By Philip Agbese
*“They continue to say that we are armed. This is a blatant lie. If we are armed, Nigeria Army cannot face us. If we have weapons with us, Nigeria Army is too small to face us. With our courage, braveness and bare hands, they are running away, talk more of when we have arms. They are cowards.” – Abdullahi Zango IMN Leader, November 5, 2018.
*”A stone-thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment.” – Ayelet Shaked, Israeli Minister of Justice.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) is definitely being buoyed by a misreading of the situation surrounding its running confrontations with the military and police without reading between the lines to appreciate the enormity of the suicide mission on which its members have embarked. Abdullahi Zango, IMN leader, held a press briefing on Monday to harangue the military and police. The drift of that event is that his group is seeking weapons to defeat Nigeria’s security forces – IMN does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Nigerian state.
During the briefing, Zango attempted to perpetrate the myth that stones, slingshots, catapults and petrol bombs do not qualify as weapons. These to him are merely the “courage, braveness and bare hands” from which military and security are running. The disinformation that these items do not constitute weapons is being promoted by neocon establishments like Amnesty International, nanny western countries, an opposition that is in need of political capital and a section of the media that have an axe to grind with the government of the day and yet another section that is out to milk any sensational value that will rivet the audience.
If it should have its wish of becoming a full blown terror group, which would be the case if its members lay their hands on more sophisticated weapons of their dream, the IMN would end up the greatest loser. First, even if it should succeed in using security containment of the Shiite group to blackmail the incumbent government out of office, the present day opposition will have no option but to clamp down on an IMN that is armed and certainly the intention will be to crush the group as quickly as possible so that whoever is the opposition at that future date does not get to use the group as leverage. Even the paid critics of today would have gotten higher offer from elsewhere and they will paint IMN into a pariah same way they are currently painting it into victimhood.
The western nations that are presently all about criticizing the Nigerian state for not allowing IMN members run riot will protect their own interests. They will not even need to declare IMN a terror group. All they have to do is to keep a database of its members and refuse them visas under any pretext possible. No one willfully brings an ants infested firewood home for that is what allowing members of a radicalized group like IMN would mean for these countries. From the trends monitored informally, several countries are already implementing this unspoken policy by not allowing IMN members visas to visit especially with their touted link to Iran. Zango will perhaps want to find out how these countries that are speaking for his group view those that throw stones at their security agents.
The only factor that would be left to support an armed IMN would be the likes of Amnesty International, which has such track record of humanizing killer groups and placing their interests and rights over those of victims. But any support from Amnesty International would not be worth much given its declining credibility across the globe on account of its penchant for peddling falsehood. It claimed for instance that the military was “firing live ammunition to disperse a peaceful gathering without warning.” It is interesting how a stone throwing mob of IMN members qualified as “peaceful gathering”. It is a tragedy that Zango and his followers do not realize from such bared face lies that they are no more than a means to an end in Amnesty International’s obsession with playing whack-a-mole with the military. A detached observer will see a pattern of Amnesty International manipulating IMN members into confrontation with the military so that it has something to accuse the military about violating human rights. The only problem? IMN members kill themselves while Amnesty International’s staffers get paid their bonuses.
The fact is that Zango and IMN have to face the reality as one must necessarily burst their bubble. Sorry guys, stones and petrol bombs are weapons, at least in countries that take the safety of their citizens seriously. Israel takes things serious on such level, it has in place a harsh law, passed in 2015, that criminalizes stone throwing. As reported by TheNewArab, “The bill allows for a sentence of up to 20 years in jail for throwing stones or other objects at a civilian vehicle in motion, with the intent of causing harm, and 10 years in prison if intent to endanger was not proven. Stone-throwers who target police vehicles face five years in prison.”
Aside Israel, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States, Turkey and Vietnam have legislation that criminalize stone throwing with sentences as high as 20 years jail term with fines. According to spiveylaw.com, “Under Florida State Law, Statute Section 790:19, shooting or throwing a deadly missile, hurling or projecting a stone or other hard substance which would produce death or great bodily harm at a public or private vehicle is a second degree felony. The crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.”
IMN members will therefore be wise to realize that the fact there is no permit required to carry stones and slingshots, unlike guns, does not mean they will not be classified and treated as weapons when the chips are down. They are welcome to extrapolate for the petrol bombs they have added to the equation. IMN members should further note the number of laws they will be breaking if they ever embrace the glaring madness of adding guns and explosives to their already lethal cache of crude weaponry. It is doubtful there is any nation on earth that will accept that level of provocation tepidly.
Those urging on members of the group to break the law must realize they are not helping them by misleading them to break the law and place themselves in harm’s way. If at all these people, organizations or countries love IMN as much as they claim they should invest their efforts rehabilitating those that have been radicalized by the group’s teaching perchance they can be re-oriented to fit into the contemporary secular Nigeria.
The bigger responsibility is for the Nigerian security circle. Now that IMN has officially made it known that it is desirous of defeating the military “If we (they) have weapons” it is expedient that the necessary steps are taken to prevent the birth of another terrorist group by ensuring that no shipment of weapons arrive from Iran for the group to use. Efforts must similarly continue to mop up illegal firearms across the country.
The federal Government must on it part explore how to deal with the IMN aggression with legislation that give military and law enforcement agencies the legal framework to deal with the menace once and for all time. Lines must be drawn since there are peaceful protests, violent stone throwing protests and terrorist acquisition of firearms.
*Agbese is a researcher in Human Rights Law based in the United Kingdom.