A pro-democracy group, Centre for Democracy and Development, in Nigeria has condemned Wednesday’s attacks on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, the country’s foremost Shiite sect across the country.
In a statement on Thursday, the group warned that such violence against a religious group is capable of radicalising its members.
“We have enough insurgencies and violent conflicts in Nigeria and the Centre for Democracy appeals to authorities and the civil populace to beware of pushing out country to more violent conflicts,” said Idayat Hassan, Director of the Abuja-based CDD.
More than eight members of the IMN group were killed in a wave of violence against the sect that began in Kaduna and then spread to, at least, two other northern states.
The IMN issued a statement late Wednesday saying that no fewer than 13 of its members had been killed in multiple clashes with the police and some hoodlums in Funtua, Sokoto and Kaduna.
Last week, the Kaduna State Government announced a ban on the activities of the Shiite members, describing the group as an unlawful society.
Days later, Kano, Katsina, and Kebbi States followed suit, saying the proscription was due to the group’s unlawful processions, obstruction of public highways, and unauthorised occupation of public facilities without regard to other citizens and the public peace.
The proscription came ten months after over 300 members of the sect were killed by soldiers who accused them of blocking a road and plotting to kill the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general.
The IMN denied the charges, saying its members were targeted in an extra judicial killing, and had continued to demand the release of its leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who had been detained since then.
“This act of the Kaduna State Government has been a trigger that unleashed these attacks on members of the Shi’a community all over the country,” said Ms. Hassan.
“It is estimated that there are about three million members of this religious community all over the country and it is very irresponsible for a State Government to proscribe their operations.
“So far, the army has killed six out his (El-Zakzaky) seven sons and now his organisation has been proscribed in Kaduna State while their members are being attacked all over the country.
“It appears that there is an attempt to push the Shiites in Nigeria to popular revolt.”
‘Shiite sect culpable’
However, the Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency, a civil society organisation, blamed the Shiite members for the violence and demanded further government crackdown on their activities.
Joyce Adamu, the group’s Executive Director, said the sect’s insistence on going ahead with their procession despite their proscription was intended to provoke confrontation.
“The leadership of IMN must be held responsible for the latest incidence of violence,” said Ms. Adamu.
“They must be told in clear terms that their attempt to make laws for themselves to govern other Nigerians is the height of callousness and to dare the sovereignty of Nigeria is a life threatening provocation.”
Ms. Adamu urged the Nigerian government to designate IMN as the latest terror group in the country and proceed to seek international support to prevent its funding from Iran.
“We urge Nigerians of all faiths to resist the temptation of being brought down to the level of IMN by losing regard for the sanctity of human life. They must at all times invite law enforcement agencies to deal with the Shiite menace as they are the only ones legally empowered to do so.”