IMN proscription meant to forestall violent acts – FG

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*IMN leader, Mr. Ibraheem el-Zakzaky

Shehu Sani rolls out four-point solution to group’s crisis

The federal government has said that the proscription of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) also called Shi’ites, is meant to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.

It would be recalled that Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday issued the proscription order in a ruling delivered in an ex parte application brought by the federal government.

The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria.

IMN reacted to the ban saying it practices Islam and “nobody will ban us from praying under the law.”

“Does it mean we cannot do all the activities of the sect? Nobody has any right to ban any religion in Nigeria except they want to create another problem in Nigeria,” said spokesman for the academic forum of the IMN, Mr. Abdullahi Musa.

But the presidency punctured IMN’s position saying the proscription of IMN has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shiites in the country from practising their religion.

Spokesman for the president, Mr. Garba Shehu explained in a statement that he 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.

He also conceded that 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 statement reads: “The Presidency says the proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shiites in the country from practising their religion. Instead it was to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.

“Contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practising its religion, President @MBuhari’s administration has not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage. 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 public property, consistently defying State authority.

“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 behavior and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government.

“Everywhere in the world protesters operate within legal boundaries and conduct themselves peacefully without molesting others, or engaging in murder and killing of security personnel or destroying public and private property.

“The Presidency regrets that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants to see reason and abandon violence, such appeals fell on deaf ears as they killed, maimed and destroyed willfully, constituting daily nuisance to workers, commuters and other innocent citizens.

“Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilize the country, the government had to act before the situation goes out of control, after admonishing many times over that people should not use religion to perpetuate lawlessness.

“We are fighting lawlessness and criminality and not pursuing a policy of discrimination against any group. You cannot be in court while at the same time engaging in violent protests, molesting people and inflicting pains on others, which includes taking innocent lives.”

Meanwhile, former representative of Kaduna Central in the senate, Mr. Shehu Sani, said proscribing the IMN as a terror organisation will not end the face-off between the group and the federal government.

Speaking with journalists in Kano yesterday, Sani contended that the ban will worsen the crisis.

He therefore gave a four-point solution to the problem.

“The solutions to IMN problem, in my personal opinion, are four. The first is that the Sultan of Sokoto and other religious leaders should provide guarantee to the Federal Government on which the leader of the IMN would be released to them. Secondly, the IMN should stop all forms of protest, whether peaceful or violent.

“The third aspect of it: the government should move towards addressing the problems of their members who were killed and their homes that were destroyed, in compliance with the previous court orders.

“The fourth aspect of it is that the movement should stop its alleged relationship with nations outside of Nigeria that pose security threats on our country. If they are a movement, they should be a movement; as the name implies, a Nigerian movement to pursue their ideas, their beliefs and whatever they preach,” he said.

Sani also counseled that everything must be done to avoid a situation in which the movement will suddenly disappear from the radar to spring surprises.

“The court of law cannot address a problem of either insurgency or agitation or crushing this kind of idea. We have heard several laws on terrorism. It is 10 years today, but we are still battling Boko Haram. That is one.

“Secondly, which one do we prefer: the Islamic Movement that has a leader we can arrest, that has members we can see, that has an identity that we can prosecute or a group that can be forced to go underground and pose a serious security danger to the country? I think the option is ours,” he added.

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