It seems the battle line between the uncompromising Shi’ites who are agitating for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, wife and numerous others who are being detained since 2015, and the Government of Nigeria under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, has been drawn.
Concerned functionaries of the Islamic sect said they are determined to press for their rights at all fronts. Already, the Shi’ites who are also known as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), have approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday, praying it to vacate the exparte order it made on July 26 proscribing their activities in the country.
The court had, upon an ex-parte motion by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), also declared the group a terrorist organisation.
In a notice of motion filed on Friday by their lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, the Shi’ites are particularly praying the court to vacate the ‘’ex-parte order made on July 26, coram: N.E. Maha, J, 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.’’
They are also praying the court to set aside the 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 IMN, under any other name or platform howsoever called or described in any part of Nigeria.’’
They stated that the reasons for their prayers include that ‘’the ex-parte order made on July 26, was made without jurisdiction, as the order was made against a non juristic body’’, claiming that there was no urgency warranting the grant of the order ex parte.
While pointing out that no motion-on-notice was filed together with the motion ex-parte, that the order made by the court has determined the fundamental right of the respondent/applicant without affording it fair hearing, the aggrieved group in a chat said, ‘’we wish to also explicitly state that we are fully determined to continue our protests.
‘’We shall continue our peaceful protests uninterrupted and unhindered till our leader Sheikh El-Zakzaky is free, for as long as it takes, regardless of obstacles. Until he is free, our protests will continue.’’
Before now, the daughter of the Shi’ites’ leader, Suhaila, had vowed to continue the street protesters till her father was released. She claimed that there was no official resolution by them that protests will no longer continue.
‘’There will continue to be protest on every weekday. I just wanted to clarify because I saw news agencies stating that spokesperson of IMN released the statement. First of all, the Islamic movement has no such thing as a spokesman. And the person who wrote the article is the chairman of the media forum. The media forum is just like the numerous fora we have in the IMN, is just a forum that is there for people within that field to have their own space and activities within the movement’’, she said.
Ibrahim Musa, head of the IMN media forum, claimed last week that the protests have been suspended as a result of ‘’some new openings into the resolution of the problems’’ involving the proscription of their activities.
But in a video she released on Wednesday, Suhaila said Musa cannot speak on behalf of the group, stressing, ‘’this person (Musa) has nothing to do with the people organising the protest that have been going on in Abuja and will continue to go on till El-Zakzaky is freed.’’
The Buhari administration descended on the Islamic sect following a violent protest that claimed the life of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, a member of the National Youth Service Corps and at least 10 Shi’ites in Abuja.
Defending the clampdown, the administration said: ‘’Proscription of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has nothing to do with banning the larger numbers of peaceful and law abiding Shi’ites in the country from practising their religion, instead it was to discourage wanton violence, murder and wilful destruction of public and private property.’’
The Presidency said in a statement that the banned organisation was taken over by extremists who didn’t believe in peaceful protests and instead employed violence and arson, driving fear and undermining the rights of others and constituted authority.
While El-Zakzaky was detained in December 2015 after violence during a religious procession which rights groups say some 350 mostly unarmed Shiite marchers were killed by the Nigerian Army, the Presidency said, ‘’the government had to act before the situation goes out of control.’’