Shi’ites Defiant, Declare: Our Struggle For El-Zakzaky Continues

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Despite being labeled as terrorists by the government of Nigeria, the Shi’ites have vowed that they will never lay down their agitation for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, his wife, and several others in detention whose freedom is being allegedly denied by the government since 2015.

Though the Shi’ites who are also known as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) had on Wednesday announced their decision to suspend street protests, some of their top functionaries said in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city that the struggle for their release will continue by any means necessary.

Their Spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, explained in a statement that the decision to suspend street protests used to press for the release of El-Zakzaky; his wife and others, was to give room for “some new openings’’ into the resolution of the matter, including legal actions.

The suspension came as the Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, had on Tuesday said IMN members would be treated as terrorists if they embark on further protests in the wake of the proscription.

Spokesperson for the Amnesty International in Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, in a reaction by the global rights group said, ‘’the proscription of the Shi’ites is a deliberate attempt to divert attention from crucial issues including; justice for the massacre of over 350 in Zaria in December 2015 as well many other IMN supporters killed by security agencies over the years.’’

According to the human rights group, “many members of IMN have been missing since 2015; their families and relatives a yet to know their fate and their search for justice has been largely ignored by Nigerian authorities,” the statement added. Despite federal high court order of December 2016 Nigerian authorities have continued to keep Ibraheem El-Zakzaky in unlawful detention and his bail application perpetually delayed, despite repeated concerns over the deterioration of his health.

“The fact that authorities have not indicated any attempt to investigate and ensure justice in all incidences involving IMN clearly shows a government resolve to deprive them of their fundamental human rights. We insist that Nigerian authorities ensure justice in all cases involving all Nigerians, including IMN.’’

But, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been arguing that the proscription does not violate the Constitution but only aims at curbing the excesses of alleged violent elements among the IMN members.

However, Musa, in their statement, said the suspension of street protests will give room for the proper prosecution of the court case. “The Islamic Movement in Nigeria do hereby announce to the general public and the international community that it has temporarily suspended its Free Zakzaky street protests to allow for some new openings into the resolution of the problems, especially the court case instituted by our lawyers on the proscription order made by the Federal Government this wee,’’ he said.

He said, “It has taken this step in good faith out of respect for some eminent people and groups, whose input in the resolution of the problems appears genuine and we sincerely hope an amicable way could be found to solve the crises surrounding the illegal detention of our leader for almost four years now. If at all any protest occurs anywhere in the country, it might be this notice hasn’t reached those in the field or this message is misunderstood or it is some security agents who are mischievously behind it as they have been doing in an attempt to smear our image and be seen as unruly people rather than as victims of savage oppression since 2015.

“The Islamic Movement wishes to thank both national and international civil rights activists and organisations who have been busy demanding the protection of our fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution. We also thank the press, both national and international, and the social media activists for the full coverage of our activities throughout the struggle for justice.We are committed to exploring the new openings we have seen in resolving this protracted issue.’’

Abuja had obtained the ex-parte order on the proscription of the group on Friday, about three days after a bloody clash between members of the group and police in Abuja claimed the lives of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, Usman Umar, and a Channels TV journalist, Precious Owolabi.

Justice Nkeonye Maha in her ruling on the previous Friday ordered the proscription of the organization, designated the activities of the sect in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality,’’ and also ordered the government to publish the order in its gazette and in two national dailies.