Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, has accused the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) of whipping up sentiments.
Responding to the position of the group on the court which ordered its proscription, the presidential spokesman said the sect is trying to divert attention from its “terrorist activities”.
Abdullahi Musa, secretary to the academic forum of the movement, had said the federal government planned to stop the sect from practising its religion.
“I don’t think any court has the right to ban any religious group. Islamic movement in Nigeria is not an organisation registered under the government, it is a religious group. Are they trying to stop us from saying our daily prayers? They want to stop us from going to Mecca? We are practising religion and we will continue to practice our religion, there is no killing or act of intimidation that will stop us from practicing our religion,” he had told TheCable.
In a statement on Sunday, Shehu said government has nothing to do with the sect’s religion but the “wanton violence, murder and willful destruction of public and private property”.
“The proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shiites in the country from practicing their religion,” he said.
“The Presidency explains that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practicing its religion, President Buhari’s administration has not banned Shiites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage.
“Their position is blatantly false and deceptive. The IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public property, consistently defying authority of the state.
“The Presidency agrees that the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of the society, especially where such freedom harms others, and breaks law and order.
“The Presidency insists that such criminal behavior and disregard for rights of others and human life will not be tolerated by any responsible government, explaining that everywhere in the world protesters operate within legal boundaries and conduct themselves peacefully without molesting others, or engaging in murder and killing of security personnel or destroying public and private property.
“The Presidency regrets that despite all efforts by the government and other well-meaning Nigerians to make the IMN militants to see reason and abandon violence, such appeals fell on deaf ears as they killed, maimed and destroyed willfully, constituting daily nuisance to workers, commuters and other innocent citizens.
“Having defied appeals to operate peacefully, and given their seeming determination to destabilize the country, the government had to act before the situation goes out of control, after admonishing many times over that people should not use religion to perpetuate lawlessness.” (The Cable)