned the violence in Kaduna; one source claimed that Nafi’u Baba Ahmed threatened to attack the television station if it continued to broadcast these interviews.102

On December 24, a representative of the National Orientation Agency (which comes under the federal Ministry of Information) announced that ten “highly placed” people had been arrested for sponsoring the violence in Kaduna, but did not reveal their names or any other information about the arrests.103

On January 9, 2003, five community leaders in Kabala Doki were arrested by the police in connection with violence in that area, including Sama’ila Sarkin Kaje, who had been identified by witnesses as involved in several incidents of killings and brutality (see above). They were detained for several days and released without charge.

No one is known to have been arrested in connection with the burning and rioting at the office of ThisDay in Kaduna. However, the editor of the Saturday edition of ThisDay, Simon Kolawole, was arrested on November 22 and detained for three days in the federal capital Abuja; he was not charged. His arrest was interpreted by some as a measure to pacify angry Muslims and by others as a way of protecting him from possible reprisals.104

87 According to a press release by the Southern Kaduna Elders’ Consultative Forum, dated November 25, 2002, some strike force units were drafted to Christian-dominated areas “which were then peaceful”, but not to Muslim-dominated areas where they alleged the trouble began. The elders’ press release cites this selective deployment as evidence that the state government was siding with the Muslims. Human Rights Watch did not find evidence to substantiate this claim.

88 “Kaduna riots: who did what? Emerging facts indict police,” Weekly Trust, November 29-December 5, 2002.

89 Human Rights Watch interview with Mustapha Abubakar, Police Public Relations Officer, Kaduna, December 12, 2002.

90 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kaduna, December 2002. See also “Fish out perpetrators of violence, says Obasanjo,” ThisDay (Lagos), November 29, 2002.

91 See “N1bn needed to compensate Miss World riot victims in Kaduna,” Daily Trust (Abuja), May 13, 2003.

92 See “Miss World riot: government moves to rehabilitate burnt churches, mosques,” ThisDay (Lagos), April 7, 2003.

93 See “We lost N4.5b to Kaduna violence, says CAN,” Vanguard (Lagos), April 3, 2003.

94 See Chapter 3 of the White Paper on the Report of Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kaduna State Religious Disturbances of February 2000, published in April 2001.

95 The commission of inquiry into the 2000 Kaduna violence reported: “some members of the Public allege that Government White Papers on previous Judicial Commission of Inquiry reports are not fully implemented. While others believe that Government did not consider the reports of some of the previous Judicial Commission of Inquiry […]”. Chapter One of the White Paper on the Report of Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kaduna State Religious Disturbances of February 2000, published in April 2001.

96 See, for example, “Miss World riots: court discharges 22,” ThisDay (Lagos), January 21, 2003.

97 Human Rights Watch interviews in Kaduna, December 2002, and subsequent correspondence with sources in Kaduna, June 2003.

98 Human Rights Watch interview with Mustapha Abubakar, Police Public Relations Officer, Kaduna, December 12, 2002.

99 The Supreme Council for Sharia is a relatively new organization, set up in 2000. It has been critical of the older, more established Islamic organizations, such as the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, for being too passive in relation to Sharia and too close to the government.

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Nafi’u Baba Ahmed, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, Kaduna, December 9, 2002.

101 See, for example, Special Report: “Kaduna under curfew: between insensitivity and nervousness,” Weekly Trust, December 6-12, 2002.

102 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kaduna, December 10 and 12, 2002.

103 See “Kaduna riots – 10 top shots arrested,” Vanguard (Lagos), December 24, 2002.

104 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kaduna and Lagos, December 2002.

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July 2003