The federal government says it is not involved in the ongoing trial of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
In a statement on Friday, Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, said the government will no longer condone acts of violence from El-Zakzaky’s followers.
The Shi’ia leader is facing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of public peace, among others.
El-Zakzaky has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since December 2015.
IMN members have demanded his release, staging massive protests, some times resulting in clashes with the police.
Shehu asked IMN members not to trample on the rights of others, saying the government would no longer allow the sect to take law into its hands.
“The presidency appeals to El-Zakzaky-led Shiite members to desist from needless violent street protests and await the decision of the court in Kaduna where their leader is currently being tried,” Shehu said.
“The issue of El-ZakZaky is before the court in Kaduna and his supporters should focus on his on-going trial instead of causing daily damages, disruptions and public nuisance in Abuja.
“It is wrong to be in court and resort to violence at the same time in order to get justice for anybody accused. The destruction of public property in the name of protest is not within the rights 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.
“As far as this country’s ministry of justice is concerned, the case involving El-Zakzaky is no longer in its domain. The federal government no more has hands in the matter and to that extent, the government at the centre can be said to be clear of any alleged violations of court orders as being trumpeted everyday.”
The federal government urged the Shi’ites to embrace dialogue instead of resorting to violence.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“It is always advisable to embrace dialogue and eschew violence in all our actions so that we can continue to live together in peace. We therefore appeal to the Shiite group to stop deliberate provocations that result in violence and fatalities and allow the trial of El-ZakZaky to take its course.”
On Thursday, a Kaduna state high court had adjourned hearing the motion for an application by El-Zakzaky to seek medical attention in India.