My life in God’s hands,’ Lekwot replies Sharia council’s call for revisiting his death sentence

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Zamani Lekwot, chairman of the Southern Kaduna Elders Forum (SKEF), has reacted to call for the revisiting of the death sentence handed to him and six other persons over the 1992 Zangon Kataf riot.

Former military President Ibrahim Babangida had set up a tribunal to investigate the riot which led to massive destruction of lives and property in Kaduna.

The tribunal headed by Benedict Okadigbo, a former judge, had indicted Lekwot and others whom he sentenced to death.

But Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, granted them pardon in 1996.

Last week, AbdulRahman Hassan, secretary of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN), demanded that the verdict be revisited.

Hassan said the execution of Lekwot and others would end the crisis in southern Kaduna.

Speaking with journalists after the weekly protest and prayer session at the ECWA Church, Narayi High Cost, Kaduna on Sunday, Lekwot said his life is in the hands of God, “not detractors”.

The former military governor of Rivers state said: “All religious leaders are expected to preach peace, not hate and religious violence.”

“The killings which took place 28 years in Zangon Kataf was unfortunate, but the genesis was a dispute over relocation of a market and at the end of the day, a commission of inquiry was set up, and recommendations were made.

“All of the recommendation have been implemented. So, those referring to it are being clever by half. What we need in the country is genuine tolerance.

“Now by saying what they said they have just confirmed why armed foreign bandits have been imported into our country to destroy our country. How does what they said address the issues at hand? What is happening in southern Kaduna and other parts of the country is a bad omen for our unity and stability.”

Lekwot also spoke against comments by Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, commander of the Operation Safe Heaven, who said that “criminal elements on both sides” in southern Kaduna were responsible for the crisis in the area.

He described Okonkwo’s statement “as very unfortunate one coming from a military commander”.

Supo Ayokunle, president of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and Steven Baba, president of ECWA Church, who attended the prayer session, described the statement by SCSN as an agenda to set the country ablaze.

They, however, commended the federal government over the deployment of special military forces to maintain peace in southern Kaduna.

They also called on the government to arrest and prosecute those behind the killings in order to ensure lasting peace.

“How can you imagine something that happened 28 years ago in Zangon Kataf and some people are calling for execution of Lekwot and others now, in the midst of crisis in Southern Kaduna. Will that help in peace building?” Ayokunle asked.

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