Tuesday 1 December 2015
Nigerian Presidential Complex
Aso Rock Presidential Villa
Dear President Muhammadu Buhari
RE: Sectarian attacks in Nigeria
We are writing to draw your urgent attention to the continuing spate of sectarian attacks against Shia Muslims in Nigeria.
As you will no doubt be aware, the latest horrific attack occurred last Friday 27 November in the village of Dakasoye, south of Kano. At least 23 people died and 46 were wounded in the bombing of a religious procession heading to Zaria to mark the 40th day anniversary of the day of Ashura.
This is just the latest in a string of recent attacks that have directly targeted the country’s Shia minority.
Last November 30 people were killed and about 50 others injured after a suicide bomber targeted a Shia gathering to mark Ashura in Potiskum, Yobe state. In April a suicide bomber blew himself up as Shias prayed at an open-air mosque in Potiskum.
IHRC has also learned of a spate of attacks against Shias in the city of Jos in October this year which left over 30 people injured, some with broken limbs, and at least two mosques destroyed. The attacks followed a campaign of incitement by an anti-Shia leader who has long been agitating for their removal from the area.
Although Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre, nearly all of the other recent attacks have been the work of hardline groups or individuals seeking to stoke sectarian tensions in the country.
We are sure you will agree that the deliberate attempt to sow violent division and discord in the country poses a threat to both personal and individual security. Such targeting of a community on the basis of its religious beliefs also constitutes an attack on the legally enshrined fundamental freedom of religious expression.
We urge you to immediately arrest and bring to justice those responsible for perpetrating and inciting the violence and implement measures to protect those who remain vulnerable to attack.
The bombing on 27 November targeted a procession that was making its way to a gathering in Zaria on 3 December which annually attracts 15 million people. The Nigerian government should take urgent steps to ensure the safety of the gathering and the people travelling to it.
Not bringing the culpable to justice sends the message that the state is indifferent to such violence and serves as a motivation for the perpetrators to continue to target the Shia minority.
We also call on you to implement a zero tolerance approach to sectarianism that seeks to eliminate the menace at source. This is much more effective than dealing with the symptoms once they have developed and established roots.