- Says protesters should let court decide
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency Friday in Abuja said the protracted protests by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shiites, cannot compel the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-zakyzaky, warning them to stop constituting public nuisance.
El-zakyzaky was arrested and detained in December 2015 following a bloody clash between the Shiites and members of the armed forces in Kaduna.
Since then, his followers have constantly engaged in street protests in Abuja.
Reacting to the trend Friday, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, asked the Shiites to desist from violent street protests and await court judgment in Kaduna where El-zakyzaky is currently being tried.
According to the statement, the protests which he said were intended to insult President Muhammadu Buhari would remain a futile exercise because the president would not be forced to interfere in court process.
The statement was however, swift to add that the administration of Buhari would enforce court judgment when it is eventually determined, pointing out that Buhari has no hand in El-zakyzaky’s trial.
It declared as unacceptable assumptions by the group that it is above the law and consequently violating the rights of other citizens by disrupting their businesses and blocking roads.
“These rallies and street dances ostensibly to openly insult the President and other leaders, threatening bloodshed will lead nowhere because President Buhari will not ask the country’s judiciary to abandon due process and set a suspect free.
“At the same time, the administration is determined to enforce the decision of the court clearly issued. The Buhari administration has absolutely no hand in the on-going court case and the courts are free to determine the bail request and the final outcome.
“The mentality that you are above the law and that your own rights are superior to other people’s rights is unacceptable.
“You can’t be provoking other citizens by interfering with their own rights on public roads and disrupting their businesses and call it democratic freedom. In democratic traditions, their rights end where the rights of others begin,” it said.
Appealing to them to desist from violent street protests, Shehu emphasised that the matter is before the court in Kaduna and protesters should henceforth concentrate attention “on his on-going trial instead of causing daily damages, disruptions and public nuisance in Abuja.”
According to him, it is wrong to engage in violence over a matter that is before the court of law in anticipation of justice for the accused.
He also warned them against continued destruction of public property and frequent taking over of roads in Abuja, saying no government can tolerate such menace anywhere in the world particularly when it violates the rights of citizens.
He said the matter involving El-zakzaky is no longer within the purview of the Ministry of Justice and hence, the federal government is not involved and can’t be accused of violating court orders.
“The destruction of public property in the name of protest is not within the right of this group of Shiite members and no government anywhere would have tolerated a situation where any group would take over public roads in cities as they have done in Abuja and interfere with the rights of other citizens who are prevented from reaching their destinations.
“We imagine a situation where families are taking their loved ones to hospital for emergency treatment and they are held up needlessly by the protesters. No government anywhere in the world would turn a blind eye to this unlawful behavior.
“As far as this country’s Ministry of Justice is concerned, the case involving El-Zakzaky is no longer in its domain. The Federal Government no more has hands in the matter and to that extent, the government at the centre can be said to be clear of any alleged violations of court orders as being trumpeted everyday,” the statement added.