The police have their own rules of engagement. The rules emanate from the laws of the country. The Shiites have a tendency of enraging the security agencies and they are being sponsored. As far as I am concerned, if these people make it impossible for us to live peacefully, they must not be allowed to have peace.

The Shiites act as if they are above the law. Blaming the police for what happened in Kano is not ideal. Should Shiites be allowed to violate the law and attack the police without the police not defending themselves?

If they continue to be violent, the government should outlaw them. If they think they are a sect that is above the law, we are going to have a lot of problems. As far as I am concerned, the group should be banned in Kano as it has been banned in Kaduna.

However, I would like the government to charge the Shiites’ leader, who has been in custody, to court in the spirit of democracy. In a democratic system, it is better and ideal to charge somebody who is alleged to have committed an offence to court. •Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, (Member, Arewa Consultative Forum)

I am of the opinion that the handling of the Shiite movement can be better done. It should be better done on the side of the police. Our policemen need to be more professional in this issue. I have observed that security agencies on each occasion with the Shiites have acted without reflection.

But we must understand that religious matters must be handled with a lot of caution. Force should be the last option of negotiation. Our experience of how Boko Haram became a festering sore is still fresh in our memory. We ought to have learnt our lesson from that.

What I suggest is that there must be a multi-dimensional approach to the Shiites’ issue. This must include the deradicalisation of the members of the movement. We have to involve all the parties in this deradicalisation.

Secondly, every effort must be made to avoid the use of force. The application of force, most times, merely reinforces the thinking of the members that they are on the right path. It makes them to want to respond to any aggression.

Just last year, over 300 members of the movement were killed in a confrontation with the army. Therefore it is sad that we are in situations where human lives are lost to violence.

So, I will advise that other non-violent measures must be applied in the handling of Shiites’ problem. Otherwise, they may inadvertently create another centre of insurgency in the country. • Tunde Babawale (Professor of Political Science and International Relations, UNILAG)

The training of our law enforcement officers is not accurate. They do not know the difference between political groups, associations and religious movements. When you are confronted with a movement, you are in trouble if you do not tread with caution.

Up to their last blood, they are ready to react. This was the same way Boko Haram started. Last year, one senior military officer was passing and the Shiites were having their procession and they were asked to leave the road, and it resulted in the killing of many people.

Generally, our law enforcement agencies ought to consider themselves as servants of the people. They should not be seen intimidating citizens. What made a governor to lose a primary election in Bayelsa State was because he described the police as “kill and throw away.” How can you say that about the police?

The Shiites, at one time, had clamoured for the release of their leaders, but to no avail. If we keep on threatening them with force, they will gain sympathy and their numbers will increase in the society until it becomes a serious issue for the government.

I am, therefore, advising the Inspector-General of Police to tread softly. He should have better community experience in policing. If there is no peace, nobody can sleep well. It is better to allow peace to reign.

I also appeal to our President to wade in with caution. No matter how violent the people are, the government should know the proper language to use in dealing with them. Moshood Salvador (Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Lagos State)

Is it right for Shiites to be blocking the road? Report has it that they attacked the police and seized their guns. So, they (the police) had to use maximum force to disperse them. I am not justifying the killing. But maximum force could be used when their lives are in danger. Possibly, they were outnumbered by the Shiites. If the police didn’t take precautionary measures to protect themselves, they would be killed and people would blame them for not protecting themselves.

There are rules when security operatives are to use their firearms. One of them is when their lives are in danger. Although I am taking sides with the police, people should not also take the law into their own hands.  However, their leader is being detained and they are agitated. I think the government should negotiate with them and look for a political means to solve the problem, maybe by releasing the leader, or charging him to court. But they cannot continue to block the road

Nigeria is a secular state. No religion is superior to the other. Besides, this issue is not even a religious matter. It has to do with a sect. They should comport themselves properly so that they don’t put themselves in danger. • Michael Ejiofor (A former Director, Department of State Services)

The Nigeria Police Force have a duty to protect the lives of the citizens, including the Shiites. All we need to do is to find out the reasons why the police behaved the way they did.

If it is found out that the Shiites constituted a great threat to the Nigerian state, the police have the right to contain them with every measure available.

Therefore, it requires a serious investigation to determine the grounds on which the police dealt with the movement, so that we can come to an objective conclusion.

If the Shiites organised themselves to destroy the state and the police intervened, it is justifiable. But if it was an unprovoked attack, the police can be condemned. The Shiites have been under surveillance in the country for some time now because of the arrest of their senior members.

Therefore, the confrontation they had with the police was bound to occur.

I also think the Federal Government must be careful about the Shiites because this is a group that for one reason or the other, feels suppressed. If we do not handle them well, we may have another group of terrorists in our hands. They are grieving and the government must be careful how they handle this situation.

I suggest that the government goes for negotiation and possibly release all the detained Shiite members. • Jonah Onuoha (Professor of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka)

It is not wrong if the police go out against any sect that wants to breach the peace of the country. This is a sect that wants to create a state within a state. That objective is fundamentally wrong.

It is not a question of negotiating with the movement because one is sufficiently familiar with the objective of the group called Shiites. They have, from the outset, insisted on creating a state within a state. That is a fundamental anomaly that should not be allowed in any state that is governed by the rule of law.

Your own right as a citizen must not be allowed to infringe on my own right. You cannot put a roadblock and say citizens must not move because of your religious beliefs.

You do not have to practise your religion in a way that will infringe on my own rights. The state has a responsibility to ensure that this situation does not reoccur. We will never have peace and safety in the country when undue, unguarded and unbridled freedom is given to a group.

I advise that it is important that our leaders, particularly those from the northern part, which includes the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Islamic scholars and the traditional rulers, come into this matter. They should hold a conference with the government on this issue and address it once and for all.Ayo Opadokun (Social commentator and activist)

  • Compiled by

Olaleye Aluko and Afeez Hanafi

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