Sunday, 4 November 2018

JUST IN: "Nigerian government has killed 2,000 of our members"– Musa, Shiites spokesperson




In this interview with GODWIN ISENYO, Spokesman for the Islamic Movement in Nigeria otherwise known as ‘Shiites’, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, calls on the Federal Government to release the leader of the sect, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, from detention

Tell us how it (crisis) all started before the arrest and subsequent detention of your leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky?

It all started on December 12, 2015, when some soldiers were stationed by our Husainiyya Baqiyyatullah, our religious centre along Sokoto Road, Zaria, Kaduna State. Some IMN members asked them to move further away from the place. As they were leaving the place, they were ordered not to leave by a superior officer. This resulted in the soldiers firing, killing about seven of our members. Shortly after this, the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff arrived at the scene.

We believed it was planned by the security agents to show the world that we blocked the passage of the COAS convoy, since they had caused the problem. This is the start of the problem. The COAS convoy also shot at people, killing some members of IMN again, and they later said that the COAS was attacked by us and that they only responded.

Later on that day, they besieged the religious centre and went to Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s house, which is almost three kilometers away from there and attacked it. This killing spree lasted till December 15, 2015 and by that time, they had killed over 1,000 people. They demolished the house of our Sheikh, arrested and wounded him after killing his three sons. They also arrested hundreds of members of IMN.

Why did you suddenly start protesting?

The protests intensified this week because it coincided with our annual Arba’een March in commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the Grandson of the Prophet in Karbala, Iraq. It is a religious congregation observed worldwide annually, and that was what we set out to do, merging it with our call for the release of our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky.

How did the recent video of soldiers shooting at your members come about?

You know in this age of mass media, this should be expected. Onlookers, IMN members and even the security agents do shoot clips of such events. And as can be seen from the videos, the soldiers were just after shooting us and killing us. But our march started peacefully for hours before their arrival.

Some Nigerians have blamed your movement, saying the procession was not peaceful. Is that the case?

No, our marches are always peaceful. We strongly believe in peaceful protest to push for our demands to be met by the authorities. It is always the security agents that start shooting at us, not the other way round. We have been protesting in Abuja daily for almost a year now, and whenever the security agents do not shoot at us, it always ends peacefully, without being noticed by the media. However whenever we are attacked, the security agents quickly turn round and concoct lies to justify their unwarranted actions, accusing us among other things of shooting at them with local guns, catapult, stones and petrol bombs. We didn’t come to Abuja to fight, we came to protest peacefully.

In the video clip, your members were so daring – stoning armed soldiers. Why was this so?



On these, we believe they might be the infiltrators sent by the hawks within the security agents to smear our name. But a close look of such clips will show that those stoning are a tiny minority among the protesters. Therefore, it is wrong to blame the majority of the protesters. We have been trying our best to avoid such happenings, but it seems the security agents are bent on linking us to violence. Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s message has always been that we should be peaceful in our activities. Islam is a religion of peace.

As I said earlier, we strongly believe they were planted among us to depict us as violent and as terrorists, which we are not. How can a person with stones be a match for someone with a gun? It doesn’t make sense. We have been trying to stop such people, and we will keep on trying.

Could you recall all the encounters you have had with the police?

They are too many. However, if we stick to Abuja alone; last year, we were attacked by the police during a protest leading to the death of one of our leaders, Sheikh Qasimu Umar Sokoto, and two others. But on Saturday October 27, 2018, we were attacked at Zuba and six IMN members were killed. On Monday, October 29, 2018, we were attacked at Nyanya and 36 people were killed. On Tuesday, October 30, 2018, we were also attacked in Abuja and seven people were killed. We have suffered numerous attacks from this President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Jos.

Why are your members doing this and would they ever relent?

We are fighting for our right to freedom of religion and association, which President Buhari is bent on denying us. A Federal High Court has ordered the government to release our leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, who is seriously ill, but the government has stubbornly refused, and even went on to press unfounded charges against him in Kaduna. We will not rest till our leader is, at least set free.

How many of your members have been killed so far in the current confrontation with security operatives?

If you are referring to what has been happening to us in Abuja since Saturday, October  27, 2018 till date, 49 people have been killed, 500 arrested and over 200 seriously injured. If you add this to the 1,000 killed in Zaria, Kano, Funtua and Kaduna, the figure will rise to close to 2,000.

Nigerians are afraid that some of your members may go the way of the Boko Haram if the struggle continues. Should Nigerians be afraid of you?

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is not like Boko Haram and can never be. It is a mass movement calling for justice and fairness to all irrespective of religious leaning. If you look at the activities of Sheikh El-Zakzaky, he has been in good rapport with our Christian brothers, other Muslim groups and associations, the Igbo, the Yoruba and other non-Hausa tribes. We don’t believe in violence. It has never been part of the belief system of Shiites worldwide. We find it absurd when people draw a parallel with Boko Haram and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

What’s the way forward in resolving this crisis?

Our call has always been for the Federal Government to obey the court order setting our leader and his wife free. There are still some hundreds of IMN members in detention over the Zaria massacre; they should also be freed. The way forward is for the Federal Government to obey the court order and release our leader, so that at least he can go and treat himself. He is in his early sixties. They should please release him from illegal detention.

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