Lai Mohammed

The federal government has claimed it spends N3.5 million monthly to feed the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim el-Zakzaky.

This is coming as the outgoing United Kingdom High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, Thursday appealed to protesting members of IMN and security agencies to always allow the rule of law guide their conducts.

Arkwright also denied the involvement of the British Government in the cancellation of the planned address of the British House of Lords by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd).

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made the claim on the feeding of IMN leader in a video that went viral on the internet Thursday.

The minister, who was apparently addressing journalists, was heard saying in the video that he was giving the journalists the information on an off-the-record basis to serve as a background to their reports.

But Oak Television released it to the internet, trending on social media early yesterday.

Mohammed, in the video, said it was wrong to liken what was happening to el-Zakzaky, whose followers have been engaging security agents in confrontation since his incarceration, to what happened to the late leader of Boko Haram, Yusuf.

He said the IMN leader was undergoing criminal prosecution in Kaduna State and the court had denied him bail.

The minister explained that instead of detaining him in a prison, the federal government decided to hold el-Zakzaky in a building belonging to the Department of State Services (DSS).

He said the Islamic cleric ate whatever he liked in detention.

“It costs the government about N3.5 million every month to feed him,” the minister declared.

Mohammed explained to them that he got the figure from the relevant government agencies upon enquiry.

At that point, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who was apparently briefing journalists alongside Mohammed, jokingly told him (Mohammed) that he (Amaechi) too was willing to be taken into custody.

Justifying why he volunteered the information on an off-the-record basis, the minister described the issue involving the IMN as a “sensitive” one.

“So, please, we don’t want to inflame passion. The issue is a very sensitive matter. But that is the situation,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, the television station has apologised to the minister for making the video public despite the off-the-record agreement he had with the journalists.

In an apology letter addressed to the minister and dated November 8, the management of the TV station said the video was released in error. It claimed that all those involved in the error have been sanctioned.

Meanwhile, the outgoing United Kingdom High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, on has appealed to protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and security agencies to always allow the rule of law guide their conducts.

Arkwright, who made the appeal yesterday during a parley with journalists in Abuja on the visit of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, also appealed to Nigerians to tackle the herders famers clashes from a more global perspectives rather than ethnic and religious lines, adding that there are bigger issues underlying the
crisis.

He seized the opportunity to clear the air on his position on the matter. “What I said on the question of the IMN in the past, and I am happy to repeat it, is that just as the IMN must obey the rule of law by peaceful demonstration and right to demonstrate peacefully, peacefully is the key word there.

“So, of course, it is important for the security forces in Nigeria also to respect the rule of law,” Arkwright said.

The outgoing High Commissioner blamed climate change and population growth as part of the cause root of the herders and famers’ clashes in the country. He said, “This is not a religious conflict. This is a conflict which is driven by a number of complex reasons, climate change, pressure on resources, pressure on land, desertification to the North of Nigeria, the population growth.

“There are big issues there which underline the conflict.

“The farmer/herders conflict is not in my view about religion even if some people would like to make it about religion.”

Arkwright noted that the visit of the Prince Charles and his wife Camila is expected to improve the ties between Britain and Nigeria, describing Tuesday’s meeting as “ a cordial meeting between the prince and the president.”

Arkwright also denied the involvement of the British government in the cancellation of the planned address of the British House of Lords by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd).

“The visits of TY Danjuma was an event organised in the House of Lords, by two parliamentarians As you know the UK parliament is independent and has nothing to do with the government. It has nothing to do with the British government. We are aware that it was happening but the cancellation has nothing to do with us”.

Danjuma was invited by the parliament to address the House on the issue of herders and farmer clashes in Nigeria.

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