Nigerian former army chief, Tukur Buratai will soon face trial at the International Criminal Court, the court has confirmed.
Also included among those to face trial are: former Chief of Defence Chief, General Abayomi Olonisakin; former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; and former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
The ICC stated this on Thursday evening in a mail sent to SaharaReporters by its Spokesperson, Fadi El-Abdallah.
The ICC further directed SaharaReporters to contact its prosecutor for more details on the trial and prosecution of the former military chiefs.
Since Tuesday, a cross-section of Nigerians has started to demand the probe and trial of Buratai, and the other service chiefs for alleged abuse of office.
Nigerians particularly said the army chief, Buratai, and his colleagues must appear before the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands, to answer for several massacres in the country under their watch with the most recent being October 2020 Lekki shooting, where a disputable number of civilian protesters were killed and injured.
Many Nigerians have also noted that Buratai and possibly others must be probed for what has become known as the Zaria massacre, which was carried out by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State, on December 12, 2015, against Shia Muslims, mostly members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
At least 348 civilians were reportedly killed, with 347 bodies allegedly secretly buried by the army in a mass grave.
The Kaduna State government in April 2016 said 347 corpses were given a mass burial at the Mando cemetery after what they claimed was a clash between soldiers and members of the Shiite’s sect in the state.
The Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, Mallam Balarabe Lawal, who said this when he appeared before a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, added that the corpses were given a mass burial in a grave on December 14, 2015 in a cemetery along Mando/ Zaria Road.
According to the SSG, a total of 191 unknown corpses were recovered from the Army Depot in Zaria and another batch of 156 corpses were recovered from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday appointed new service chiefs, finally letting go of the four military chiefs. Buhari had on July 13, 2015, appointed Olonisakin, Buratai, Ibas, and Abubakar.
Nigerians on social media had noted that it was not enough that Buratai and other military chiefs were replaced. They said they must appear before the ICC, Hague to answer for criminal charges against them while in office.
In a mail to SaharaReporters on Friday, ICC official, Fadi El Abdallah said, “Dear sir, as these matters are in the hands of the ICC Prosecutor, I would advise you to directly contact her media team. Best regards.”
Also, on Thursday, the Concerned Nigerians Group confirmed that it had dragged Buratai to the ICC on human rights’ violation and crimes against humanity by the army during his tenure.
The group in a letter on Thursday by its Convener, Deji Adeyanju, had asked the ICC to investigate, arrest and prosecute Buratai to serve as a deterrent to others who have made it a point of duty to indiscriminately abuse citizens’ human rights in the country.
The letter addressed to Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Chief Prosecutor had partly read, “We write to call on the ICC and all lovers of democracy and human rights in the world to immediately investigate, arrest and prosecute Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd) who was just relieved of his duty as Chief of Army Staff for crimes against humanity and the Nigerian people.
“It will be recalled that sometimes in 2015, Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd) ordered members of the Nigerian army to kill over 300 defenceless Nigerian Shiite Muslims on the unjustifiable grounds that they ‘touched a general’s chest’. That event has been appropriately tagged the Zaira massacre and it has further worsened the insecurity situation in Nigeria. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Buratai (Rtd) ordered the Nigerian soldiers to kill hundreds of Nigerian citizens of South Eastern extraction, in the guise of searching for members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“It is particularly noteworthy to mention that as at the time Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd) ordered the massacre of IPOB members, the group had not been proscribed by the Nigeria Government. Additionally, we have been able to gather from different independent sources that Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd) personally ordered the killing of the innocent protesters at Lekki toll gate, Lagos, on October 20, 2020.
“It is on the basis of the foregoing, among other human rights abuses, that we call on the International Criminal Court and friends of Nigeria to urgently investigate, arrest and prosecute Lieutenant General Buratai (Rtd), to serve as a deterrent to members of the Nigerian Armed Forces and their civilian collaborators who have made it a point of duty to indiscriminately abuse citizens’ human rights.”