Emotions ranging from disbelief, anger and outrage have trailed the expose by Minister Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the Federal Government expends N3.5 million a month to feed detained Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shi’ite.
The minister made the revelation, albeit “off-the-record” which video went viral on social media on Wednesday, following the decision of the Kaduna court which denied the IMN leader bail.
The IMN leader and his wife have been in detention since their arrested in Zaria in December 2015.
They were first arraigned on May 15, 2018 and charged over alleged murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of public peace, among others. They have subsequently been denied bail severally while El-Zakzaky’s followers have continuously been having violent clashes with the security operatives, especially the Nigerian army.
After a bail application was pleaded before a Kaduna court on Wednesday and was denied, the minister told some State House Correspondents, after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja that El-Zakzaky was kept in a safe place and that it costs government N3.5 million a month to feed him in detention.
“The issue of whether, where he is, let’s keep it off record. He is in a residence and eating. I mean, it costs the government N3.5 million every month to feed him.
“We don’t want to inflame passion. Islamic Movement in Nigeria are a different kettle of fish.”
Going by the minister’s statement, for the 36 months the Shi’ite leader has been in detention, it has cost the Federal Government at least N126 million.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expressed outrage over the feeding bill. According to the opposition party, the minister’s claim is an admission that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is corrupt.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that by that claim Mohammed has confirmed what the opposition party has always said about the present administration.
“If Lai Mohammed said that, then he is telling Nigerians that the government in which he is serving is corrupt. The only submission anybody can take out of that is that the Buhari administration is corrupt. That is all. No more. No less,” Ologbondiyan stated.
Senator Clifford Ordia, said the claim was a reflection of how APC and the executive arm have taken Nigerians for a ride for too long. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker said the only way to pay APC back is to vote it out next year.
“APC led executive arm of the Federal Government has taken Nigeria for too long. Lai Mohammed has proven to Nigerians that everything APC has been telling Nigerians is nothing, but false. How does one make sense of the claim that over N3 million is spent monthly in feeding the leader of Shi’te.
“Voting for APC in 2015 was a mistake. Nigerians will have another opportunity in 2019 to correct that. Nigerians can’t afford to tolerate another four years of APC lies and deceit. I also think that the Minister owes Nigeria and Nigerians an apology.”
As reacting, Ibrahim Musa, spokesman of IMN dismissed the minister’s statement as a blatant lie and challenged him to name the people that collect such money and the nature of food they give to the Shi’ite leader.
“Recently, we visited Sheik and one of the things he complained of was the quality of food they serve him. He told us that they serve him anything they like and at his age and his deteriorating health he is not supposed to eat just anything. He said the situation is worse since they transferred him from Abuja to Kaduna. Here in Kaduna they give him what they like not minding whether it fits his health or not.
“So, we find it surprising that the minister would come out and say they are spending N3.5 million monthly. It seems they are trying to tell the public that they are doing him a favour. What we want is freedom. When you lock somebody up, no matter how good you are to him, you have denied him his freedom and everything.
“We are challenging the honourable minister to name the people that are collecting such huge sum of money from the public coffers. We reject all that he said.”
In a tweet on Twitter, the PDP Vanguard said: “It costs the Nigerian government N3.5 million per month to feed El-Zakzaky. Lai Mohammed, are they feeding him with gold rice? Does he drinks diamond water? The corruption under (President Muhammadu) Buhari did its internship at “Harvard Institute of Stealing. PMB and Corruption/forgery are 5 and 6.”
Another tweet, with the Twitter handle and the name Kwankwasiyya, @dadiyata, said: “A possible breakdown of Zakzaky’s daily consumption, going by Lai Mohammed‘s claim, is that it costs the federal government N120,000 daily to feed him: one big ram, one bag of rice, five crates of eggs, five loaves of bread, 10 bottle water, three mudu of garri, one mudu of sugar, four tins of milk and milo.”
To Igala_King, @I_Am_Ilemona said: “Firstly, this sounds like a lie. Secondly, it makes no sense to continue incurring that cost; instead of respecting the order given by Justice Gabriel Kolawole and releasing the man,” and Zain Ameen, @zinadabo1, added: “So I saw Lai Mohammed during an interview saying @MBuhari spends N3.5 million in feeding El-Zakzaky monthly. Please, are they feeding the man with gold rice and diamond beef? They are keeping him in custody as their leakage for siphoning funds.”
El-Zakzaky has been detained since December 13, 2015, after soldiers clamped down on his supporters, killing at least 347. The army accused them of blocking a public road being used, then, by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.