Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed that the proscription of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) had nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law-abiding Shi’ites in the country from practising their religion, asserting that terrorists have taken over the Muslim group.
Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in a statement on Sunday, said the proscription was to discourage violence, and willful destruction of public and private properties.
Shehu explained that contrary to the claim by Shia group that it had been banned from practising its religion, the Buhari administration had not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the holy pilgrimage.
”The IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public property, consistently defying authority of the state.
”The Presidency notes that the banned organization was taken over by extremists who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.
”The Presidency agrees that the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of the society, especially where such freedom harms others, and breaks law and order.
”The Presidency insists that such criminal behavior and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government,” Shehu added.
Shehu added: ”Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilize the country, the government had to act before the situation goes out of control, after admonishing many times over that people should not use religion to perpetuate lawlessness.
“We are fighting lawlessness and criminality and not pursuing a policy of discrimination against any group. You cannot be in court while at the same time engaging in violent protests, molesting people and inflicting pains on others, which includes taking innocent lives.”