The presidency has clarified that the federal government only proscribes the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and not the entire Shiites’ community in Nigeria.
Reacting to the controversy trailing the Federal High Court order outlawing Shiites in the country, the presidency said that the ban had nothing to do with the larger numbers of peaceful and law-abiding Shiites in the country.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, explained that the proscription of IMN was to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.
Shehu, who issued a statement on the matter yesterday in Abuja, said that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion; the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.
He described the group’s position as blatantly false and deceptive.
Shehu said that the IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public property, and consistently defying the authority of the state.
The presidential aide noted that the banned organisation was taken over by extremists who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.
Shehu agreed that the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of the society, especially where such freedom harms others, and breaks law and order.
The presidency warned that such criminal behaviour and disregard for the rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government, noting that everywhere in the world, protesters operate within legal boundaries and conduct themselves peacefully without molesting others, or engaging in murder and killing of security personnel or destroying public and private property.
The presidency regretted that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants to see reason and abandon violence, such appeals fell on deaf ears as they killed, maimed and destroyed willfully, constituting daily nuisance to workers, commuters and other innocent citizens.
Shehu said: “Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilise the country, the government had to act before the situation goes out of control, after admonishing many times over that people should not use religion to perpetuate lawlessness.
“We are fighting lawlessness and criminality and not pursuing a policy of discrimination against any group,” the presidency stressed, adding that “you cannot be in court while at the same time engaging in violent protests, molesting people and inflicting pains on others, which includes taking innocent lives.”
Our Proscription, Big Joke, Says IMN
In a swift reaction, the group described its proscription by the government as a big joke.
Through a statement released yesterday in Abuja by its spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, the movement said that it was studying the order of the Federal High Court in Abuja that it is a terrorist group and be proscribed, adding that it was in consultations with its lawyers.
Musa said that although IMN was yet to receive the copy of the court order, the group’s scholars and the lawyers were already studying the development, and would provide an appropriate and adequate response in due course.
He said: “The Islamic Movement has learnt of the fallacious court order for its proscription by a high court in Abuja, that it is a terrorist group.
“We are in consultations with our lawyers, and we would, as a peaceful people who have been victims of Buhari government-sponsored terror attacks throughout his first term and continuing, give an appropriate response.
“We want to assure the general public and the international community that we will not be pushed into taking any rash decision no matter the provocation.
“This order, we believe, was hastily obtained to sweep under the carpet the glaring human rights abuses suffered by the Islamic Movement at the hands of Buhari’s administration since the Zaria genocide of December 2015. We reject any false flag terror attacks that the authorities would be plotting in our name, and by this assure the general public that we have never contemplated the use of terror tactics in our ways. This is not about to change.
“It is all part of the blinding official stereotypes against the Islamic Movement. We would, however, not relent in calling for the immediate release of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, using all lawful and peaceful means as we have done all this while. We will not be distracted by this huge joke,” IMN said.
S’East govs to embrace FG’s community policing
To curb the growing insecurity in the region, the South East Governor’s Forum has resolved to adopt the federal government’s community policing programme and the establishment of Forest Guards in each state and roads cleared up to 50 metres into the bush to have a clear view of the highways ahead.
The forum’s chairman and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, disclosed this to newsmen in Enugu yesterday when he read a communiqué issued at the end of the governors’ meeting.
Umahi said that the governors reviewed the security situation in the zone and in response to the emerging security challenges decided to set up both a committee and a Centre for South East Integrated Security Monitoring /Intelligence Gathering to be located in Enugu.
The security Committee, according to him, would also address the safety of fuel pipeline route to Enugu Depot to ensure that pumping of petroleum product in Enugu Depot resumes in the shortest possible time.
On the controversial Ruga scheme, Umahi said that the forum maintained its earlier decision that there was no land in South East for the programme.
He explained that the forum resolved to put funds together for their people who are interested in rice, cassava, cow rearing, piggery, goat rearing, poultry, among other cash crops, suitable for the region.
The forum, according to him, commended Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for his numerous interventions in addressing recent concerns raised by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and in ensuring that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport is functional.
“However, we are highly concerned about the deplorable state of the airport runway and plead with the federal government to consider our numerous requests in reconstructing the runway to enhance the safety of our people,” he said.
The meeting was attended by governors Ugwuanyi, Umahi, and his Abia State counterpart, Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
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