The Islamic Movement in Nigeria which recently suffered a brutal military crackdown by men of the Nigerian Army following their lawless take over of a highway in Zaria, has released a statement condemning the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai. They described El-Rufai as an “extremist anti-Shi’ite governor and not a state governor.” This followed a speech by the governor on Friday.
1 The group accused El-Rufai of claiming and elaborating on the one hand that people have a right to religion and social association, while “choosing to deny only the Shi’ites such rights who he sees as his enemies.”
We don’t know if El-Rufai sees the Shi’ites as his enemies. We hope not. But there was nothing in his speech which said that they do not have a right to religion. What the governor said was that “Everyone has a fundamental right to their faiths and beliefs, but no one has any right to practise their faith in ways that diminish, distress or inconvenience others. And no one can be allowed to justify unlawful and anti-social behaviour on the grounds of religion.” And the governor is absolutely right on that score.
2 According to the Shi’ites, “Clearly, El-Rufai spent considerable time collecting propaganda details indicting the movement…”
Yes, that’s true. The governor had his mind made up about the sect, accepted and presented all allegations against them as the truth, even when some were clearly false. The sect is right to be worried that he only provided details from one side “without hearing from the other parties who are the victims in this case.”
3 The Shi’ites then went on to look at the allegations against them one after the other.
Here’s what the sect says about the first charge: “He alleged that our centre had no building permit and such other allegations. One wonders why if the Kaduna state government felt the Hussainiyah was wrongly erected or breached planning permits, they did not resort to legal action rather than use of brutal force.
“Why not get a court order to effect an eviction? Or does the government mean there are no magistrates or Alkali left in Zaria anymore? For Governor El-Rufai to claim that there is no valid paper on the land on which Husainiyya was built as the basis for this military attack, only further proves that the attack was premeditated.”
The movement has a point here. The government should have resorted to legal action or worst case, ought to have given the sect notice before demolishing the property so that the sect can then challenge the action in court. El-Rufai accused the former government of looking the other way after the sect defied a stop notice issued to it in 2010. Good. Why not carry on from there legally? Demolishing the worship centre, a day after the chief of army staff had a confrontation with them is extra-judicial and too convenient.
4 The Islamic Movement also said “We are equally astonished when the Governor in his broadcast claimed that ‘they had tried to forcibly acquire the property of their neighbours; this is apart from subjecting residents to an illegal curfew.'” The sect challenged the governor to cite one particular case where “we forcibly acquired a property, let alone a time when we imposed curfew.”
“We would like to ask Mr. Governor how many disputes over mosques have been reported in the 37 years that the IMN have been there in Zaria? The idea that Shiites will go and take over a Salafi mosque is as laughable as the idea that Christian evangelicals will raid a Catholic cathedral and tell the adherents to get out. This big lie cannot stand any scrutiny. What happened in Gabari is not “Mosque snatching” as the governor claims.
“It was a case of some Salafist bent on attacking the Shiites in the neighbourhood. In the process they killed one person the week before and a further three Shiites on Thursday. The governor cleverly stated this in his speech as if to show that we were not the victims but the assailants.”
We can’t make any judgement call on who killed who. The Shi’ites claimed they were the ones killed but Gov. El-Rufai insinuated in his speech that the Shi’ites did the killing. So, this should be investigated.
But the Shi’ite argument that they can’t raid a Salafist mosque is hollow. The analogy of a Christian evangelical church and a Catholic Church also doesn’t work.
5 Another position of the sect from the governors speech. “The Governor made mention of the Arbaeen symbolic trek as an instance where we blocked roads for four days when he stated, ‘In the last two weeks, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has also illegally occupied federal roads. Over a period of four days, they took over one side of the federal expressway between Kaduna and Zaria, and the roads to Kano and Katsina.'”
The sect accused the governor of twisting facts, saying it blocks only limited part of the road, “and this is to protect persons from traffic accidents, control mass movement and avoid chaos on the roads.” The sect further said that El-Rufai “was trying to give the impression of a complete occupation of a lane for four days. That was not the case. Blocks were only from junction to junction on the roads. The public was informed about these little inconveniences with apologies on public radio and television stations throughout the trek. Road users during the period would be surprised by the governor’s statement.” It then said, “Where in the law books is it written that those who block the roads should be massacred without trials?”
The sect is right to say the punishment for blocking roads is not a massacre in the way the Army carried it out. That was obscene. But the sect continues to show that it is lawless and does not even know that it breaks the law. Boldly stating that they block portions of the road without permit is ridiculous,no matter the reason. Several people who have suffered in the hands of the sect during their treks disagree with the argument by the sect that the inconvenience was “minor”. People suffer in their hands during those unapproved marches.
6 The sect challenged El-Rufai to mention those weapons they found when security agents razed Husainiyya to the ground or Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence.
“While the military involved in this operation said in its press conference that they did not find any weapons after all the mass killings they did in Zaria, the governor in his desperate attempt to blacklist the movement, still talked of offensive weapons. From the speech of the governor one can deduce that he did all he can to portray the movement as assailants.”
The sect clearly has machetes, bows and arrows. We saw those ones in the video. But it appears they didn’t have guns. The governor talked about “petrol bombs and molotov cocktails.” Curiously, the Army has not mentioned this. After the raid, the Army also did not find these dangerous things which the governor claimed were in possession of the sect. This is not to say it isn’t possible that they have it. No judgement call on this.
7 One of the most important and truest points made by the group was the last one.
“After leveling all allegations against the movement, the governor went ahead to talk of setting up a Judicial Board of inquiry. One wonders why he didn’t leave the inquiry to determine who are the assailants and who are the victims.
“Definitely the scope and mission of the inquiry could be problematic. The army is a federal institution. It would be difficult enough for a state judge to inquire into what they have done when they are not answerable to state officials. How will such a judge now also overturn conclusions already reached by the governor?”
The Shi’ites hit many right notes with this point. The governor’s judicial commission of inquiry is a waste of every body’s time, and it is not just because Gov. El-Rufai has already made up his mind.
The Kaduna Judicial Commission of Inquiry will be like the commission set up by former Lagos Gov. Babatunde Fashola which investigated the BRT incident two years in Lagos after soldiers ran riot and destroyed BRT vehicles. What happened to that report? Nothing, of course. The governor or a state judge can’t sanction the Army. That’s why it’s curious and sad that the presidency and federal government which have power to look into this issue and act have been so silent.