The Islamic Movement in Nigeria on Tuesday said its designation as a terrorist group by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had the backing of Saudi Arabia.
The group through its Spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, said the Buhari administration designated the IMN, also known as Shi’ites, as a terrorist organisation to eliminate its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
The Shi’ites also alleged that Buhari wanted them to go underground to enable the Federal Government to embark on a massive destruction and killing of innocent Nigerians and security agents.
Why adducing reason for the President’s action, Musa said, “He wants to kill our leader. He wants to force us to go underground so that he could finish up the country by embarking on massive destruction and killing of innocent Nigerians and security personnel in our name.
“It was among the conditions he was given by the foreign foes of Nigeria, especially the Wahhabi/Salafi regime of Saudi Arabia.
“No degree of persecution by these sponsors of Book Haram and herdsmen can force us to go underground.
“The public and the international community should know that the Buhari regime is dominated by Boko Haram and herdsmen ideologues who are pathological enemies of Shi’ites Islam and Muslims.
“All the terrorist groups in the world who claim to be Sunni Muslims are not real Sunnis. They are Salafists (ex-communicators) who share the same ideology with the president and majority members of cabinet. This is because most of the victims of Boko Haram and their foreign brethren in Syria, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, Libya etc are mainstream Sunnis, Shia and Christians.”
But the Embassy of Saudi Arabia could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. It had yet to respond to an email on the allegations levelled against it by the Shi’ite movement as of the time of filing this report.
Anybody can say anything, Presidency replies Shi’ites
However, the Presidency reacted to the allegation in Abuja on Tuesday, saying that anybody was entitled to their opinion.
Responding to an enquiry by The PUNCH, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, simply stated, “Anybody can say anything. Anybody can say whatever they like. That is all that I have to say.”
Police begin mass arrest of sect members
But following the proscription of the IMN by a Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the arrest of the members of the sect and their leaders nationwide.
He stated that the Shi’ites would be treated like terrorists and Nigeria’s enemies and prosecuted under the Terrorism Act, including anyone associating with them in any way that could advance their activities in the country.
Disclosing this at the monthly IG conference with senior police officers in Abuja on Tuesday, Adamu said “all forms of procession or protest by IMN are now illegal and thus banned.”
He added that the 63 IMN members including seven women arrested for rioting would be prosecuted.
The IG noted that the activities of the IMN led by Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky had over time evolved to constitute a grave threat to national security, law and order, socio-religious harmony, peace, good governance and Nigeria’s sovereign integrity.
The police chief further alleged that the sect members were similarly involved in extreme radicalism, terror-related activities, violence and other unlawful activities. These, he said, were inimical to national security interest, good governance, and the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Adamu also said the sect had pledged allegiance to foreign countries from which they enjoyed political, financial and training support with the aim of advancing their intents to “destabilise Nigeria from within.”
He accused them of unauthorised blocking of public highways, mounting illegal roadblocks, imposing illegal curfews and checkpoints, raiding security assets, preventing of arrest of their members, invading of court premises to abort legal proceedings involving IMN members, and refusing to submit to ordinary security checks and attacks on security agents which led to the death of many Nigerians.
The Force also said the IMN set up a paramilitary guard known as ‘HURRAS’ through which the group had been terrorising local residents.
The Shi’ites, according to the police, also instituted unregistered security outfits and performed paramilitary ceremonies, including hoisting flags, combat exercises, parades and inspection by the IMN leader reminiscent of a state authority.
Adamu explained that the group engaged in provocative preaching and hate speech aimed at inciting its 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 an Islamic government.
He accused the Islamic sect of not recognising the constitution, state authority, democratic values and disrespect for judicial processes.
The police boss stated that the IMN had over the years manifested its penchant for launching attacks on Nigerians and the symbols of state authority.
Adamu noted that it had since 2018 till date launched coordinated and organised violent protests within the Federal Capital Territory.
He cited the killing of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, and a youth corps member, Precious Owolabi, during a violent protest by the sect in Abuja on July 22 and the invasion of the National Assembly complex by the Shi’ites on July 9 during which they attacked security personnel and also torched some vehicles to buttress his argument.
Adamu insisted that the sect’s activities clearly negated Section 1(2) (a)&(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and Section 2(1) (a) (b) (c) of the same Act, arguing that this justified their proscription in overriding national security interest.
The IG said, “Let me affirm that in relation to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, in view of their increasing engagement in 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.
“Henceforth, any person engaging or associating, in any manner that could advance the activities of the proscribed IMN 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 the IMN are 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.”
He added that adherents of the Shi’ite sect “remain free to continue to practise their faith and shall be guaranteed adequate security to so do as the judicial order does not stop them.”
But the Shi’ites’ spokesman told one of our correspondents in Kaduna that the clampdown and the persecution being meted out to their group, were parts of the conditions given to the President by the Saudi Arabian Government.
Cleric warns S’Arabia, Iran, says IMN is fake
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation, a Shi’ites non-governmental organisation has asked the Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to desist from making Nigeria another testing ground for their struggle for regional supremacy.
Rescind proscription order, HRW tells FG
But the Human Rights Watch, on Tuesday faulted the proscription of the IMN and urged government to rescind it.