By Ismaila Chafe (NAN)
Presidency says proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shi’ites in the country from practicing their religion.
A statement by Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in Abuja on Sunday, however, said the banning was to discourage wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property.
Shehu explained that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion, the Buhari administration had not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.
According to him, their position is blatantly false and deceptive.
”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.
According to him, everywhere in the world protesters operate within legal boundaries and conduct themselves peacefully without molesting others, or engaging in murder and killing of security personnel or destroying public and private property.
He said the Presidency regretted that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants to see reason and abandon violence was all in vain.
He lamented that such appeals fell on deaf ears as ”they killed, maimed and destroyed willfully, constituting daily nuisance to workers, commuters and other innocent citizens.”
Shehu said: ”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.”