The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) on Sunday reacted to a statement by the presidency that President Muhammadu Buhari should not be blamed for the continued detention of the Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
In a statement signed by Ibrahim Musa, the President of the Media Forum of the group, IMN said the protests by its members in Abuja are due to government’s disregard to the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered that Mr El-Zakzaky be freed.
“At least before the Zaria massacre of 2015, the streets of Abuja that are more of concern to the government than the lives of its citizens has not been ‘taken over’ by the adherents of the Islamic Movement.
“That it is not possible under every logical reasoning to exonerate President Muhammadu Buhari from the genocide perpetrated by the Nigerian Army under his command as Commander-in-Chief, where over 1000 unarmed members of the Movement including men, women and children were killed on 12th-14th of December 2015. The government has declared illegally burying 347 members of the movement in a mass grave at Mando Village in Kaduna after the mass murder, in violation of the Geneva Convention, and every known law in the country.
“That the government has refused to abide by the report of Judicial Commission of Inquiry calling for the arrest and prosecution of soldiers that perpetrated the killing of peaceful members of the movement in Zaria,” Mr Musa wrote.
The presidency had in a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on July 19, said Mr El-Zakzaky is standing trial in Kaduna, and government at “the centre can be said to be clear of any alleged violations of court orders trumpeted every day.”
But the IMN in its statement accused the government of disobeying the Abuja federal court order.
“So which court is the presidency talking about that will decide the fate of our leader?” Mr Musa wrote.
“That the Buhari led government deliberately intends to instigate the Movement into violence through all its actions that include the Zaria massacre, and deliberate killing of peaceful protesters on the streets of Abuja by the presidential guards, the Brigade of Guards but the Movement continued to seek redress through all available, civil and peaceful means.
“The movement has never been violent or taken over streets as falsely claimed by the presidency. The Islamic Movement’s existence of about forty years, have it on record that the Movement has been peaceful and has never resorted to violence. It is only when the government sends it’s Police or Army to attack the always peaceful processions that fracas set in courtesy of the security agents planted in the Movement. We once again dissociate ourselves from any acts of brigandage during our protests on the streets.
“That the entire issue was instigated by the lack of foresight, lack of positive political will and lack of honesty by the Buhari led government which joined hands with Saudi Arabian authorities to kill Nigerian citizens simply because they don’t share the same religious school of thought with them in order to please them.
“We, therefore, call on the Nigerian government to stop deceiving the public by trying to paint itself as Saint in a place its actions are worse than those of the devil. The government should simply obey the court judgement, free the revered Sheikh and stop further fake cases in courts with the deliberate intention of keeping him in detention.
“The continued detention of the revered Sheikh despite his deteriorating health condition is only an act of torture and waiting for his death with the intention of instigating widespread violence in the country using the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. To prove this wrong, the government should Free Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky,” Mr Musa wrote.
Mr El-Zakzaky is currently facing trial in Kaduna for his role in the death of a soldier during the December 2015 massacre of the Shiites. He is being prosecuted alongside his wife, Zeenah.
It is the Kaduna trial that the presidency referred to when it said it was not in President Buhari’s hands.
Although the Kaduna court is yet to grant the Islamic cleric bail, a federal high court in Abuja had granted him bail, an order ignored by the federal government.
Apart from the over 300 Shiites killed within three days by soldiers in 2015, dozens of members of the IMN have also been killed by security officials during protests by the group in Abuja and Kaduna. At least one police officer has also been killed in the protest and others injured.
The security officials accuse the protesters of being violent and using dangerous weapons, a claim the Shiites denied.