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Nigerian presidency explains banning of Shiite group to discourage violence

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The Presidency in Nigeria says the proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law-abiding Shi’ites in the country from practicing their religion.

While speaking in Abuja on Sunday, 28 July 2019, Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said the banning was to discourage wanton violence, murder and wilful destruction of public and private property.

Shehu explained that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion, the Buhari administration had not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.

According to him, their position is blatantly false and deceptive.

“The IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public property, consistently defying authority of the state.

“The Presidency notes that the banned organization was taken over by extremists, who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.

“The Presidency agrees that the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of the society, especially where such freedom harms others, and breaks law and order.

“The Presidency insists that such criminal behaviour and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government,” Shehu added.

An ex parte order was granted by Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, 26 July 2019, proscribing the activities of IMN in any part of the country.

The court declared Shiites as a terrorist group.

The members of the group have been protesting the detention of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky, who had been held since December 2015 but now undergoing trial in Kaduna for alleged culpable homicide and murder.

The group had, in November 2015, engaged the military in a fight in Zaria, Kaduna state, leading to the killing of at least 320 people.

The latest protest came ahead of Monday, 29 July 2019’s court ruling on El-Zakzaky’s bail application.

Meanwhile, Femi Falana, lawyer to the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has condemned the action of the Federal Government to proscribe the Shiite group.

In a statement on Sunday, 28 July 2019, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist, described the proscription as ‘immoral and illegal’.

He believes that the order is particularly opportunistic on the part of the Sunnis occupying public offices to use the instrumentality of the state to liquidate the Shiites.

– APA

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