The National Democratic Forum has in strong terms condemned the invasion of the National Assembly by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, otherwise known as Shiites, on Tuesday.
NDF described the attack on security agencies as an attempt to overthrow an arm of government.
Recall that protesting Shiites members agitating against the continuous incarceration of their leader, Sheik Al-Zakzaky on Tuesday clashed with the Nigeria military, resulting in the death of some persons and burning of vehicles.
The protesters, who were in large numbers, were heading towards the National Assembly at about 1.15pm but were intercepted by the military personnel already waiting at the gate.
Reacting to the development, NDF wondered the authorities have continued to threats the issue of the Shiites with kids gloves.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, shortly after the bloody clash, Dr Abdulakdir Bolaji, Secretary General of NDF, called on the authorities to immediately expel all known Shiites members from Abuja.
The group also demanded that all those arrested in connection with the attack on National Assembly must be arraigned for treason and attempt to overthrow the government.
The statement reads in full.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019, was the day members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) terrorised the very symbol of our democracy by launching coordinated attacks on the National Assembly. At the end of the attacks, the IMN members had snatched weapons from the security personnel on duty with which they shot two policemen and an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). At least three cars were destroyed while a security post was also vandalized. We are in the process of verifying if anyone died in the attack as reported by some media organizations.
For the duration of the attacks, Nigerians in the National Assembly Complex were terrorised on a scale comparable to last year’s terror attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan; the attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organisation based in Pakistan on Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai –India in 2018; and the terror attack of two months ago on Pearl Continental Hotel, Gwadar – Pakistan. The attacks on the National Assembly bear a frightening similarity to these other coordinated terror attacks because of the sheer helplessness that the occupants of these buildings experience for the duration of the barbarity.
Even at the height of their madness, Boko Haram never sent their terrorists to attack the National Assembly because they know the implication of such. They are aware that attacking the National Assembly is to add the crime of treason to whatever other criminality they may already be guilty of. The rap sheet for Shiites is, therefore, growing longer with illegal arms possession, operating as an outlawed group, acquiring military training in violation of the constitution, murder, attempted murder and now treason with an attempt to overthrow Nigeria’s democracy.
Permit us to mention that we know the Nigerian state is not helpless as some people will think. Without prejudice to whatever investigations will unveil, we believe that the snatching of the weapons from the security operatives was possible because of the directive that security agencies should exercise restraint in the face of IMN extremists. This approach to dealing with the threat posed by the outlawed group has proven to be a wrong call, one that must be immediately jettisoned by the state.
The National Assembly is the highest symbol of Nigeria’s democracy. Whilst Shiites were once seen as the problem of Zaria, Kaduna State, and Abuja, the Federal Capital territory, by attacking the National Assembly, they have made themselves the problem of all Nigerians because each and every one of us has a representative in the national parliament. The attack is, therefore, an attack on every state of Nigeria, on every citizen and on everything we stand for as a nation. The action of the IMN is, therefore, a visitation of terror on the Nigerian state. It is an attack targeted at overthrowing the government by destroying the strongest institution in our democracy.
We will like to point out that we had joined other Nigerians in the past to express reservations about the presence of Shiites extremists in the nation’s capital. They hide under the pretext that they are demanding for the release of their leader, Mr Ibraheem El-Zakyzaky, who is standing trial before a competent court. Unfortunately, possibly because of the fear of international backlash, the government allowed these extremists to continue to infiltrate the nation’s capital without evicting them.
The concerns we had expressed about the group in the past were because of their violent activities and attacks against state institutions and unwarranted clashes with security operatives. We must not lose sight of the fact that in their bid to acquire more weapons, the IMN fighters attempted to hijack a military convoy that was conveying weapons along the Zuba-Kaduna Expressway, a development that they used to bring the City under siege.
The situation is dire to the point where even residents of Abuja had expressed concerns about the activities of this outlawed group owing to the threat they pose to other Nigerians. This threat is in addition to their menacing protests that they use to deny other people unhindered use of the roads and causing traffic congestion.
Our demand to the Federal Government, in the light of Tuesday’s desecration, is unequivocal. A strong and clear message must be sent to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in a way that it reverberates even with their sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has recently been issuing propaganda to support these terrorists. The message must make it known that no theocratic entity will be allowed to overthrow Nigeria’s democracy, directly or through proxies like IMN.
We, therefore, demand that the Federal Government immediately expel all known IMN members from Abuja while law enforcement agencies are mandated to dismantle all known cells of the group, in the nation’s capital and across the country.
A further demand is that all those arrested in the attack on the National Assembly must be arraigned for treason and attempt to overthrow the government. In this case, the government must not cave into the blackmail of pro-Shiite countries and organizations that will wrongly accuse it of rights abuse.
The government must also rise up to the occasion and formally designate IMN as a terrorist group in line with existing anti-terrorism legislation. Had the Federal Government towed the line of the Kaduna state government that outlawed this terrorist group perhaps the country would have been saved from the harrowing experience of having the parliament come under attack.
It is our earnest hope that the government will not allow things to degenerate to the point where Nigerians are compelled to resort to self-help against IMN extremists as the situation is fast approaching the one of “kill or be killed”. Nigerians will not watch docilely while terrorists overrun their capital and attack their representatives. We expect to see actions on the part of the government in the days ahead as a way of reassuring us that terrorists will not be allowed to truncate our democracy.