Arewa, Ohanaeze youths, others flay FG ban of Shiites group
By Olisemeka Obeche, O’star Eze & Okechukwu Onuegbu
Arewa youths and their counterpartls in the south east have urged the federal government to reverse the controversial proscription of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) following last week’s violent twist to the Shiite members’ street protests for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife.
The call was made on Sunday even as the federal government is expected to commence the process of implementing the proscription order against the Islamic sect today, sequel to a ruling by an Abuja court declaring the activities of the sect in Nigeria as “acts of terrorism and illegality.” The Abuja Federal High Court was presided over by Justice Nkeonye Maha on Friday.
“No person or groups of persons should henceforth associate with the Shiites for any reasons.”
The ruling followed an ex parte application filed in the name of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), three days after the bloody clash between members of the Shiite group and police operatives. This had resulted in the loss of lives including those of the deputy commissioner of police (Operations), FCT command, Usman Umar, a Channels Television journalist, Precious Owolabi and some Shiites in Abuja. To effect the proscription, the court ordered the AGF “to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the Official Gazette and two national dailies.”
Obey court orders, find political solution – Arewa youths to FG
In his reaction to the development, the national president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, told Orient Daily last night that the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government should look for a political solution to the Shitte movement’s crisis, arguing that proscription of the group would force them to go underground, operating as a terrorist group.
“Our worry is that the way government is pushing this group may suddenly turn them into another monster because the network of the IMN is more extensive than that of the Boko Haram that we are still trying to deal with. If they turn monster, everybody will be consumed. And that is why Nigerians must call the government to order. We should not look at this issue as something that concerns the north alone. It’s a national, in fact, international security threat.
Shettima also faulted government’s reason for proscribing the group. “The question we should be asking ourselves is ‘are these people that violent or pose security threat to the country?’ In the history, they are not violent but there is a limit to how you can push people.”
He stressed: “If the federal government wants law and order, they must be seen to put it into practice. You cannot ask people to be law abiding citizens when you are not obeying that law. There are court rulings ordering government to release Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife on bail but the government refused to obey that. Is there any citizen that is bigger than the law of the land? If the answer is no, why should they defy a court order?
However, Ohanaeze youths, in their reaction, said they were not interested in the propriety of the ban. Rather, they want federal government to extend the same measure to the Fulani herdsmen who they said had documented evidence of violent crimes across the country.
The national president, Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Arthur Obiora, said “Our position remains that Fulani herdsmen should also be proscribed by the federal government in view of its ranking as one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups instead of just clamping down on non-violent organisations like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who are merely agitating for their constitutional rights.
“Ohanaeze youths also want to state clearly that the federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari should not continue to give the impression that they cannot proscribe Fulani herdsmen, maybe because of their strong political connection to the presidency. It gives the impression that President Buhari did not take the oath of office as commander-in-chief of the federal republic of Nigeria to protect the interest of the entire Nigeria.”
According to him, the Buhari government would only convince ordinary Nigerians and the whole world that it was not partial if it urgently proscribed, disarmed and prosecuted “those of them behind the campaigns of banditry and killings across the country.”
FG has redefined wickedness – Kanu
The leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (POB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, reacting, blamed the American and British diplomatic missions in Nigeria for government’s proscription action. Kanu, in his statement on Radio Biafra, Saturday night, accused the “US and British envoys in Nigeria of supporting the Nigerian government by giving wrong information of what is actually happening in the country to their home countries.”
The IPOB leader said “by the declaration of IMN as a terrorist organisation with no action taken against the marauding Fulani herdsmen who are killing people on a daily basis, the federal government has redefined wickedness and made it a national symbol of identification.”
Kanu, still on self-exile after escaping the country following a military crackdown on his country home at Afaraukwu, Umuahia in September 2018, warned those keeping quiet over the proscription of Shi’ites “just as many were when same action was meted out against IPOB” to get ready for worse things to come.
We’ll go to court – Shiites
Meanwhile, a member of ‘Free Zakzaky Campaign’, Abdurrahman Abubakar Yola also told Orient Daily that the allegations of arms bearing against them by the federal government was false. According to Yola, “Our weapons are knowledge and sound reasoning.”
He alleged that the government just wanted to cause disaffection amongst Nigerians describing it as “really unfortunate.”
President of IMN Media Forum, Ibrahim Musa also informed that “We are in consultations with our lawyers and we would give an appropriate response”, stressing that proscription was an attempt to cover up the rights abuses it had allegedly suffered at the hands of Buhari administration.
Ban is illegal, immoral and unconstitutional – Falana, Ozekhome
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and counsel to the detained Shiite leader, Femi Falana, declared that “the proscription of the IMN for the demonstrations of the Shiites against the disobedience of court orders by the Buhari regime was immoral and illegal in every material particular.”
He made reference to a protest by then General Muhammadu Buhari and his party in 2003. “In 2003, General Buhari and other members of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party held a rally in Kano to protest the rigging of the 2003 general election by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime.
“The rally was violently attacked by the police on the ground that the ANPP leaders did not obtain police permit,” Mr Falana wrote. On the instructions of General Buhari and other the ANPP leaders, I challenged the disruption of the rally and the legal validity of police permit for rallies and political meetings at the federal high court.
“The case was won by the ANPP. Apart from condemning the violent disruption of the rally by the police, the court declared that police permit for rallies was illegal and unconstitutional. The appeal filed against the judgment by the police was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
“In fact, the Justices of the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the right of Nigerians to protest against the policies of the government is (sic) part of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.”
Falana then accused the federal government under Buhari, a Sunni Muslim, of using the instrument of state to wage war against the Shiites. The Shiites and the Sunnis are two constantly opposing factions in Islam globally.
“It is particularly opportunistic on the part of the Sunnis occupying public offices to use the instrumentality of the State to liquidate the Shiites. The illegal proscription of the IMN should be withdrawn. It will not stand as the fundamental right of the Shiites to freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed.”
In his reaction, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, also described the declaration of the Shiite movement as a terrorist group as unconstitutional on the grounds that a religious group could not be banned. He added that proscription was a violation of the rights of the members of the group guaranteed under Sections 38, 40 and 41 of the constitution.