By Abdulmumin Murtala
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria under the leadership of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who is currently in detention in Kaduna, has fired back at the Minister of Information Lai Muhammad who said their leader is detained for crime and not religion saying it is the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government that deserve a criminal trial, not its leader.
This is contained in a press statement signed by the group’s spokesperson Ibraheem Musa and made available to Vanguard in Kano on Monday.
The Information minister responded to the declaration by the United States government announcing Nigeria as one of the six countries in the world that temples upon rights to religion sighting the case of the IMN leader as an example among others.
Responding to the statement by the US, Lai told newsmen that the leader of the movement is being detained for crimes and not religion.
The statement reads in part: “We vehemently and in the most unequivocal terms condemn the recent purported statement attributed to the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Muhammed, that the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, is being held in detention for what he termed crimes and not religion. Indeed, if anyone deserves to be held and tried for crimes, it would be the top officials of the Buhari government, who killed over a thousand unarmed citizens extrajudicially and buried in mass graves and have used all the might of governance to hide the truth and obstruct the course of justice.
“The Nigerian government’s legendary disregard of the rule of law and the further acts of continuing persecution of members of the Islamic Movement, especially the impunity being constantly exhibited is well known to the International community. It is a subject of preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Furthermore, many local and international Human Rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Islamic Human Rights Commission have all investigated and documented the atrocities meted on members of the Islamic Movement and its leadership, purely based on their religious beliefs. That the ongoing persecution of the Islamic Movement has drawn the attention of the world, especially very lately, the United States government is a reality that no forms of lies by Mr. Lai can obliterate.
“The world is not deceived by the false charges levied against the Sheikh, even when the about a hundred persons he was alleged to have aided and abetted were all discharged and acquitted by competent courts of law. That these charges were brought against him only after more than two years of incommunicado detention and also more than a year and half after a Federal High Court had ordered his unconditional release is enough to show the government has been looking for an alibi to further keep him in perpetual detention” the statement said.
The group further attacked the minister accusing him of misinforming the public on the Islamic movement.
“Not so long ago, the same Minister of Information had told Nigerians that the leader of the Movement was being detained for his own protection, not that he committed any crime. In an effort to justify the contemptuous detention, Minister Lai had told Nigerians that the Sheikh was being still detained because no one wants to be his neighbor. Mr. Lai had once told a television feature program that the courts don’t have the full picture, and so will not abide by the ruling of the Court with regards to Sheikh Zakzaky. This same Mr. Lai had also atrociously lied about how much the government spends to feed Sheikh Zakzaky.
“These constant changes in position as to the reason for the illegal detention of Sheikh Zakzaky betray a government pursuing some ulterior religious motives, which even Honorable Gabriel Kolawole, then of the Federal High Court acknowledged while delivering his judgment when he said: “Invidious unobtrusive acts of intolerance by majority Muslims who follow the Sunni school of thought against the minority Muslims who follow the Shiah school of thought is an important factor escalating the current crisis leading to the continued detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the continued incessant persecution of its members.” This is now also the official position of the US government and no amount of lies, blackmail or intimidation can change this.
“We, the members of the Islamic Movement and our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky, are entitled to freedom of religion, association and expression like every Nigerian citizen, all of which the Buhari regime is denying us and perpetually persecuting us because of our faith and beliefs. Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is, undoubtedly, a prisoner of faith” they stated.
They called for the release of their leader, “We, therefore, call on the general public not to relent in their efforts at denouncing the tyrannical trends of the Buhari regime. The government must be called to order to respect the rule of law and release Sheikh Zakzaky immediately and unconditionally.”