Shi’ite leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky
Olalekan Adetayo , Godwin Isenyo and Oluwatosin Omojuyigbe
Nigerians have berated the Federal Government over its claim of spending N3 . 5 m monthly to feed the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria , Ibrahim el – Zakzaky.
They called on the Federal Government to obey the court order granting the Islamic leader bail to put a stop to feeding him with N3 . 5 m monthly .
The Minister of Information and Culture , Alhaji Lai Muhammed , made the claim in a video that went viral on the internet on Thursday .
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Nigerians noted that the government might have spent over N120m to feed the Islamic cleric since he was arrested and detained in December 2015 after his followers were engaged in a bloody clash with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff , Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State .
Muhammed , who was apparently addressing reporters , was heard saying in the video that he was giving the journalists the information off the record to serve as background to their reports .
One of our correspondents reported that the video which was on YouTube had the watermark of an online television , OakTV , and was uploaded on Wednesday .
The video has ‘ Finally , Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, opens up on El- Zakzaky , Shiites ’ as its title .
Mohammed , in the video , said it was wrong to liken what was happening to El- , 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 .
He said the Islamic cleric was eating whatever he liked in detention .
“ It costs the government about N3 . 5 m every month to feed him , ” the minister declared.
When he noticed that reporters murmured , 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 with Mohammed , jokingly told him (Mohammed ) that he too was willing to be taken into custody.
Justifying why he volunteered the information off the record , 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 .
Some readers on PUNCH Online berated the claim of the Federal Government.
A reader with the username Emmanuel said , Chai oga Lai, why have you openly decided to expose the corruption in DSS?”
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Another poster with the username Ojays said , “ I bet by the time APC finishes with Nigeria , their four years will be worst than PDP’ s 16 years . The party is populated by a bunch of Omo oju o rolari (poverty – stricken politicians , coming to the centre for the first time and stealing everything.
“ How can you tell us you ’ re feeding a detainee with N3 . 5 m per month ? We know that the currency has no value but all the same .
“ I read Ngige saying 30 k is enough for a family of six – husband , wife and 4 children . Let’ s ask him to try it for two months . I wonder if they ’ ll not transport themselves to work, school , generate electricity , provide water , security , housing and health . I bet corruption is doing “ pressing up , ” to quote OBJ . We need a revolution in Nigeria . ”
Another reader with the username Olusola Idowu , said , “This is a rogue government; we finally know why they are detaining people without respecting the court order ; to steal money in the name of feeding the detained !”
A poster with the username Nwa Africa said , “ Then allow the man to go if you are feeding him with N3 . 5 m every month … Lying APC party . ”
Holy Wahala who was one of the posters , said , “ N3 . 5 m monthly multiplied by the number of Shiites in their detention is how much this wicked Buhari’ s government steals from our treasury while disobeying several court orders to free the blind old cleric .
“ What is Pastor Osinbajo still doing in this govt ? Watching idly as a fellow cleric is detained against the constitutional law he taught at the university level .
“ No sane man of God would serve under Buhari, much less tolerate this inhumane treatment he metes out to fellow human beings . If it costs N3 . 5 m per month to feed a civilian caught without arms or illegal substances, how much does it cost us to bunk retired Col . Sambo Dasuki in whose house weapons were found ?
However , some readers commended the Federal Government for coming out with the amount spent on the detained leader.
A reader with the username Progressive said , “This government believes in transparency ; that ’ s why they have been able to come out to tell the whole world how much they are spending to feed the Shiite leader. I think this shouldn’ t be an issue . This administration is transparent and we need to propagate it . It ’ s a shame on anyone who has been questioning the integrity of the minister just because he said this is the amount they have been using to feed the Shiite leader. ”
Another reader with the username Woman leader1 , said , “President Muhammadu ’ s government is so transparent ; they will always say the truth . ”
Also , another poster with the username mamaT said , “ APC is the most transparent and truthful administration ever ! U can only get the fact when APC is involved . ”
Meanwhile , OakTV 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 television station said the video was released in error .
It claimed that those involved in the error had been sanctioned .
The letter read , “ On Wednesday , November 7 , 2018 , OakTV made some error (sic ) in its reporting regarding a conversation with the Minister of Information.
“ This is an error which we regret. All team members involved have been sanctioned and we would do more to tighten our gatekeeping responsibilities .
“ We apologise and regret any embarrassment this might have caused the minister . ”
However , the Shiite on Thursday said the claim by the Federal Government was nothing but a blatant lie ‘ that the government is famous for . ’
Spokesman for the IMN , Ibrahim Musa , told one of our correspondents in Kaduna that poor feeding was among other things their leader complained of when he was brought to Kaduna .
He said , “Prior to now, the Sheikh was allowed to buy the food he wanted while in Abuja but at the moment , he was being fed with whatever they (authority )like, not minding his health . ”
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“The claim is absurd and a blatant lie which the Minister is famous for .
“ It only goes to show how some people in this government are looting public funds in the name of Sheikh Zakzaky.
“ We challenge the Minister to make public the name of the people collecting such huge sums in our leader’ s name. ”
Outrage over FG’s claim of spending N3.5m monthly to feed El-Zakzaky
Shi’ite leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky