…vow to die for El-Zakzaky

After several violent clashes with the military and other security agencies in Abuja and Kaduna, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as the Shi’ites have vowed to continue demanding justice and the release of Shiekh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, their spiritual leader. The Shi’ites said they were not afraid of soldiers’ bullets and were ready to die for their spiritual leaders.

The sect has continued street protests since the arrest of El’ Zakzaky in 2015 after its members clashed with soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State. Reports have it that over 300 Shiites were killed by the army in that incident. Against the backdrop of expectation that the recent killings of over 30 members of the sect in Zuba and Nyanya of Federal Capital Territory, was going to discourage their persistent street processions both in Abuja and environs, they have vowed to die for their leader who has been in custody since 2015 against court orders. On Saturday last week, about six members of the sect who were on their religious symbolic trek from Madalla area of Niger State were killed by the military at Zuba, Gwagwalada Area Council of FCT.

They claimed that the military attacked them with live ammunition. This was, however, debunked by military authorities. The military authorities in trying to justify the killings of the Shi’ites in Zuba, stated that members of the sect attacked their officers who were on escort mission. The military further alleged that for the gallantry of their officers in repelling the attacks, the sect members would have stolen ammunition from the military trucks that were being escorted to Kaduna.

The loss of lives at the Zuba clash could not deter the sect who continued with their protest the following day. However, more tragedy befell the group at Nyanya with several deaths, when they attempted to pass through a military checkpoint, but were resisted vehemently by fully armed military officers. After burying 23 of their members killed on Monday during a violent clash with the military in Nyanya Abuja, the sect leaders said the excessive force by security agencies, coupled with the live ammunition being used on them cannot stop their protest. Abdullahi Muhammad, one of the sect leaders told Saturday Telegraph that no amount of intimidation from security agencies and not even their bullets could stop them from protesting on the streets until the government of the day respects the law.

Muhammad noted that since the military has the bullets to waste, their members have the chests to collect bullets. He added that members of IMN were not afraid to die, but were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the course they believe in. He said: “We are not stopping this protest, let them continue to kill us. Since they have the bullets to shoot, we have the chests to collect the bullets. We will not suspend the protest, if they want us to stop, let them do the right thing, and the right thing is to release El-Zakzaky. “It is unfortunate that Nigerian government that has the responsibility to protect her citizens is the one killing them.” Muhammad said their leader had been set free by the court, but the present administration refused to obey orders of the court, adding that he wondered why those in the corridors of power were pretentiously talking about the rule of law which they did not believe in.

He also noted the only round table discussion opportunity the sect would consider from government would put into consideration the immediate release of El-Zakzaky and address the injustice that members of the sect had suffered in the hands of the Nigerian government. On the allegation that Iran was sponsoring the activities of IMN in Nigeria, Muhammad debunked it, describing it as a fabricated falsehood by haters of the sect. According to him, the fact that IMN shares the same religious ideology and doctrines with the Iranian Muslims did not mean that Iran was sponsoring them. Muhammad said: “Does it mean that President Muhammadu Buhari who is a Sunni Muslim is getting sponsorship from Saudi Arabia? Or does it mean that the activities of Catholic Church in Nigeria are being sponsored by Rome? “Iran is not sponsoring us, whatever we do is from willful contributions from our members. Our members are always willing to contribute to our course.”

In a related development, IMN has warned of dire consequences for Nigeria and all those involved in the killings. Speaking to Saturday Telegraph on fears that there will be consequences, Mr. Mifthau Zakaria, the Southwest Coordinator of the group, said: “Of course, there are going to be consequences. Nigeria has a law court, Nigeria has a constitution. “So, if a policeman goes out of his way to kill defenceless citizens because he’s the IG of Police today, one day he’ll not be IG and he’ll stand in the court of law to defend why he went beyond the rules of engagement to kill Nigerians.” On whether the group is likely to ignite a theatre of violence either in the FCT of elsewhere, Zakaria said: “As for consequences like us becoming terrorists, am I a stupid person? I am the head of my family, I have 17 siblings, my eldest daughter is out of the university in Cotonou, we are educated people, and we are elites. We know our country and we can’t take the law into our hands.” Speaking further on the protests and how guns were turned on members of the group, the leader of the group in the Southwest part of Nigeria, said: “We are peaceful people and we only come out on peaceful protests that we do legally. “It’s something we’ve been doing since 1978, almost 40 years ago and no one has ever accused us of being a violent group.

Even though the police will now be proactive in trying to justify whatever crime they have committed, the truth of the matter is that when you ask them to bring forensic evidence to prove that we are terrorists, they cannot do that. “If for example they say that we are terrorists and we come out to kill people, they should come out and mention the number of their men that we have killed. That is the only way to prove that we are terrorists. Let them bring out their evidences. We have buried 48 of our people and we are still counting.” On the rationale behind Federal Government’s alleged engagement of the deadly Boko Haram sect in dialogue and negotiation while refusing to engage the IMN, he said: “We have always been people that are given to dialogue. “The funny thing is this, they say Boko Haram is a terrorist group that has killed thousands of Nigerians and has destroyed facilities.

“The government is still talking to them, we understand that the government wants to give them N100 billion over Leah Sharibu so that they can buy more weapons and continue to kill people; but at least they talk to them, they speak with them. “Let them tell us why they cannot talk with us. Two, there is a subsisting court order that says Mallam (El Zakzaky) should be released, if they say we are terrorists, take us to court! That is what happens in a society that has laws and order. That is what we are saying.

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