TWO Islamic organisations, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) and the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) have appealed to the Federal Government to initiate dialogue on the issue of the Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
The groups expressed worries over the incessant mortal clashes between the Shi’ite devotees and security agencies, especially the police.
A protest by the IMN members, on Monday, in Abuja, turned violent and claimed the lives of a senior police officer, a journalist and others. A number of the protesters were arrested and detained.
The MMWG described the incident as unfortunate, just as MURIC condemned the violence and also described it as disheartening.
The MMWG said in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, that occurrences like this “does not augur well” for a country in modern times where crisis ought to be quelled with light arms.
“We mourn the death of these young and patriotic Nigerians who sacrificed their lives for this nation in the course of their professional duties and pray Almighty Allah to give their families and those of others who died in similar circumstances the fortitude to bear the losses.
“This unfortunate development, while the nation battles with security challenges of terrorists and bandits who are killing and maiming innocent people across the country, in addition to kidnapping and abduction for economic gains by some other criminals, is, to say the least, condemnable.
“While commending the efforts of the Federal Government on its steps to bring about peace in the country and restore normalcy in the affected areas, adding Shi’ites crisis to the nation’s problems would be too much to bear for the citizens and the governments at all levels.
“In this regard, we call for the conditional release of the Shi’ites leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, for them to get medical treatment as reports confirm their critical illness. Luckily, their lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has formally tabled the request for the release of the Shi’ites leader for him to receive treatment.
“It is hoped that this application, if granted, will douse the tension in the land and give the Federal Government the chance to face the criminals terrorising Nigeria.
“It is on this basis that we call on Shi’ite members to give peace a chance, and allow the Federal Government to reconsider its stance on the matter. As citizens, they should know that if this country is made unstable, they too will bear the brunt of the hardship,” the MMWG said.
In the same vein, the group urged the Federal Government to do everything to restore peace to every part of the country “as this is the most important responsibility in governance.”
In its statement, the group said: “Whatever is conceded to bring peace would not be unbearable for the government and the people, since government has the powers to regulate movements and all other actions of any individual or a group of people. Our hard-earned resources need not be expended on senseless internal crises when we have a lot to do on raising the status of our infrastructure, boosting economy, resuscitation of collapsed industries and provision of jobs for our unemployed youths.
“We call for proper compensation for the families of those killed in this crisis and their immortalisation, especially the police officer and the journalist as they were in the course of their lawful duties when they were martyred.
“We appeal to our security agencies, especially the police, to always pre-empt crisis and nip it in the bud before it escalates. No procession, henceforth, should be allowed except the one permitted according to the extant laws and this must be peacefully conducted. The burning of government property by the protesters attested to their ill-motive, which the nation must not condone.”
MURIC, in its own statement issued on Thursday by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said: “It is most disheartening that people are dying during Shi’ite protests. We condemn all forms of violence. True to our avowed motto: ‘Dialogue, No Violence’, MURIC as a dialogue-loving human rights organization will never condone or subscribe to violence. We detest the shedding of blood. Life is sacred and nobody has the right to deprive a fellow homo sapien of his Allah-given fundamental right to live.
“We therefore appeal to the supporters of Shaykh El-Zakzaky to review their strategy. The El-Zakzaky affair is getting complicated.
“This is why the Shi’ites need to urgently take another look at their current disposition. It is time to stoop in order to conquer. Non-Shi’ite Muslims who reside close to Shi’ite headquarters in Zaria have given damning evidence of the intimidation of neighbours by the Shi’ites in the days and years before the army’s attack. Those harassed included Christians and non-Shi’ite Muslims. This is quite worrisome. This discovery has made it difficult for those who are intervening in the Shi’ite imbroglio to absolve the group of any wrongdoing.
“Shi’ites should not be deceived by the hypocritical declarations of solidarity from certain quarters. Most of such statements are made by people who are keen on exploiting the sectarian lacuna between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. They are therefore empty, meaningless and politically motivated. Shi’ites are simply being egged on to self-immolation by inmates of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ ideological camp who will disappear into thin air when it matters most.
“The only panacea, which we envision, is for the followers of El-Zakzaky to make themselves amenable to negotiations. Dialogue is the answer. Violence is a square peg. Peace is a round hole. We repeat the suggestion which we made some months ago, viz, that the Federal Government should invite the leadership of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and representatives of the Shi’ites to a roundtable.
“Due to past experience, Shi’ite representatives must be prepared to sign an undertaking that the group will remain peaceful and law-abiding if its leader is granted bail. The conditionalities must also include a vow to stop holding processions which obstruct traffic in any way anywhere in Nigeria.
“MURIC condoles with Channels Television on the death of one of its staff at the scene of the protest. In the same vein, we commiserate with the Nigeria Police on the death of the senior police officer.
“We appeal to the followers of Shaykh El-Zakzaky to reflect deeply on the need to respect the rights of other Nigerians, to be humble in the practice and manifestation of religion and to desist from any act capable of causing discomfort to their fellow compatriots. We appeal to the Federal Government to initiate dialogue on the El-Zakzaky affair.”