By Johnson Eyiangho
Abuja – The Iranian Government, suspected main financier of detained Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), has withdrawn its support to the group, a top Federal Government official has revealed.
The source told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja that the withdrawal of support was sequel to “secret engagements, discreet contacts and cultivations’’ by Nigerian and Iranian governments’ officials in the last one year.
According to the source, the engagements were facilitated by the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) and High Command and Supreme Leadership Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The source disclosed that the engagement centred on how to contain and manage “the violence, menace and confrontations of IMN’’ with constituted authority.
“IMN is seen as the benefactor and vehicle for the import of Iranian Shia ideology in Nigeria and West African sub-region,’’ the source said.
He also revealed that series of meetings between officials of Rasuul Aaazam Foundation (RAAF), a Shia group in Nigeria, and Federal Government intelligence officials led to the breakthrough.
The source explained that RAAF operated under Hujjatul Islam, led by Sheikh Muhammad Nur Dass, with headquarters in Kano and branches across northern Nigeria.
He said that Dass was the highest ranking Shia cleric in Nigeria, with mandate to adjudicate religious and temporal issues in the Ja’afari Shia School.
“This makes him higher in the Shia school and hierarchy than El-Zakzaky, who is not a cleric and has never been to any Shia Theology School.’’
The source recalled the confrontations between IMN and security forces, especially the army, in Zaria, Kaduna, Abuja, Nasarawa and said that they “necessitated a change of tactics and strategy and adoption of non-Kinetic warfare’’.
On Nov. 20, 2018, the IMN clashed with security forces in Abuja and it led to the death of many people.
The source disclosed that a senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani, the “Ephemeral Tehran Friday Prayer Imam’’, condemned the killings and urged clerics to step in to avoid further clashes and bloodshed.
He said that after the incident, Dass stepped up his intervention, first by declaring support for President Muhammadu Buhari, and called on Shia adherents to eschew violence and confrontation with constituted authority.
The source said that over the last 30 years, El-Zakzaky’s IMN had been seen as a vehicle for projecting Iranian foreign policy with demonstrations and burning of American and Israeli flags.
He, however, said the resolve by the Iranian regime to distance itself from IMN and El-Zakzaky “will certainly improve its relations with Nigeria’’. (NAN)