Daniel Kanu, Henry Okonkwo, and Paul Erewuba
Following a court order obtained by the Federal Government on Friday effectively allowing it to proscribe the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) also known as Shiites as a terrorist group, Nigerians, both groups and individuals, have continued to react to the development.
The decision Sunday Sun gathered followed a security meeting by the Federal Government with top security officers after protests by the Shiite turned violent in parts of Abuja last week.
Recall that the group at several occasions has called for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who was arrested and detained for disturbance of public peace and other criminal offences. Human ights orga- nization, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), condemned the action out rightly just as it queried the grounds for the proscription of the organisation as a terrorist group. The group warned that only justice could guar- antee peace in the matter. RULAAC’s National Coordinator, Mr Okey Nwanguma in a statement made available to Sunday Sun yesterday warned that the government’s move would be ‘counter-productive’. Nwanguma recalled the fierce onslaught launched by the army on IMN in Zaira in 2014 that led to detention and torture of Sheik El- Zakzaky and his wife, the death of three of his children, plus the massacre of IMN members after the army claimed that the group blocked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff.
“A government judicial panel of inquiry in 2015 found that the military under Chief of Army Staff, Buratai, massacred nearly 400 members of the movement-gratuitously, and buried them in mass graves. And among other recommendations, ordered that for this mass atrocity should be subjected to a criminal trial. Government has failed to try the atrocious murderers till date…
“It is shocking that while this same government that has looked away and done nothing while armed herdsmen repeatedly unleash violence on help- less citizens on a daily basis, it could summon the shameless courage to declare a group terrorist merely for exercising their fundamental rights under the constitution to peacefully protest and demand that government should act in accordance with the rule of law and release their leader from unlawful detention.
“The force of arm has never defeated a force of conviction. Abuse of governmental power and impunity promotes lawless- ness, resistance, and violence and creates or deepens instabil- ity,” he said.
Also, a legal giant, Monday Ubani, has asked the government to trail with caution, saying that the Shiites still have the option to revert the court order with evidence.
Ubani said in a chat with Sunday Sun that “it’s a matter of evidence now, if the group applies to the court to set aside that proscription order, the government will produce evidence to show why they need to be proscribed, whereas the group will be struggling with evidence to show why they should not have been proscribed in the first place.
“What happened is that this time around they (government) followed the law unlike when they proscribed IPOB, they didn’t follow the law, they didn’t go to court they just made a pronouncement until some of us made an intervention and they now had to go to court.
“Now, on the issue of the Shiites, they followed normal legal process in the proscription, now if the Shiites group felt that the proscription is wrong the law allows them to come up with an application to set it aside.
“That proscription order was obtained ex-parte, now if the Shiites feel that the proscription was unlawful or wrong or done without proper information on the side of the Federal Government they will come and approach the court and the court will have to listen to both parties before it can now make a ruling or an order.
“If the court is convinced that the order was obtained wrongfully, the court can nullify the proscription. You know there are conditions before you can brand any group a terrorist group. Their activities must be clearly inimical to the interest and peace of the country or society, they must have done acts that you consider very unlawful, i.e. they must have created some levels of crisis in the country that will not warrant the state to just fold its hands and allow a total breakdown of law and order.
“They must have carried out massive killings and all that or acts that involve the death of such a great magnitude before you can brand them a terrorist group or be proscribed. So, it’s a matter of evidence now, if the group applies to the court to set aside that proscription, so the government will produce evidence to show why they need to be proscribed, whereas the group will be struggling with evidence to show why they should not or shouldn’t have been proscribed in the first place. So, the court now will be placed in a better position after looking at the evidence from both parties in other to arrive at the judgment that will satisfy the justice of the matter. So, it’s a matter of evidence at this point”.
A Lagos-based pastor, Apostle Peter Oboh has sued for peace and cooperation with the security agents, following days of protests in Abuja and Nigeria in general by the Shiites.
Expressing worry over the breach of peace, while speaking to Sunday Sun in Lagos, Oboh said it had become imperative for President Mohammadu Buhari to quickly arrest the situation before it gets out of proportion. Oboh who was former British and Commonwealth Light-Heavyweight boxing champion before he dropped the gloves for the Bible, commended the Buhari-led government, but added that Nigeria should not be allowed to disintegrate with pockets of violence here and there. Oboh said:”I want to send my condolences to the families of the late DSP, journalist and the civilians that died. I strongly feel President Buhari should draft the army to stop further clashes, as we hear the group is still spoiling for war.” A Shiite member, Abdullahi Musa, said despite the order, the group would not relent in its activities which he described as religious in nature. Musa, who, however, said that he was not speaking for the group, added that the court order was in his view, a “senseless decision” of government given the spate of killings allegedly “perpetrated by security operatives without prosecution of culprits.”