By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Reactions have been trailing the recent order by a Federal High Court in Abuja, which labelled the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) a terrorist organisation and accordingly ordered its proscription by the Federal government.
Justice Nkeonye Maha on Friday issued the proscription order in a ruling delivered in an exparte application brought by the federal government.
Justice Maha, in the ruling had designated the a of the Shiite organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality”.
She accordingly 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.
However, reacting to the proscription order, human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), described the proscription as discriminatory, noting that members of the IMN are only pressing for the release of their leader who is being held in custody by the federal government inspite of a valid court order for his release.
He said that the government should show more seriousness in the fight against insecurity in the country by banning known groups and associations currently destabilising every part of the country, instead of those asking the federal government to obey court orders by releasing their leader.
“The proscription is highly discriminatory as in the case of IPOB.
“What group could be more terrorist than the herdsmen and their known anchor, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, that has held Nigeria down by the jogular for years, killing, maiming, burning, raping, turning Nigeria into a crimson field of bloodbath?
“Until the government bans and outlaws these, it is certainly not serious,” he said.
Ozekhome argued further that the Shiite group is a religious group, like the Sunni, which he said the president belongs as such cannot be proscribed.
“It is not an association that could be banned. Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution makes Nigeria a secular state. You can’t ban religion, a people’s belief.
“There us also freedom of thought, conscience and religion in section 38, while sections 40 and 41 allow for freedom of movement and association.
“The Constitution is ruthlessly being shredded by an intolerant and overbearing civilian dictatorship,” he added.
On his part, another senior lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), however called for caution on the part of all Nigerians, stating that the current security challenge in Nigeria predates the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and as such would require the cooperation of all Nigerians to overcome.
He however lamented that the proscription would impact negatively on the economy as it would scare foreign investors away from the country.
“It is a delicate balance. The more we admit that we have a good number of terrorist organisations in our country, the more the foreigners will become wary of coming in to do genuine business,” he said.
Raji said though he detested the activities of some persons, but the society will gain more by embarking on a holistic approach to what he considered as major social problems.
“This administration met most of these problems. All hands must be on the deck to save our country and future. It is the future of our dear country that is at stake.
“The president means well for the country by my assessment and reading of him. Men of goodwill and substance should rally round and help to navigate out of the major social problems.
“In the face of dwindling resources, the little that we have should be channelled towards improving our decayed infrastructure instead of this self inflicted and avoidable internal crisis/strife. Nigeria must survive God willing,” he said.
While he said the claims by the Shiites that being a religious group the federal government cannot ban them may appear untenable, care should be taken so as not to mix up the crisis routed in religion.
The federal government had on Thursday approached the court in the name of the Attorney General of the Federation for the Proscription Order as protest by the group demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim Elzakzaky, turned violent and resulted in the deaths of over a dozen people including a senior police officer and a youth corps member attached to Channels Television.
In the ex parte application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019, the government prayed the court for “a declaration that the activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria amounts to acts of terrorism and illegality.
“An order of this honourable court proscribing the existence and activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria, under whatever form or guise either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called.
“An order restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) under any other name or platform howsoever called or described in any part of Nigeria.
“An order directing the applicant (the AGF) to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the official gazette and two national dailies.”
Justice Maha in her ruling granted the application as prayed.