The Islamic Movement of Nigeria has accused the Nigerian Army of trying to suppress the truth about the clash that resulted in the deaths of many of its members.
In a statement by the President of its media forum, Ibrahim Musa, the IMN said the army was threatening its members and trying to suppress the rights of its members to freedom of speech and expression.
It issued the statement, which was published on its website, in response to the alarm raised by the army on Thursday that the sect was carrying out a campaign of calumny against it.
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, had said that the smear campaign was being led by a lecturer of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr. Abdulahi Danladi.
Usman explained that the lecturer solicited support for the group and distorted the facts of the December 12, 2015 clash between the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, and the IMN in Zaria.
He said, “The Nigerian Army is aware of a clandestine campaign of calumny and misinformation on the incident of 12 December 2015 in Zaria by a group of high ranking members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria led by one Doctor Abdullahi Danladi, a Lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
“Earlier today (Thursday) he was at the university soliciting support and telling lies about the circumstances surrounding the incident. He also went further to make false and unfounded allegations of casualty figures and desecration of burial grounds. It is preposterous and shows lack of concern and respect for peace and tranquility.”
He warned the lecturer and his group to desist from acts considered capable of misinforming the members of the public.
The movement, however, said the army’s claims amounted to “another round of violating a citizen’s right to express himself”.
It said, “Whatever Dr. Abdullahi Danladi might have said that is provoking a threat to his life by the Army Spokesperson would not be anything less than what several human right groups, especially the Human Rights Watch have stated.
“This is because the Army had earlier underestimated the responsiveness and pro-activeness of the Islamic Movement in its efforts to cover-up its mess and now that everything is coming out to the bare the Army is jittery with the outcome.
“Hence, what is now left for the Army and the government is to threaten the lives or even eliminate those they could blame for letting the world know of their crimes instead of taking corrective measures.”
The sect called on well-meaning individuals and groups to rise up against human rights violation.
“It is the duty of Nigerians to say no to impunity and misuse of office by the Army Spokesperson to threaten lives of individuals especially those who stand against injustice,” it said.
There have been conflicting reports about the number of people killed in the December 12 clash with the army, the sect and human rights groups all giving different figures.
While the sect claims that up to 1,000 of its members were killed, Human Rights Watch puts the figure at 300.
The army has insisted over time that it was forced to open fire on the members of the group to prevent an attack on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, had also in a state broadcast after the clash accused the movement engaging in a series of illegal activities, including blocking roads, occupying schools – disrupting educational activities and building illegal structures.
The state government, the National Human Rights Commission and the National Assembly have all set up panels to investigate the conflict.
Meanwhile, members of the group have continued to hold protest in some states in the North, demanding the release of its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and other members who were arrested as well as “justice” for those killed.