SHIITES: FG TO GAZETTE PROSCRIPTION ORDER MONDAY
The Federal Government is set to commence the implementation of the Friday’s court order proscribing the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, popularly known as Shiites, by publishing the order in the Official Gazette by Monday.
Top officials of the Federal Ministry of Justice, who pleaded not to be named because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed this to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday.
The publication of the order in the Official Gazette is part of the Friday’s ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja, designating the Shiites movement as a terrorist group and proscribing it.
Justice Nkeonye Maha also ordered the government to publish the order in two national newspapers.
“The publication of the order in the newspaper will be done later in the week. But I can assure you that the publication in the Official Gazette will be done by Monday evening,” a source told one of our correspondents.
The Federal Government’s Printing Press, which publishes the Official Gazette, is based in Lagos.
Meanwhile, SUNDAY PUNCH could not obtain an official comment on the development from the Ministry of Justice’s Press and Information Unit, as officials contacted by one of our correspondents on Saturday said if they must speak on the issue, they must be authorised by the ministry’s management.
However, the authorisation could not be obtained at the weekend.
Military now free to stop IMN’s violence –Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency on Saturday said with the court order proscribing the IMN, the military was now free to take every step necessary to stop the violence being unleashed by the group on defenceless Nigerians.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Asked how and when the Federal Government intended to implement the court order, Shehu said, “We have confirmation that a judge has given the proscription order in line with a request by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
“The Federal Government sought the order in view of the responsibility imposed on it by the constitution, making the protection of lives and property as the number one duty of a government.
“Under the law, the exercise of the individual right is limited by the collective rights of the entire society.”
He added, “By this order, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are justified to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the growing violence.
“However, the larger body of the followers of the Shiite faith who remain law-abiding in their activities have nothing to fear. They are free to carry out their lawful religious activity.”
Shehu stressed that only the IMN, and not all Shiite groups, was proscribed based on the court order.
“Your newspaper got the details of the proscription correct.
“The only thing I want to add is that it is not all Shiite groups that are affected by the proscription order,” the presidential spokesperson said.
Falana, Ozekhome, Adebanjo, others condemn IMN ban
Meanwhile, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, and Chief Mike Ozekhome; elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode; and others have described as unconstitutional the court order proscribing the Shiites group.
They said the proscription was illegal and discriminatory on the grounds that a religious group could not be banned.
They also considered the court’s action as hypocritical, under an administration that they said had refused to take such step in dealing with killer herdsmen who had murdered thousands of Nigerians.
Calling for the withdrawal of the IMN’s proscription, Falana in a statement on Saturday described the move by the Federal Government as a desperate bid to prevent the Shiites from demanding the release of their detained leader and his wife from the custody of the Department of State Services.
Falana, who has been defending El-Zakzaky and Zeenat since their detention in 2016, said it was not possible to ban a religious group such as IMN.
He said, “Since there are millions of Shiites who belong to the IMN, the Federal Government will soon realise that it has merely driven the body underground.
“The proscription of the IMN because of its protests against the disobedience of court orders by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime is immoral and illegal in every material particular.”
Falana said the development was an opportunistic move by the Sunni Muslims in public office in using the instrumentality of their office to proscribe the Shiites body.
He said, “It is particularly opportunistic on the part of the Sunnis occupying public office 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.”
Also, Ozekhome in a statement said the Shiites group proscription was discriminatory, stating that it was a violation of the rights of the members of the group guaranteed under sections 38, 40 and 41 of the constitution.
He said the association could not be banned because Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution made the country a secular state.
“You can’t ban religion, a people’s belief,” he added.
Ozekhome wondered why the Federal Government had yet to proscribe killer herdsmen and their “known anchor, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which has held Nigeria down by the jugular for years.”
“The Shiites group is a religious group, just like the President’s Sunnis group,” the lawyer added.
On his part, Adebanjo said the proscription order showed the level of intolerance by the President Buhari administration.
He said, “The proscription is highly condemnable of this government. We have been saying that they are very intolerant.
“What about those who needed to the proscribed. These are people who have kidnapped, but you (the government) grant them the right to freely walk about.
“In a constitutional democracy, this kind of proscription is not right and it shows the trait of dictatorship that we have been complaining about this government.”
Similarly, Fani-Kayode condemned the IMN ban, saying the group would not have been protesting if their leader had been released.
The former minister wrote via his Twitter handle @realFFK, “We Christians in Nigeria will never forget the way in which Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his Shia Muslims protected and assisted our brothers and sisters in the North over the years when the Salafists, Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalists, slaughtered us like flies.
“We stand by them at this difficult time. We condemn the proscription of the IMN and we say no to the tyranny of Buhari.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s aide, Reno Omokri, also faulted the decision of the Federal Government to proscribe the IMN.
In a message posted on his Twitter handle @renoomokri, he recalled that the ruling All Progressives Congress (previously the Action Congress of Nigeria) had faulted Jonathan when he banned the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
He wrote, “When Jonathan declared Boko Haram a terror group in 2013 and banned them, the APC (then called ACN) rejected the ban, claiming it was ‘unconstitutional.’
“Today, the same people have banned Shiites. Between Shiites and Boko Haram, who is the terrorist?”
FG’s action can lead to war –Ohanaeze
While condemning the proscription of the IMN, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, accused the Federal Government of allowing the issue to skyrocket into an alarming level of violence.
It warned that the government’s latest action could lead to the emergence of another violent sect.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on Saturday, the spokesperson for the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said, “The government is taking it too far and it is another Boko Haram in the offing. I see a danger that may be more difficult for the government to handle.
“No good general opens more than one battlefield at a time. The government is opening one battlefield at a time and it is becoming more difficult and Nigerians are worried.
“I don’t pray for violence, but we can see that it has become inevitable because these people (Shiites) are saying that they are ready to sacrifice as many members as possible in other to achieve their aim.”
Also, the spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties, Mr Imo Ugochinyere, said the proscription of the Shiites group was unacceptable.
He called on the Federal Government to de-proscribe the group.
In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, he warned against Nigeria getting involved in the politics of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the President has ended up making Nigeria a country with many terrorist groups because now, there are the Boko Haram terrorist organisation, Indigenous People of Biafra and IMN.”
MURIC, PDP keep mum
In the meantime, the Muslim Rights Concern has said it is still studying the situation regarding the proscription of the Shiites organisation.
When contacted on Saturday, the Director of MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, hastily told one of our correspondents, “We have no comment for now. We are still studying the situation.”
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party on Saturday said it would not respond to the Shiites group proscription.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the PDP did not get involved in religious matters and so would not comment on the development.