The governor says the N3.5 million is used on more than just feeding the cleric.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has clarified comments made by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the Federal Government spends N3.5 million monthly on feeding imprisoned Shia Muslim cleric, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
The spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also called Shiites, is on trial for unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
El-Zakzaky was arrested in Zaria, Kaduna in 2015 after soldiers killed over 300 members of the sect after allegedly throwing stones at the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, an act declared by the Army to be an assassination attempt.
Mohammed had caused a stir when he claimed last week that the cleric is housed at a residence where it takes millions of naira to feed him monthly.
“The issue of whether, where he (Mr El-Zakzaky) is, at least let’s keep it off record, that he is in a residence and you know eating at the… It costs the government about N3.5 million every month to feed him,” he had said.
While many protested that the figure is false, many others questioned why the government would not consider releasing him instead especially since Justice Gabriel Kolawole of an Abuja division of the Federal High Court had previously ordered El-Zakzaky’s release from custody in a December 2016 ruling. The order was ignored by the government.
While hosting the management team of The Sun Newspaper in Kaduna on Thursday, November 15, El-Rufai said the N3.5 million in question is not used solely to feed El-Zakzaky.
“The N3.5 million monthly feeding on El-Zakzaky is not only about his food, but other expenses on security men attached to him. The security men are permanently stationed with him, they surrounded where he is kept,” he said.
The governor also noted that IMN was proscribed because it is not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), thereby rendering its activities in the state illegal.
El-Zakzaky denied bail by Kaduna court
During the hearing of the sect leader’s bail application on November 7, 2018, presiding Judge, Justice Gideon Kurada, rejected the application. In his ruling, he noted that El-Zakzaky failed to show any substantial medical evidence to back his claims for bail on health grounds. The case was then adjourned to January 22, 2019 for commencement of trial.
His detention has led to allegations of persecution by members of the sect who have also taken to the streets several times to protest El-Zakzaky’s detention, leading to clashes with authorities, most notably the Army.
Dozens of Shiites killed in clashes with Army
400 IMN members were arrested by officers of the Nigeria Police Force for disturbance of public peace and law and order in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on October 30, 2018. They were alleged to have set a Police vehicle on fire, and arrested with 31 bottles of petrol bombs and other dangerous weapons.
A previous clash on Saturday, October 27, where the Army accused Shiite protesters of attacking a convoy carrying ammunitions, resulted in the death of three people, with a couple of soldiers also wounded.
The protesters returned on Monday, October 29 and got involved in another clash with the Army and the Police. While the Army reported that another three Shiites were killed, the Shia sect claimed around 50 were killed by troops.