FOR the second time in as many years, the Nigerian Army descended heavily on the Sheikh Ibrahim Yaqub el Zakzaky led Zaria-based Islamic sect, which styles itself as “the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN)” but who are more popularly referred to as the Shiites, with many killed and injured, and the whereabouts of the sect’s leader unclear.
The latest clashes, which saw the destruction of the sect’s convention centre in Zaria, Kaduna State, penultimate weekend, was sequel to a similar event last year which led to the death of dozens of the Islamic preacher’s followers, including three of his sons. It started when the group blocked a major highway in the city and prevented the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, from performing an official function and paying a condolence visit to the Zaria monarch.
Rather than yield to entreaties by army officers to open the road, the sect’s followers, perhaps mindful of the harsh crackdown of the security forces on their members in the past took hostile measures which the Army read as an attempt on the life of their chief, Buratai. Speaking in a television interview, Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, made it clear that the military had to take proactive steps against the group to prevent a situation in the past repeating itself, where Boko Haram, a similar sect, was allowed to grow from an outlaw group to the world renowned terrorist group that threatened the nation.
The clashes this time drew the attention of foreign interests, as the governments of Iran and Iraq, which have predominant populations of Shiites, called for an inquiry into the incident.
The governments of the USA and UK and rights advocacy group, Amnesty International also called for an investigation, which the House of Representatives has already started.
We also join in this call to ensure that this sect, which has existed in Nigeria for the past forty years, is not allowed to become another threat to the security of the nation.