I was framed for Zangon-Kataf crisis –Lekwot

EX-MILITARY Governor of Rivers State Zamani Lekwot has said he was not responsible for the killings in the Zangon-Kataf crisis in 1992, which claimed hundreds of lives and left many others injured.

Lekwot, who spoke exclusively with Daily Trust in an interview published on Sunday, September 10, said he was framed and unjustly punished for the riot despite not being a party to it.

“The Zangon-Kataf issue was just blackmail. Do you see a whole general going to the village to kill villagers? No, it doesn’t make sense. Even the tissue of the lies they dashed out were not convincing. How can a general go and start killing people? I am not mad.

“The military tradition demands that when a soldier commits an offence, and he has to be put in the guardroom, you must tell him what he has done wrong so that he can prepare his defence within 24 hours. 

“Nobody asked me anything. What caused the problem was a market relocation. A day was fixed for the market to be opened, people started a riot, and some people were killed. I was just framed up by some people,” Lekwot said.

The Zangon-Kataf crisis was one of the major violent clashes between various ethnic groups in the Northern region of Nigeria.

It began in February 1992 following a proposal to move a market from a location more favourable to the Hausas to one which seemed more beneficial to the Atyap people of the region.

The dispute occurred in February and May 1992, and over 460 people were killed. It transcended tribal rivalry and assumed a more religious outlook, as many Christians from other ethnic groups were murdered.






     

     

    Following the crisis, Lekwot and six others were arrested for the riot. They were tried by a tribunal set up by the former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida and sentenced to death for charges around unlawful assembly and rioting with arms, among others.

    Under Chris Okadigbo’s leadership, the tribunal left no room for appeal, and the convicted men were incarcerated until 1996, when they were eventually granted pardon and released under the Sani-Abacha-led government.

    In 2020, however, the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN) called for a revisit to the death sentence, saying it was the only means to achieve peace in Northern Nigeria.

    During the interview, Lekwot maintained that his implication in the riot resulted from conspiracy and blackmail.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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