The Centre for Democracy and Development wishes to draw attention to the dangers associated with the widespread attacks on Shiites, a Muslim religious movement, in various parts of Northern Nigeria. The attacks are directed at members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, (IMN), Nigeria’s foremost Shi’ite group. Many of them were reported to have been attacked and killed yesterday, 12th October. Four members of the Shi’a sect were killed Wednesday morning in the Tudun Wada area of the Kaduna South Local Government Area when some irate youth attacked them. They also burnt the residence of group’s leader in Kaduna and also demolished the Shi’ite’s Islamic school in the area. The police in Sokoto have reported that hoodlums killed a Shi’ite member in Tudun Wada in Sokoto North Local Government Area en route to a procession they were organizing.
There was also a violent confrontation at Tamaje area of Sokoto South Local Government between a mob and sect members. In Katsina State, the police said at least three persons died during a clash between its men and members of the IMN in Funtua, Funtua Local Government Area of the state. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Usman Abdullahi, said two policemen were injured during the clash. According to him, the police arrested 46 persons comprising men and women for participating in the banned procession. He said the incident occurred when members of the Shi’ites group attempted to burn the Police Area Commander’s office in the town during the procession.
The IMN released a statement on Wednesday evening that at least 13 of its members were killed in multiple clashes with the police and some hoodlums in Funtua, Sokoto and Kaduna. Some States - Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi had earlier banned the group’s annual procession. The alleged reason for the attacks where that they were commemorating a religious rite called “Ashura”, which involves processional marches. Over the years, these processions have been done peacefully in many parts of the country. This year, however, there were concerted attempts by both security agencies and other Islamic groups to stop them. The Order, which came into operation on 7th October, 2016 declares that: “the Society that bears the name, style, guise or nomenclature of the “Islamic Movement in Nigeria”, is hereby declared an Unlawful Society in Kaduna State.”
This act of the Kaduna State Government has been a trigger that unleashed these attacks on members of the Shi’a community all over the country. It is estimated that there are about three million members of this religious community all over the country and it is very irresponsible for a State Government to proscribe their operations. One of the most dangerous acts is for members of a religious community to believe that their religious freedom to exercise their faith according to their belief. It is important to note that the leader of the movement. Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky has been in detention with his wife since December last year with no charges filed against them. His followers have been demanding for his release and the DSS has responded that they are holding him for his safety. Members of the IMN have however claimed that the Nigerian Government is trying to kill their leader. The problem is that his followers believe they are trying to kill him. So far, the army has killed six out his seven sons and now his organisation has been proscribed in Kaduna State while their members are being attacked all over the country. It appears that there is an attempt to push the Shiites in Nigeria to popular revolt. We have enough insurgencies and violent conflicts in Nigeria and the Centre for Democracy appeals to authorities and the civil populace to beware of pushing out country to more violent conflicts.