Nigeria: El-Zakzaky's Followers Will Be Treated As Terrorists - Police

Women in black niqabs holding up posters calling for the release of Shiite cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky. The founder and leader of the Shiite Islamist Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been in jail since December 2015.

Henceforth, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) an arm of the Shiite Muslim community led by detained Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, will be treated as a terrorist group, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has warned.

Citing the proscription of IMN by the federal government, the police declared all protests and activities of the group illegal and therefore no longer allowed in any part of the country.

The inspector-general of police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, warned that any IMN member caught engaging in any illegal activity would be arrested and prosecuted as a terrorist under the Terrorism Act.

Adamu, who spoke at the monthly meeting of the senior management team of the NPF in Abuja yesterday, declared that "the activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky have over time evolved to constitute a grave threat to national security, law and order, socio-religious harmony, peace, good governance and the sovereign integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

"The members of the IMN have engaged in extreme radicalism, series of terror-related activities, violence and other unlawful activities which are inimical to the national security, good governance, and the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Some of these nefarious activities include the following: Pledging allegiance to foreign countries from where they are enjoying political, financial and training support with the aim of advancing their destabilising intents within Nigeria; unauthorised blocking of public highways; engagement in illegal road blocks; imposition of illegal curfews and checkpoints; raids on security assets, prevention of arrest of their members; invasion of court premises to abort legal proceedings involving IMN members; refusal to submit to ordinary security checks and attacks on security agents which led to the death of several Nigerians," he said.

The IGP also accused the IMN members of setting up a para-military guard known as 'HURRAS' through which it terrorises local residents, instituting unregistered security outfits and performing paramilitary ceremonies and hoisting of flags.

According to the police boss, the IMN members also conduct combat exercises, parades and inspection by their leader reminiscent of a state authority; engage in provocative preaching and hate speeches aimed at inciting members against non-members while working towards its agenda of creating an Islamic State in Nigeria and challenging the legitimacy of the federal government in favour of Islamic government; non-recognition of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; non-recognition of state authority, non-recognition of the country's democratic values and disrespect for its judicial processes.

Adamu said that "it is obvious from the foregoing that the activities of IMN constitute glaring defiance and/or rebellion against the Nigerian State, calculated efforts to plunge the nation into an ethno-religious war, intimidation of citizens and security agents, disrespect for Nigerian laws and the authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Their activities also clearly and consistently negate Section 1(2)(A)&(B) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 and Section 2(1)(A)(B)(C) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act of 2013 and hence, justify their proscription in overriding national security interest."

He said the meeting was called to review the IMN saga and the general security situation and emplace appropriate action plans to address the threats.

To the officers present at the event, the IGP said: "Let me affirm that in relation to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, in view of their increasing engagement of terror tactics and other violent and subversive activities which contravene the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013 (as amended), and vide the judicial pronouncement of the Federal High Court, Abuja on July 26, 2019, the federal government has classified them as a terrorist group and has accordingly, proscribed the El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

"In consequence, henceforth, any person engaged or associating, in any manner that could advance the activities of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria, shall be treated as a terrorist, enemy of the state, and a subversive element and shall be brought to justice within the context of the Terrorism Act. The import of this is that all forms of procession or protest by IMN are now illegal and thus banned," Adamu said.

The IGP also noted that in order to sustain the gains of winning the war against crime, "we have commenced the process of implementing the Community Policing concept which involves the engagement of citizens in identifying and prioritising prevalent communal security threats as they affect their localities, and working together with the police towards developing and implementing solutions to the identified threats.

In giving effect to this, the IGP said that "we are drawing on the provisions of the Police Act in relation to the recruitment and utilisation of special constables who in this instance, will be engaged as community policing officers (CPOs) under the coordination of the Nigeria Police towards evolving a community-focused policing architecture.

"The breakdown of the community policing deployment plan covers the recruitment of 40,000 CPOs across the country in the interim. The CPOs will be recruited from within the communities where the prospective applicants reside and an average of 50 CPOs is to be engaged in each of the 774 local government areas. In addition, 1,300 CPOs will be drawn from professional bodies such as the academics, road transport unions, artisans, traders associations, religious bodies, women unions, and youth organisations among others to ensure diverse representation," he said.

Adamu explained that CPOs wouldl be deployed to complement the police in law enforcement functions within their localities by performing low-risk and non-sensitive duties.

They will also act as liaisons between the police and their communities, he said, adding that "this policing architecture will free-up conventional police personnel that hitherto perform such functions and enhance our manpower profile in relation to deployment to frontline, operational duties. When fully implemented, the community policing strategy will bridge the gap between the police and the citizens in a manner that will enhance optimal, cost-effective, and sustainable law enforcement service delivery by the police.

IMN Not Authentic Shiite, Says Sheihk Lawal

Meanwhile, a parallel Shiite organisation, Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation has described IMN under the leadership of El-zakzaky as a fake movement.

The organisation explained that IMN is not another name for Shism and neither of the two is synonymous nor interchangeable.

It, therefore, urged the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to desist from making Nigeria another testing ground for their struggle for regional supremacy.

Addressing a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, the secretary-general of Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation, Hamzah Muhammad Lawal, said that he was once a member of the IMN between 1981 and 2000, one year after he returned from Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran, where he studied Theology.

According to him, "IMN started in the late 1970s as a socio-cultural and politico-religious revivalist movement, drawing its inspiration and taking its cue from essentially Sunni activists from countries like Egypt ánd Pakistan.

"It was an offshoot of the Muslim Students Society and its birth coincided with the inception of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which gave it a living and contemporary example of what it was yearning for, and, therefore, it got attracted and gravitated to its political message.

"When the leader of IMN, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, became a Shiite afterwards, he fell into the dilemma of either abandoning his Sunni revivalist movement, risking the possibility of losing his followers, or continuing with the movement with all its Sunni content but with a Shiite face. He chose the latter, and that has been his undoing.

"Sheikh El-Zakzaky has not been able to complete his process of migration from Sunni activism to Shiite evangelism. His movement is a curious hybrid an admixture, a concoction, a dangerously unstable cocktail of incoherent and disorganised hallucinations and fantasies that only exist in their wildest dreams. In fact, when push comes to shove and a critical study of IMN is done, it may turn out that it is much, much closer to Sunni Islam.

"The press should, therefore, seriously note this and start calling IMN by the name it has given itself IMN; the press is thus hereby called upon to appreciate the difference between IMN and Shiism. IMN is not another name for Shiism. The two are neither synonymous nor interchangeable.

"IMN is not a Shiite organisation. Yes, many of its recruits are Shiites; but there are many others also who are Sunnis and Christians - it is a movement.

"IMN has crashed the gate of Shiism. We at Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation feel undermined by IMN. We also believe that it is an embarrassment to our Shiite identity and credentials, a threat to our religious survival, and a misrepresentation of what we are as Nigerian citizens who accept the rule of law.

"Now, that said, Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation wishes to appeal to the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa'i, to use his good offices and withdraw the case against Sheikh El-Zakzaky in the Kaduna High Court. We hope the recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on dialogue and reconciliation will be exploited in the interest of peace.

"Al-Thaqalayn Cultural Foundation also wishes to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the olive branch to members of IMN," Lawal said.

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