The Nigeria Police Force and the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shi’ites are, once again, on war path following plans by the proscribed group to hold processions in the FCT and other states of the federation, even as Nigerians panic over unintended consequences. CHIZOBA OGBECHE reports
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police command has tightened security within and outside the territory in readiness for the planned protest by scribed members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shi’ites.
The sect is set to have its annual procession today in the FCT, the first after the IMN was proscribed by the federal government.
The Ashura procession, also called the Day of Ashura, is observed annually by Shi’ite Muslims worldwide to commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala in Iraq.
Husayn ibn Ali known as the third Shia Imam was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shia Imam.
Proscription of IMN
The federal government, on July 26, 2019, obtained an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja to proscribe the Shiites’ organisation.
Justice Nkeonye Maha, who issued the order, also designated the activities of the IMN in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”
The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria.
To complete the process of the proscription of the group, the court ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation “to publish the order proscribing the respondent, IMN, in the official gazette and two national dailies.
The federal government gazette described as “Government Notice No. 79,” titled, ‘Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice, 2019,’ read in part, “Notice is hereby given that by the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/Cs/876/2019 dated July 26, 2019 as per the schedule to this notice, the activities of Islamic Movement in Nigeria are declared to be terrorism and illegal in any part of Nigeria, as proscribed, pursuant to Sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended).
“Consequently, the general public is hereby warned that any person or group of persons participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intentions or otherwise of the said group will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended) and liable to prosecution.”
Procession as terrorism
However, the Nigeria Police Force has warned against the planned procession, stating that it would amount to terrorism.
Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) DCP Frank Mba in a press statement, Monday in Abuja, said: “It has come to the knowledge of the Nigeria Police Force that some members of the proscribed IMN intend to embark on a nationwide procession, ostensibly to cause disruption of public peace, order and security in the country.
“The Force notes that in line with the Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice 2019 of 26th July, 2019, the activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria have been proscribed. Consequently, all gathering or procession by the group remains ultimately illegal and will be treated as a gathering in the advancement of terrorism.”
He said the Inspector-General of Police Mohammde Adamu has directed the Commissioners of Police in all the states of the federation and the FCT as well as their supervisory Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) to put in place concrete measures to avert the planned procession or disruption of public peace by the IMN anywhere in the country.
He said the IGP also enjoined the public to avail the Force with useful information as regards the activities of the sect, just as he advised parents and guardians to prevail on their children and wards not to be cajoled into embarking on illegal and ill-motivated activities by anyone or group of persons, under any guise whatsoever.
Procession precedes court hearing
The march is also coming on the heels of the hearing of a suit challenging the proscription of the IMN by the federal government.
The Federal High Court, Abuja, had fixed Wednesday, September 11, to hear a motion by the IMN, asking the court to vacate the ex parte order it gave on July 26, 2019, proscribing its activities in the country.
Justice Nkeonye Maha adjourned the case after hearing counsel to the IMN Mr Femi Falana (SAN) and the Solicitor General of the Federation Mr Ayo Apata (SAN), who had applied for more time.
The court had, upon an ex-parte motion by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation declared the group a terrorist organisation.
The IMN, in a notice of motion filed, on August 2, by its lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), particularly sought the court to vacate the “ex-parte order made on July 26, in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019 between: AGF vs. IMN proscribing the existence and activities of the group in Nigeria under whatever form, either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called or referred to.”
Even death won’t stop us – IMN
President Media Forum of IMN Ibrahim Musa, who spoke on the procession planned for Abuja and other parts of the country stated, “We would rather die here than leave since we are not criminals. Our procession will hold on Tuesday in Abuja and major cities in the North, Insha Allah.”
He said as a group they have no plan to leave Nigeria or seek asylum in any country, noting that their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky had demonstrated love for Nigeria.
On the possibility of a clash with the police, Musa said, “Ours is a peaceful religious procession that is why our women and children join us. So, if there is any confrontation, it is the government that may cause it, not us.
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives just as Imam Husayn did in Karbala. We are not going to war; we are going on a mourning procession which is a universal event on that day.”
FCT Police reacts
When contacted the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for FCT police command DSP Anjuguri Mamzah said the police were committed to the protection of lives and property, and would not permit any group not recognised by law to disrupt normal activities.
“The only thing I can tell you is that the police in the FCT will not allow any group to interfere with law and order. We are ready,” he said.