Nigeria needs a peaceful solution
2019-08-01 13:08:40 -
A Nigerian federal court sitting in the capital Abuja recently granted the country’s government permission to proscribe the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). The move allows the government to also label the Shia group as a terrorist organisation, and paves the way for a harder clampdown following recent violent protests in the capital over the continued detention of the group’s leader. 

The recent protests, which left several people dead, including an assistant police commissioner and a journalist, saw Shia members marching in Abuja for the release of Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, who has been detained since 2015 after clashes between his followers and the army — notwithstanding a court order to release him.

More than 350 people, mainly his own followers (including one of his children), died during the violent encounter at his compound and a nearby mosque in northern Kaduna State, and since then Zakzaky has been facing charges of murder, culpable homicide, public order offences and unlawful assembly. While he has pleaded not guilty, an Abuja court has granted him bail while a court in Kaduna refused. 

With the Shia group vowing to continue with their protests, many Nigerians are worried that the situation will breed more violence, and wondering how the country got to this point. We have no doubt it is down to the failure to maintain rule of law. In the years since Zakzaky founded his minority Shia Muslim movement in the 1970s, they have been accused of attempting to impose their will on the country by pledging allegiance to Iran and its spiritual leaders, and also failing to recognise Nigerian law or its authority.

We note that the situation is made worse by escalating international tensions between the pro-Iranian Shia and Saudi Arabia-backed Sunni factions. We call on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who belongs to the Sunni tradition, to do everything possible to resolve the matter peacefully and avoid further loss of life.
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