Presidency to Shiites: Violent Protests Can’t Force El-zakzaky’s Release

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  • Buhari: I’m committed to peaceful, stable Nigeria

By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja 

The Presidency yesterday in Abuja said that the protracted protests by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shiites, are incapable of compelling the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-zakyzaky.

The government has therefore warned the Islamic group to stop constituting public nuisance.

On the same day, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated the commitment of his administration to securing the country as well as creating a peaceful and stable socio-economic environment for all citizens.

El-zakyzaky was arrested and detained in December 2015, following a bloody clash between the Shiites and members of the armed forces in Kaduna. He was arraigned and granted bail, which was not obeyed by the government. He has since been arraigned afresh in a Kaduna court.

His incarceration has prompted his followers to constantly engage in street protests in Abuja, unleashing mayhem on public institutions and making life unbearable for residents.

Reacting to the trend yesterday, 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 the matter was eventually determined, pointing out that Buhari had no hand in El-zakyzaky’s trial.

Shehu declared as unacceptable, the assumptions of members of the group that they are above the law and consequently violating the rights of other citizens by disrupting their businesses and blocking roads.

He said: “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.”

While appealing to them to desist from violent street protests, Shehu emphasised that the matter was before the court in Kaduna, and the protesters should henceforth concentrate attention “on his on-going trial instead of causing daily damages, disruptions and public nuisance in Abuja.”

He said it was 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, positing that 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 was no longer within the purview of the Ministry of Justice and hence, the federal government was not involved and could’t be accused of violating court orders. 

Furthermore he said: “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.

Buhari: I’m Committed to Peaceful, Stable Nigeria

Meanwhile, President Buhari yesterday said that his administration remained committed to securing the country as well as creating peaceful and stable socio-economic environment for all citizens.

Buhari gave the assurance when he received the National and State Executive members of the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo (MBO) Dynamic Support Group led by its National Coordinator, Malam Usman Ibrahim, at the State House, Abuja.

According to the President, his administration is focused on having a Nigeria, where families will be safe and urged the leaders of MBO support group to spread the message that he remained committed to securing the country.

He said: “Our vision for change is to have a safe and secured country for our citizens, a vibrant and inclusive economy that provides jobs and livelihood for our young and energetic population and of course a governance system that is free of corruption where every Nigerian has the same opportunity.

“As leaders in your various communities, I urge you all to take the message back to your community. It is not about politics, religion or tribe.

“It is about having a Nigeria where our family will be safe and our children will have plenty opportunities to earn a living and have comfortable lives.’’

In his remarks, the Coordinator of the group said the officials were in the presidential villa to congratulate the president on his re-election for another four years in office.

“The masses and the commoners renewed their trust in you, as they believe you are capable of taking them out of mystery and suffering,’’ he added.

He also said the group was proposing a summit on how to achieve the ‘Next Level’ agenda of the Buhari administration.