Intelligence firm cautions Nigeria on handling of Shiite crisis

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Shittes protesting

The unfolding confrontation between security agencies and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria could evolve into a full-blown sectarian unrest if not urgently addressed, an intelligence firm warned Friday.

SBM Intelligence, a strategic intelligence analysis provider, said the brewing crisis “represents a threat to a society barely back on its feet from the recurring hits it has taken from the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency.”

The warning came amid nationwide apprehension over frequent clashes between the IMN members on one hand and the police and hoodlums on the other in a few states across northern Nigeria.

The chaos is directly blamed on the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, as the fallout of his October 7 proscription order against the Shiites in his state.

Mr. El-Rufai’s proclamation was welcomed in other northern states such as Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Plateau where similar measures were put in place.

Reports from the states said some hoodlums had taken the law into their hands and are now actively marking down the Shiites for attacks.

Mr. El-Rufai and other governors havecondemned the violence and warned of grave consequences for anyone suspected in extrajudicial attacks on IMN members.

SBM Intelligence warned in August that Nigerian security agencies were already overstretched and military personnel could be found in 30 of the 36 Nigerian states.

In its latest observation, which was made available to PREMIUM TIMES in an email, the organisation said Nigeria’s history is replete with similar occurrences in the past and warned Nigerian leaders to exercise caution so as to avoid a repetition.

“In dealing with the unfolding Shiite crisis, we are going down a well-worn path, but with a twist,” SBM Intelligence said.

“When this is situated within the context of the latent threat of a Boko Haram resurgence; the escalating situation in the Middle Belt; the continuing militant activity in the Niger Delta; the IPOB/Biafra movements which though not in open conflict, could be ignited if not handled appropriately; the current handling of the Shia crisis with force across such a vast space could be problematic, and could potentially overstretch the army so much that they are unable to contain the threat.”

SBM Intelligence said banning the Shiite’s IMN contradicted the Nigerian constitution which guarantees the fundamental rights of citizens; and could spark a crisis that would be difficult to contain.

”Any similar crisis with the Shiite would not be a straightforward battle, because unlike Boko Haram which depends on a largely illiterate fellowship, they are a lot more sophisticated.

“Within their ranks, the Shiites boast of well-educated intellectuals who are embedded within the Nigerian state and spread across the country. The threat is one of a reported two million strong coordinated group with a robust foreign backing, in Iran.

“The consequence of engaging this group like earlier done with Boko Haram would be far-reaching, devastating and possibly apocalyptic,” the firm said.

There are also possibilities that the actions taken by Mr. El-Rufai and other northern governors were in furtherance of a discrete agenda being pushed by Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni Islam country, SBM Intelligence said.

“We must realise that it is unwise to drag Nigeria into becoming a proxy site for the battle between Wahabism on the one hand and Shiism on the other.

“The actual powers in the Middle East that are the sources of this conflict, Saudi Arabia and Iran, wisely keep the battles away from their own territory and fight in other people’s countries.

“They are unrestrained in causing untold destruction and devastation since these proxy battlefields aren’t their own homes, an attitude that can be seen in how they have behaved in places like Yemen.

“They will be even less concerned about destruction in a far-away African country, so long as their proxy battle continues. We must wisely eschew this,” SBM Intelligence said.

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