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PRESS STATEMENT: Stop Beating Around The Bush Mr President; Obey Court Order To Free Sheikh Zakzaky

In his New Year message to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari, made an unusual call to those he termed the Shia community, whom he referred to as his “brothers and sisters.” We note the leap in his outlook of the IMN from his infamous “state within a state” gaffe in his maiden Presidential speech to “our brothers and sisters of the Shia Community” all within one year. This is a remarkable feat considering the snail speed his administration has come to be characterized with.

Beyond this however, the President actually evaded the points at issue. His call that we "must accept the laws of the country” we live in should actually have been echoed to him. Have we not challenged all acts of brutality and extra-judicial killing of our members in our law courts peacefully? Even in the face of extreme persecution and provocation, we have followed the laws of the land, not by taking the laws into our hands, or by employing jungle justice or disobeying any legitimate laws of the country, but by seeking redress in law courts, even as we know of the administration’s legendary disregard for court orders.

On the contrary, Mr President, you are yet to obey the court order to release our leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, whom you have held in illegal detention, without charges, for more than a year now despite a court order for his release! Mr President, only last week our leading Counsel, Femi Falana (SAN) had written to remind you of that court order through your Chief Law officer, the Attorney-General. Thus, we must ask you to stop begging the question. You should obey the laws of the country you lead by obeying court order to free Sheikh Zakzaky immediately!

Secondly, Mr President, we are not an "island" by ourselves as your speech portrayed. We are well embedded into all aspects of the society, contributing positively in various ways to its success. We have built bridges across both intra and inter-faith divides. We have been bridging gaps across tribal and regional divides. We have been exposing the evil machination of authorities against its very citizens. Is that not the very reason the authorities seek to curtail what they perceive as our glowing influence and impact on the society? When campaign of blackmail and calumny by government and its protégé failed woefully, your government applied maximum and irrational force in attempt to crush us. Again on the contrary, you are more of an island into yourself, detached from reality. You rely on cooked up reports, which you call “intelligence” based on private prejudices that do not reflect reality to formally crystallize into official resentment and hate for a group and its leadership.

We take your call Mr President that the law enforcement agencies must treat us “humanely and according to the rule of law” as a confessional statement and an admittance that hitherto, they’ve acted inhumanly like beasts. We wish to remind you what our leader said at the inception of your administration, that you should re-constitute and re-orientate the Nigerian Army in order not to inherit “an army that sees citizens as enemies.” This advice to you to bring change in the way the military operated against civilians and the Movement was widely reported in the media. It is still apt.

Finally, we call on the President to stop beating around the bush. He must release Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky immediately as ruled by the Court of the land. We expect him to also order for the immediate release of all those who are still being held in various places of detention across the country since the brutal attack on us. We expect him to take bold steps against the officers that massively killed citizens in Zaria, Kaduna, Kano, Funtua and Sokoto since the onset of the attacks on us in December of 2015. We expect actions to address the matter of victims secretly buried in mass graves. We demand for payment of compensation for lives and property destroyed in the ill-conceived attacks. We await his words of condolences in relation to those extra-judicially killed since the pogrom started.

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