- We’re consulting our lawyers, says Shi’ite group
By Lawrence Olaoye and Femi Oyelola, kaduna
The Presidency has said that the proscription of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shi’ites in the country from practising their religion.
But in a response to the proscription of the movement by a Federal High Court in Abuja, the Shi’ite group said yesterday that it is consulting with its lawyers, promising to react appropriately in due course.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday, said the proscription was instead to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.
The Presidency explained that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practising its religion, the Buhari administration has not banned Shi’ites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.
He said “Their position is blatantly false and deceptive.
“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, consistently defying authority of the state.
“The Presidency notes that the banned organization 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.
“The Presidency agrees 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 statement said.
The Presidency insisted that such criminal behavior and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government, explaining 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 regrets 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.
“Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilize 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. “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.’’
However, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has said it is carefully studying the purported order by a Federal High Court in Abuja that the Movement be declared a terrorist group and be proscribed, and is in consultations with its lawyers.
The President of Media Forum of the Movement, Ibrahim Musa, stated this in a statement made available to the media in Kaduna yesterday.
He said although the Movement is yet to receive the copy of the order, their scholars and the lawyers are already studying the development, and would provide an appropriate and adequate response in due course.
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”.