By Our Correspondent
Human Rights Activist and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, has said he was deeply worried by the silence of the Federal Government over the killing of about 347 people in Zaria, Kaduna state by the military.
Odinkalu said he was concerned that mass killings of Nigerian citizens could happen under a democratically elected government in Zaria without anybody being held accountable till date.
The former NHRC chair said this at a fund raising dinner organized by Federal Government Girls Colleges (FGGC), Onitsha Alumnae Association, Abuja Chapter.
Odinkalu, who is also the President-General of the Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA), added that people who were killed in Zaria could be more than that.
He also said the continued detention of Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky by the federal government without been charged to court was a violation of his human rights.
Odinkalu said: “I think everybody is worried not just me. I think many more people than me are very worried about this situation and justifiably so. A democratically elected government cannot afford to bury 347, by its own admission, of its own citizens in mass graves and believe it is alright nobody should be held to account.
“The situation in Kaduna has been troubling. My view has been fairly strong in Kaduna, in Zaria particularly. I think the government could have handled it better. I think the brutality has been wanton.
“In all likelihood, the people who were killed are many more than that. A lot of people still reported still disappeared. The number of casualties in Zaria has not been established. The security agencies did not quite collaborate or corporate with the commission of inquiry that was set up by the Kaduna state government and the Federal Government has been quite mute about that.
“Ibrahim El-Zakzaky has been held for nearly one year without charges in a democratically elected government under a constitution that says personal liberty should not be breached for more than 48 hours without been charged to court. There is no excuse for what happened in Zaria for the way that has been managed. Not under this dispensation.”
He said the absence of a Governing Council for the NHRC had begun to impugn on the credibility of the commission.
Prof. Odinkalu therefore called for an immediate reconstitution of the governing council of the commission to enable the NHRC carry out its functions.
“The absence of a governing council is beginning to endanger the credibility of the commission because there are decisions that staffs cannot take. There are decisions that an executive secretary cannot take.
“You need a governing council statutorily to take several decisions of any moment within the commission and when that fails the commission is at risk of losing its international certification and when it loses its international certification then of course Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission is no longer credible,” he added.