Shi’ites file case against proscription today, suspend protests

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The Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as the Shi’ite group, will on Thursday (today) file a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, to challenge its proscription by the Federal Government.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), who has been defending the group’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and many of his followers in court since 2016, confirmed this to one of our correspondents on Wednesday shortly after the group announced its decision to suspend its street protests that had been turning violent lately.

The group’s spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, had in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, said the decision to suspend street protests being used to call for the release of El-Zakzaky; his wife and others, was to give room for “some new openings” into the resolution of the matter, including the court option.

Falana confirmed that some Shi’ites’ leaders had consulted him and instructed his law firm to challenge the proscription order in court.

He said the suit would be filed on Thursday before the Federal High Court in Abuja, which issued the order of proscription.

He said, “They (referring to the Shi’ites leaders) consulted us and they reached an agreement with us to suspend protests in defiance to the legal action, which they instructed us to take.

“I can tell you that the suit will be filed tomorrow (today).”

Musa, in the statement, said the suspension of street protests would give room for the proper prosecution of the court case.

He said, “The Islamic Movement in Nigeria do hereby announce to the general public and the international community that it has temporarily suspended its Free Zakzaky street protests to allow for some new openings into the resolution of the problems, especially the court case instituted by our lawyers on the proscription order made by the Federal Government this week.

“It has taken this step in good faith out of respect for some eminent people and groups, whose input in the resolution of the problems appears genuine and we sincerely hope an amicable way could be found to solve the crises surrounding the illegal detention of our leader for almost four years now.

“If at all any protest occurs anywhere in the country, it might be this notice hasn’t reached those in the field or this message is misunderstood or it is some security agents who are mischievously behind it as they have been doing in an attempt to smear our image and be seen as unruly people rather than as victims of savage oppression since 2015.

“The Islamic Movement wishes to thank both national and international civil rights activists and organisations who have been busy demanding the protection of our fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.

“We also thank the press, both national and international, and the social media activists for the full coverage of our activities throughout the struggle for justice.

“We are committed to exploring the new openings we have seen in resolving this protracted issue.

“We, therefore, reiterate our demand that our leader, his wife, and several others in detention be given their freedom denied them since 2015.”

Saturday PUNCH had reported exclusively that the Federal Government obtained the ex parte order on the proscription of the group on Friday, about three days after a bloody clash between members of the group and police in Abuja claimed the lives of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, Usman Umar, and a Channels TV journalist, Precious Owolabi.

Justice Nkeonye Maha in her ruling on Friday ordered the proscription of the organisation.

The judge also designated the activities of the sect in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”

The judge also ordered the Federal Government to publish the order in its gazette and in two national dailies.

The newspaper publication in two dailies has since been done while the order was published in the gazette on Monday.

A copy of the gazette seen by The PUNCH on Tuesday, described it as “Government Notice No. 79.”

The IMN decision to suspend protests and challenge its proscription in court came a day after the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered the arrest of the members of the sect and their leaders nationwide.

Adamu had stated that the Shi’ites would be treated like terrorists and Nigeria’s enemies and prosecuted under the Terrorism Act, including anyone associating with them in any way that could advance their activities in the country.

The IGP, who said that “all forms of procession or protest by the IMN are now illegal and thus banned,” stated that 63 members of the sect, including seven women arrested for rioting, would be prosecuted.

He had alleged that the activities of the IMN led by El-Zakzaky had over time evolved to constitute a grave threat to national security, law and order, socio-religious harmony, peace, good governance and Nigeria’s sovereign integrity.

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