Nigerians have berated the Federal Government over its claim of spending N3.5m 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 N3.5m monthly.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, made the claim in a video that went viral on the internet on Thursday.
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-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.
He said the Islamic cleric was eating whatever he liked in detention.
“It costs the government about N3.5m 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.