From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Conference of Islamic Preachers in Africa (CIPA) and Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI), have told the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and Director General Department of State Service (DSS), to arrest an islamic preacher, Sheikh Muktar Durum Zander, for defaming the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa.
The cleric, had in a viral video, claimed that General Musa was behind the decision of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to invade Niger, following the military coup.
The Nigerian Defence Chief had read the decision of the ECOWAS Defence Chiefs in Abuja after the coup, where it was resolved to use military force to restore the dethroned civilian government of President Mohammed Bazoum.
But the Islamic preacher took a swipe at the decision, profiling Gen Musa as the man behind ECOWAS’ action to declare war in Niger.
He claimed also that the Nigerian military chief had malicious intentions against the Muslim community.
The leadership of CIPA and GOPRI, in a petition dated August, 25th, through their lawyers, Daniel Obla, O.T. Lukden (MRS) and A.K Shafii of Obla Daniels & CO law firm, gave the police boss, a 7-day ultimatum to the preacher for hate speech.
They said failure of the police to do the necessary, they would resort to legal action compelling the nation’s law enforcement agencies’ chiefs to act.
The petitioners noted that the action of Sheikh Muktar Durum has the potential of undermining international and national peacekeeping efforts because he urged other Muslims to see the ECOWAS’ decision to engage the Nigerien Republic as a Christian war against their fellow Muslim brothers.
They described their clients as “peace advocacy and humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) that promotes peace and humanitarian actions.”
The petition read: “We serve as counsel for the Conference of Islamic Preachers in Africa (CIPA) and the Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI), collectively referred to as “Our Clients,” on whose behalf and per their direction we write;
“Our Clients are a peace advocacy and humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that promotes peace and humanitarian action.
“They go by the names Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI) and the Conference of Islamic Preachers in Africa (CIPA), and they are officially recognized one as a voluntary association with its coordinator as Sheikh Mohammad Abubarker Zango And the second as an incorporated trustee under the Companies and Allied Matters Act of the federal republic of Nigeria.
“According to our client, videos of the aforementioned Sheikh Muktar Durum Zander suggesting that the current Chief of Defence Staff, General Musa Christopher, was to be blamed for the ECOWAS decision to launch a military operation against the Niger Republic went viral sometimes between July and August 2023. wherein the preacher implied that the decision by ECOWAS to launch a military strike against the Nigerien Republic was made because of the current Chief of Defence Staff, General Musa Christopher.
“This video was created after the (ECOWAS) Chief of Defense met in Abuja in response to the military coup in Niger. General Musa read the meeting’s conclusions regarding the coup d’état and the need for the restoration of constitutional democracy in the West African nation.
“Following the statement the Nigerian military chief read, the Kaduna-based Islamic cleric Sheikh Muktar Durum made incendiary and false accusations against the CDS while also profiling his entire ethnic group in the video.
“The Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheik Muktar Durum in the video, made inflammatory and unfounded allegations against the person of the CDS just as he also stereotyped his ethnic group following the statement the Nigerian military boss read.
“The leader of Nigeria’s military, Christopher Musa said that they are ready if given authority.
“You know that in the military tradition, even if you didn’t say so, once you are given an order, you must obey, whether you are capable or not.
“Saying that we are ready to be given authority, signifies that he has malicious intentions against a community. Do you know where he comes from?
“He is from Zangon Kataf – a Kataf man! According to the history of his grandfathers, they are the ones who have been fighting Muslims, right from 1990, they have been killing Muslims. And Niger is a Muslim country.
“He has been made the topmost military officer in Nigeria. And he has been made the leader of the ECOWAS army.
“Today, the opportunity he has been looking for has been gotten. Left to him, he would have started from Zaria. We know where you are coming from; we know your grandparents; we know your kinsmen; we know your mentors.
“Our clients also express concern that the CDS and his people of Zagon Kataf, who have long endured religious crisis and who now enjoy a fragile luxury of peace thanks to the engagement of the government and civil society organizations, as well as other humanitarian efforts to ensure lasting peace in this region, could be thwarted, sending the area back to the 1990s when the cleric alluded to.
“If nothing else, the statement by the cleric is inflammatory, inciting and hate speech, capable of causing a breach of peace in Kaduna state with the potential to spread to other northern states, as anyone who has followed the history of religious unrest in the Nigerian Northern region, with particular reference to Kaduna state, will understand the fluid state of peace in this area.”
According to the lawyers:”Our clients are worried that the country’s security infrastructure hasn’t reacted to the hate speech to our knowledge since it surfaced in the media.
“They are particularly worried that this trend will soon degrade and spread if it is not checked and stopped in its tracks.”
The petition read further: “We argue that the cleric’s statement broke every municipal, national, and international peace charter and was hate speech.
“The Prohibition of Hate Speeches and Other Related Matters Act defines hate speech as “any abusive or threatening speech or writing that shows prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or other similar grounds in flagrant violation of our existing laws and the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Laws and the Criminal Code Act.
“The cleric’s statement is capable of whipping up both religious and ethnic sentiments and sparking up a round of religious unrest in the state and the region.
“The security agencies must be seen as being proactive in the fight against the perpetrators of division and divisive tendencies in the country
“Therefore, we request that you utilize your good authority to order the following: An urgent investigation into the cleric and any words he made that would have caused a breach of the peace.
“Direct the cleric’s immediate arrest and prosecution for using hate speech.
“Take note, that our clients have instructed us that within 7 days of this letter being served on you, and you failed, neglected, or refused to do the needful, we should pursue all legal means to compel the execution of your administrative function before a court of competent jurisdiction.”
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