President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend clarified that the proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is not a ban on the Shi’ite Muslims.
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement on Sunday, indicated that the proscription of IMN as a terrorist group has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shiites in the country from practicing their religion, instead it was to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.
The Presidency explained that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion, “President Buhari’s administration has not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.”
It maintained that the claim of IMN 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 behavior and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government,” Garba Shehu declared; explaining that 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 regretted that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants 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.
The statement further declared: “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.”