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Shiites’ protests and danger of terrorism

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Shiites’ protests and danger of terrorism

 

On May 2, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) also known as Shiites defied police ban on their activities in Abuja, embarked on another protest and, in the process, shut down the Wuse and Berger areas of the metropolis. On May 14, the IMN members also protested and confronted the police in Abuja.

 

The genesis of these endless confrontations with law enforcement agencies can be traced to the clash between the Shiites and the Army in December 2015, when the group, in one of their processions, denied access to the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai.

That action eventually spiralled out of control, leaving many members of the group dead and their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El Zakzaky and others arrested. It is in a bid to secure the release of their leaders that the Shiites continue to embark on these protests.

 

Even with heavy police presence and the use of teargas, it is clear that the group is not deterred. Indeed, they have devised other means to circumvent the police. Rather than converge on their usual meeting place at the Unity Fountain, they have resorted to meeting at other locations and in smaller units, thereby taking law enforcement agents by surprise in some cases.

 

“…We will not relent in our peaceful mass protests as long as the government continues to keep Sheikh El Zakzaky in illegal detention even with his deteriorating health situation and without access to proper medical attention and his lawyers.”

 

This statement by IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, gives a clear insight into the resolve of the group in their demand for the release of their leader. It is this refusal of the government to let El Zakzaky go that is at the root of the unending clashes between the Shiites and police.

 

The question, therefore, is why has the Federal Government refused to release El Zakzaky in a flagrant disregard of court orders? If the government has anything against the court rulings, they should challenge it at the law courts by appealing the judgement rather than detaining the man in perpetuity. Not to do that shows impunity and contempt for the rule of law.

 

Not long ago, government was compelled to bring out El Zakzaky when rumours swirled all over the country that the Shiite leader had died in custody. If they could bring him out, albeit temporarily, to speak to and reassure Nigerians that he is still alive, why is it so difficult to let the man go and follow up the case in the court of law?

 

Apparently, El Zakzaky has some health challenges and needs proper medical attention, but he has been denied access to his doctors as his followers have continued to assert. Again, since his unlawful incarceration his health may have deteriorated and nobody can say for sure where this may lead.

 

But what we do know, however, is that this was how the monster of Boko Haram was unleashed. The leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, was detained by government, but to the consternation and shock of Nigerians the man was killed in an extrajudicial fashion. From that action, which pales in significance now, the terror of Boko Haram was unleashed on the nation with devastating consequences.

 

Up till now, the Federal Government is still struggling to contain the sect which, at the height of its reign of terror had some parts of Nigerian territory, especially North-East, under its control. And although the ability of the evil sect to cause havoc had been greatly reduced, with government gleefully announcing that it had been degraded significantly, it is obvious that its resort to guerrilla tactics of suicide bombings, hitting soft targets and hit-and-run, had proved intractable for government.

 

Clearly, therefore, government cannot afford to breed another terror group. If grappling with one is proving intractable, it is left to the imagination what having to engage in battles on two fronts will mean for already overstretched security agencies. With Boko Haram still ravaging and rampaging across the North-East, we insist that courting trouble in the form of Shiites is something that must be avoided at all costs.

 

It is in this regard that we appeal to government to release El Zakzaky. The claim by government that it has certain vital security information about the man may not, at the end of the day, hold much water. If government has anything against him they should go to court. And if he is found guilty by a competent court of law, then let him do the time. But if the government, for whatever reason, cannot let El Zakzaky have his day in court, then they must release him.

 

Not to do that will also mean confirming the United States Department’s recent report that the government of Muhammadu Buhari has engaged in human rights violations and impunity. The State Department cited the December 2015 clash between members of the IMN and the Nigerian Army as an example of these human rights breaches.

 

So, government has the opportunity to redeem itself and debunk these claims of impunity and human rights violations. And releasing El Zakzaky is a good place to start.

 

 

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  1. Pingback: NIGERIA NEWSPAPER HEADLINES FOR TODAY [Thu-17-May-2018] | Welcome to Olajide.TV

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