•Says group pledged allegiance to foreign nations to ruin Nigeria
•Don’t turn Nigeria to battle ground, Shi’ite group warns S’Arabia, Iran
•Reverse yourself on Shi’ites proscription, Onaiyekan urges FG
•Says Nigeria’s security has worsened in last 5 years
•See Vanguard Editorial
By: Kingsley Omonobi, Ben Agande, Joe Erunke & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA—The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, said yesterday the federal government banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, also known as Shi’ites because the group was discovered to have pledged allegiance to some foreign countries determined to destabilize Nigeria.
Noting that the activities of IMN, led by Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, had over time evolved to constitute a grave threat to national security, law and order, as well as Nigeria’s sovereignty, the IGP said the group had been enjoying political, financial and training supports from the countries.
This came as another Shi’ites group, Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation, warned Saudi Arabia and Iran to desist from turning Nigeria into a theatre of war in their quest for regional superiority.
Similarly, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to reverse itself on the proscription of IMN, saying Nigeria’s global image as a democratic nation was under threat.
IGP Adamu, who spoke at the monthly security conference with DIGs, AIGs and Command CPs, noted that the IMN was guilty of setting up a para-military guard, known as ‘HURRAS’, which it had been using to terrorize local residents.
According to him, the Shi’ites have also instituted unregistered security outfits and performed para-military ceremonies, hoisting of flags, combat exercises, parades and inspection by the IMN leader.
Why IMN was banned — IGP
He said: “The members of the IMN have engaged in extreme radicalism, series of terror-related activities, violence and other unlawful activities which are inimical to national security, good governance and the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“They engage in unauthorized blocking of public highways, illegal road blocks, imposition of illegal curfews and checkpoints, raids on security assets, prevention of arrest of their members, invasion of court premises to abort legal proceedings involving IMN members, refusal to submit to ordinary security checks and attacks on security agents which led to the death of several Nigerians.
“They also in provocative preaching and hate speeches, aimed at inciting members against non-members, while working towards its agenda of creating an Islamic state in Nigeria and challenging the legitimacy of the Federal Government in favour of Islamic government, non-recognition of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, non-recognition of state authority, non-recognition of our democratic values and disrespect for our judicial processes.
“The IMN has over the years manifested its penchant for launching attacks on Nigerians and the symbols of state authority. Since 2018 till date, the IMN has engaged in coordinated and organized violent protests within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
“Two weeks ago, the IMN extended its violent protest on July 9, 2019, to the National Assembly in the course of which they violently attacked and fatally injured security operatives, in an attempt to overrun the National Assembly and threatened the nation’s democratic order.
‘’The protesters overwhelmed the first gate of the complex, inflicting damage on the security post, and marched on to the second one just before the main complex while the lawmakers were in session.
‘’They also damaged a police vehicle and several other vehicles belonging to visitors, lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly who also sustained varying degrees of injuries.
“On July 22, 2019, the IMN members again launched another vicious cycle of violent protest around the federal secretariat, during which they set a sub-station of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, containing a truck and an ambulance, on fire.
‘’A Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, in charge of Operations at the FCT Police Command and Precious Owolabi, a National Youth Service Corp member in the FCT were killed and several others injured, with many properties destroyed by them.
“The violent activities of IMN, under the guise of clamouring for the release of their leader who is being detained on the order of a court of competent jurisdiction in Kaduna State, has not only confirmed their disdain for due legal processes, but also heightened tension and insecurity in the country in a manner that confirms that their motivation is to destabilise the country.
“It is obvious from the foregoing that the activities of IMN constitute glaring defiance and/or rebellion against the Nigerian state, calculated efforts to plunge the nation into an ethno-religious war, intimidation of citizens and security agents, disrespect for Nigerian laws and the authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
“Their activities also clearly and consistently negate Section 1(2)(A)&(B) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 and Section 2(1)(A)(B)(C) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act of 2013 and hence, justify their proscription in overriding national security interest.
The proscription order
“Although this meeting will review this and other general security situation and emplace appropriate action plans that are targeted at addressing these threats, let me affirm that in relation to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, in view of their increasing engagement of terror tactics and other violent and subversive activities which contravene the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013, as amended, and vide the judicial pronouncement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on July 26, 2019, the Federal Government has classified them as a terrorist group and has accordingly, proscribed the El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
“In consequence, henceforth, any person engaged or associating, in any manner that could advance the activities of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria, shall be treated as a terrorist, enemy of the state, and a subversive element and shall be brought to justice within the context of the Terrorism Act.
‘’The import of this is that all forms of procession or protest by IMN is now illegal and thus banned. The Police and other security agencies are fully committed to giving full effect to this judicial pronouncement in the interest of our internal security and national cohesion.
‘’In this regard, I wish to solicit the support of members of the public, specifically, in the provision of information that will aid the identification of the locations of IMN members and their mentors as well as in working with us in apprehending and bringing them to justice.
‘’For the purpose of clarification, Nigeria is a secular state with constitutional provisions guaranteeing the freedom to practice our faiths. This, however, must be exercised in a manner that will not threaten our national security.
‘’It is to be emphasised that while all adherents of the Shi’ite sect in Nigeria remain free to continue to practice their faith and shall be guaranteed adequate security to so do as the judicial order does not stop them, the El-Zakzaky-led Shi’ite Islamic Movement in Nigeria which does not recognise nor accept the constitution and government of the federation, is the sole organisation that has been classified as a terrorist organisation and proscribed.’’
Commending police strategic commanders and their officers and men for their dedication to duty and the sacrifices they have to make in the line of duty, IGP Adamu said: “In this context, I wish to particularly recognize and condole (with) the families of late DCP Usman A.K. Umar and Precious Owolabi, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, member that lost their lives during the recent violent campaign of members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria in Abuja on July 22, 2019.
“I also commiserate with all other police personnel and citizens that were injured or had their valuable assets vandalised during the violence. I can assure that the perpetrators of these tragic and unguided acts shall in the fullness of time, be identified and brought to book.
‘’I have already directed the Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, to undertake a detailed investigation into the circumstances of the death of these great citizens and to identify the perpetrators, with a view to prosecuting them.’’
On police performance against criminality since the launching of Operation Puff Adder, the IGP said: “From January, 2019 to date, 4,187 high profile criminals, including 1,629 armed robbery suspects; 1,053 suspected kidnappers; 1,023 cultists, 482 murder suspects, have been arrested.
‘’In addition, 1,181 firearms of various descriptions and calibre, including improvised explosive devices, IEDs, and rocket launchers, were recovered in various police operations across the country within the same period.’’
Shi’te group warns Saudi Arabia, Iran
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of a Kaduna-based Shiite organisation, known as Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation, Sheikh Hamza Lawal, has warned Saudi Arabia and Iran to desist from turning Nigeria into a theatre of war in their quest for regional superiority.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna, yesterday, on the ban placed on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, Sheikh Lawal said the IMN does not represent what Shiism is, saying the group was a “fake organisation and misrepresentation of Shiism.”
Noting that the IMN was a movement and not a sect of Islam, Sheikh Lawal said its members included Christians.
He said: “We urge Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia to desist from making Nigeria another testing ground of their struggle for regional supremacy. We cherish our peace.
“We don’t want Nigeria to become a theatre of war by these two arms of Islam. Saudi Arabia represents the Sunni arm, while Iran represents the Shi’ite arm”
Speaking on the leader of the IMN, Ibraheem El Zakzaky, Sheikh Lawal appealed to Kaduna State governor to withdraw the case against him from the state High Court.
Accusing El-Zakzaky of hypocrisy who he also said was not representing Shiism, Sheikh Lawal said: “I was a member of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, between 1981 and 2,000 a year after I returned home from the Islamic Republic of Iran where I studied Theology.
“IMN started in the late 1970s as a socio-cultural and political, religious revivalist movement, drawing it’s inspiration and taking its cue from essentially Sunni activism from countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. It was an offshoot of Muslim students society.
“When the leader of IMN, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky became a Shi’ite afterwards, he fell into the dilemma of either abandoning his Sunnite revivalist movement and risking the possibility of losing his followers or continuing with the movement with all the Sunni’s contents but with a Shi’ite face. He chose the latter and that has been his undoing.
“Sheikh El-Zakzaky has not been able to complete his process of migration from Sunni activism to Shi’ite evangelism. His movement is a curious hybrid and hard mixture, a dangerously unstable cocktail of incoherent and disorganised hallucinations and fantasies that only exist in their widest dreams.
“In fact, when critical study of IMN is done, it later turned out that it is much more closer to Sunni Islam. IMN is not another name for Shiism. The two are neither synonymous nor interchangeable.
‘’IMN is not a Shi’ite organisation. Yes, many of its recruits are Shi’ites, but there are many others also who are Sunnis and Christians. It is a movement.
“Some of its leaders appear to the public in regalia of Shi’ite clerics. But that is where it stops. IMN is not genuine. It is fake. It is a bad product and un-marketable one for that matter. IMN is the wrong advertisement copy. IMN has crashed the gate of Shiism.
“Intellectually and philosophically, he is not grounded in Shiism. He should have abandoned the struggle completely and become a completely new person. He should now change from activism to evangelism. But he has not been able to change up till now.
“So, this posture, this thing you see in the street of Abuja, Kaduna and all over the place is not Shiism. They are just a cover up and a smokescreen for El-Zakzaky to continue to maintain his followership.”
Onaiyekan urges FG to reverse itself on proscription of IMN
Also yesterday, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, urged the Federal Government to reverse itself on the proscription of IMN, saying Nigeria’s global image as a democratic nation is under threat.
According to him, there is urgent need for the government to reaffirm its commitment to respecting the rights of religious groups to exist and operate freely in the country without undue interference.
Onaiyekan, who stated this in Abuja during a State-of-the-Nation address to mark his 50th anniversary as a cleric, maintained that the members of IMN, better known as Shi’ites, had a right to express their grievances against the state through street protests and demonstrations.
He said: “The proscription of a religious group is certainly not in our character in Nigeria. But government has an allergy to admitting they have made an error.
“I hold to the Presidency’s statement that they are not proscribing any religious organisation. The issue now is to press the government to reconfirm that they are committed to respecting the rights of religious groups to exist and to operate in Nigeria.
‘’That right should be given not only to the Catholics, the Sunnis, the Anglicans and other groups but also to the Shi’ites.
“My hope is that having made that mistake, the government will reverse itself because the impression the Shi’ite proscription gives about Nigeria around the world is terrible.
“It portrays us as a country where government can wake up one day, get a court order from nowhere to proscribe a religious group. If we allow that to go, it means Catholics and my own religion can also be prescribed any day by any government who manages to get any judge to issue an ex-parte or non ex-parte order.
“The Shi’ites have told us why they are protesting. The fact that I have not joined them in their protest does not mean that I don’t believe they have the right to protest. Their leader has been under detention against a court order.
“If I were a Muslim, I will also fight for the freedom of every Muslim because freedom of religion is not only the freedom between different religions; there is also freedom within religions.
‘’I don’t know what will happen if I was detained unjustly and the court orders my release and they refuse to allow me to come out, I don’t know if anybody will be able to stop the Catholics from protesting.
“If a religious group goes against the existing laws of the nation, hold them accountable and prosecute them. From that point onward, it is the job of the judiciary to determine for them. But, for the government to just wake up and prosecute them is a mistake. It is one step too far. We cannot allow Sheikh El-Zakzaky to die in the hands of government.”
Nigeria’s security worsens in five years
On the alarming state of insecurity across the country, Onaiyekan said until the federal government admits its failures in the fight against terror and banditry, fulfilling its responsibility of securing the people will prove elusive.
He said: “Truth of the matter is that we are in deep trouble. The security of the country is in serious condition. Not only that, we know this, we suffer it.
“It has not always been like this but the government congratulates itself that it is doing its best and that we Nigerian should be grateful. For me, that’s where the problem lies.
“Until government recognises that security has changed for the worst in the last five years, it is unlikely that they will put forward means to reverse the trend. We still want to believe the state can protect us, because the alternative is that we do not have a government.”
Buhari’s ministerial list too large
While finding no fault with the ‘bow and go’ screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees since the Standing Order of the National Assembly permits it, the Catholic Archbishop faulted the size of the proposed cabinet, saying 43 federal ministers would be too large and expensive to maintain.
He said: “I can hardly accuse the National Assembly of not doing the right thing, because they claim that what they are doing with the ‘bow and go’ screening of ministerial nominees is in line with their standing rules.
“As a Nigerian watching, I am looking forward to a federal executive council that will move into action swiftly so that within a month or two, Nigerians will be able to say ‘Mr. President has put together a good team.’
“But if you ask me, I will say 43 ministers are too many for the presidential cabinet. But we can only make a final judgement at the end of the day, when we see how they perform. By their fruits, we shall know them. Democracy can only be judged by its fruit, which is good governance.”
FG’s Ruga plan not clear to Nigerians
On the suspended Ruga settlement plan for herdsmen, Onaiyekan admitted the project was a laudable initiative which would enhance Nigeria’s agro-economy, if the herders’ settlement was positively piloted by the 36 state governments for indigenous herders and not just for the Fulanis alone.
He, however, faulted the opacity of the Federal Government’s intentions with the Ruga project.
“The problem I see with the proposed Ruga settlement plan is that it is very vague. The federal government did not define to Nigerians what Ruga is? What the objectives are? How it will work?
‘’These questions gave rise to a free ground for all kinds of conspiracy theories which have generated a major crisis on the nation. If the government had explained what Ruga means, Nigerians may begin to see for themselves what the good intentions for the Ruga project were and perhaps embrace it.
“My position is let us not throw away the Ruga plan like throwing away the baby with the bathe the water, but let us apply it now positively to every part of Nigeria,’’ he said.
Nigeria’s governance structure faulty
As a panacea to the many governance problems facing the nation, the top cleric reiterated the call for restructuring of the political power set-up in Nigeria.
“We must admit that the structure we have on ground is not working well. No country has a perfect structure. Every country is working to improve its structure.
“There is nothing special with the fact that the there is something wrong with the structure we inherited. What is needed is to improve it. So, the call for restructuring is an effort to look at our structure of governance, with a view to seeing how we can improve upon it.
“Just like a building with a faulty architecture, the thinking is that the architecture of our state is wrong and no amount of patch up can fix it. We seem to have arrived at a situation where we cannot continue to patch up this system.
“We need to improve the structure and doing so means we may need to sit together as a people to decide the kind of federation we want for our country.”