A Statement By The Pro-Democracy And Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group-: Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) Condemning The Portrayal Of Shiites In A Yet-To-Be-Released Nollywood Movie Titled, ‘Fatal Arrogance’, Disputing That The Chief Of Army Staff Is Not The one Who Sponsored The Movie, And Urging The Nigerian Government To End The Persecution Of The Islamic Movement Of Nigeria And Release Their Leader
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is the most widely known Shia group in Nigeria, where the vast majority of Muslims are Sunni. It was founded around 1978 by cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky while he was studying economics at Abu Zaria University in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, where many Shiites live.
His movement attracted support, mainly from fellow students, after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when Iran became a Shia Islamic republic and came to prominence after Zakzaky convinced followers that an Islamic revolution, inspired by Iran, was possible in Nigeria.
Their first reported march in the country in 1980 was in support of Iran after a joint US-Canadian operation to save US diplomats trapped in Tehran in 1979. Zakzaky and fellow student members believed that an Islamic State was the only way to achieve social justice for Muslims.
They demonstrated with placards and spray painted “Islam Only” in Zaria city in Kaduna plState. Yet according to IMN, despite their early aim, the group now simply wants the freedom to practice freely in northern Nigeria’s Sunni dominated region.
As a result, the group has held several protest marches and processions, drawing the ire of northern Nigeria’s Sunni authorities and the country’s security forces. Nigeria’s government has accused the IMN of seeking to overthrow and undermine the state, alleging the group supports militancy and terrorism.
The sect has a history of protests and processions in northern Nigeria, the majority of which have occurred without issue. But some have also descended into violence. Many IMN shrines, community centres and schools have been demolished in Kaduna State, where the group is now banned.
In the last few weeks, Nigerians have been overwhelmed with the alleged portrayal of Shiites in a yet-to-be-released Nollywood movie titled, ‘Fatal Arrogance’, which starred Pete Edochie as the lead character in the film.
Predictably, the movie, which was shot in Enugu and produced by Anosike Kingsley Orji, derived its title from the book written by a security analyst cum activist; Mr. Terrence Kuanum. What many are confused is why the filming of such a movie at a time the country is volatile.
In as much as we know that filmmakers have creative license to dramatize imaginary situations, this does not come into any of those realms. This is because the peaceful protesters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria are mischievously depicted as armed protesters, with guns and knives tasty for the blood of the innocent.
We are shocked by the film ‘‘where the popular Islamic Movement in Nigeria and its leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky are being depicted and badly portrayed as terrorists. It is regrettable that the group being portrayed as violent is perceived by lot of Nigerians as the victims of state sponsored terrorisms as a lot of them have been killed by armed security men while carrying out their peaceful processions and/or protests as the case might be.
In a swift reaction to the Movie, which is still in the oven of production, the IMN had issued a statement maintaining that the movie is a propagandist portrayal of its detained leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and the Shiite followers, with the leadership of the Nigerian Army as the sponsors.
It would be recalled that the leader of IMN; Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah Ibrahim have been detained since December 2015, accused of terror offences. They were seized from their home in Zaria after violence erupted at a procession of Shiites in the city.
The Nigerian military had in 2015 accused the group of attempting to assassinate its chief commander. According to Amnesty International and other rights groups, 347 mostly unarmed Shiite marchers were killed by Nigerian forces, and buried in mass graves.
In December 2016, the Federal High court dismissed the government’s case and ordered that Zakzaky and his wife be released. The government refused to free them, instead mounting fresh charges in a Kaduna State court. Since then supporters have demanded his release, protesting in Nigerian cities.
OUR POSITION AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
We urge the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to try and go a bit above those kinds of sentiments. In whatever that is done that is being perceived to be against them, they shouldn’t always begin to fire back at the Chief of Army Staff as being behind it.
According to credible sources, we have confirmed that the chief of army staff is not the sponsor of that Movie. We have made our enquiries unless there are superior arguments to counter the intelligence that has been given to us by those credible sources.
Therefore, the allegation that the Chief of Army Staff was the one that sponsored that Movie only exists in the figments of the imagination of some persons. They have not giving Nigerians any concrete and empirical proof pointing to the Chief of Army Staff as the one behind that movie.
Perhaps it would be apt to note here that the Chief of Army Staff; Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai is a disciplined professional Officer who knows and understands the rule of engagements.
In the Zaria matter, the National Human Rights Commission Special Investigation Panel never indicted him. Rather, according to the Anthony Ojukwu’s five-man Committee, the right of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, was violated by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria during the December 2015 Shiite/Army clash in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The panel chairman, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, (now Executive Secretary of NHRC) who presented the report to the then NHRC Executive Secretary; Prof. Bem Angwe, said the blocked public highway by IMN infringed on the freedom of movement of the Chief of Army Staff.
However, that is not to say that the continuous killing of the members of the IMN should be tolerated. It is absolutely unlawful. What the Nigerian government is doing to that group is totally unacceptable. The declaration of the group as a terrorist group is completely unacceptable and illogical.
People that are going about their religious worship, which the constitution allows can’t be called terrorists; they didn’t kill anybody even when they were doing their own procession apart from that incident that happened in zaria , which we were not eye witness to.
Even, the Ojukwu-led panel in its report also noted that the right of the IMN to property was violated because their property was destroyed without due process by the Kaduna State government.
The committee among other things recommended that compensation computed in a fair manner by experts should be paid by the Kaduna State government to the victims of the demolished properties and also that members of the IMN arrested for various violations and offences should be speedily and fairly tried by the Kaduna State High Court.
Hence, we are by this statement demanding that government ends the persecution of those people and release their leader, appologise to them and compensate them. Additionally, government should remove the illegal toga of a terror group that was imposed on IMN illegally.
It is completely unconstitutional to say that people who are worshipping their God are terrorists when there is no evidence to show that they have killed anybody or that they don’t recognize Nigeria as a country. If they don’t recognize Nigeria as country they would have migrated out of Nigeria since.
All the riots that happened in the north that has to do with fundamentalism, the Shiites have never being involved; it’s not the Shiites that are killing people. Unlike what is obtainable in Iran where they have Shiite militia, we don’t have it in Nigeria. Infact they are the most peaceful bunch of Muslims among the other group of Muslims we have.
HURIWA has a record of all the conflicts that have happened in the North and the Shiites have never been indicted in anyway in the last 30 years. For instance, the Christian-muslim riot that happened in kafachan in 1987, the founder of HURIWA was a witness to that and we can unequivocally attest to the fact that the Shiites were not involved. The Shiites have never being involved in creating riots in the north, which is known to be the hot bed of religious conflicts. So why is the government calling them terrorists and persecuting them?
COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO; NATIONAL COORDINATOR.
Miss. Zainab Yusuf; Director, National Media Affairs.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
September 22nd 2020.