Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau has explained that security considerations were “purely responsible for the ban on the activities of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in the state.’’
“Plateau has laws regulating the practice of religions; we have a duty to ensure that the practice of religion does not constitute a security risk to anyone,” Lalong said in Jos, on Monday.
The governor, who spoke through Mr Dan Manjang, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, was reacting to allegations by IMN that he (Lalong) was merely copying what his Kaduna counterpart, Ahmed El-Rufai, did a week earlier.
Lalong had banned the group last week, following series of protests that turned violent and led to the deaths of some of the sect members after a clash with security personnel.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some members of the group were also injured while many were arrested.
IMN leader in Plateau, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa, while reacting to the ban, told newsmen on Sunday that Lalong merely replicated what El-Rufai did “without recourse to the dictates of the law.’’
“The governor stood logic on its head by outrightly banning our organisation. There was no reason for his action.
“The arbitrary ban has stripped us of our fundamental rights to practise our faith,” he claimed.
But Lalong dismissed the allegations that Plateau merely emulated Kaduna, wondering why the state should be accused of seeking to domesticate a decision taken by the Kaduna government.
He said that the ban was to protect residents of Plateau “including members of the IMN.’’
“The ban was also to protect the Shi’ite’ members; they were already open to risk with many of them physically attacked while their structures were being burnt and destroyed.
“Our prompt action was based on the situation at the time because as a government, we owe it a duty to protect the people, even from themselves,” he said.
On the allegations that IMN members had been denied their rights, the governor said that every right offered to the citizens must be used responsibly.
“The law is clear about that. Once your right jeopardises other people’s rights, it can be tampered with. That is what we did,’’ he said.
He said that government was always ready to ban the activities of any organisation if they were found to constitute a security risk.
The governor appealed to residents of the state to be law abiding and respect each other.
“We must endeavour to respect and protect each other. Respect must be mutual. No religion encourages violence; certainly not in Plateau,” he said.