Nigeria: Why Shiite Group Suspended Protests

Shiite crisis.
1 August 2019

More facts have emerged on why the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) suspended street protests calling for the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Daily Trust gathered that the suspension followed the intervention of prominent personalities in the north who are working to help resolve the crisis "because of its security implications."

A statement from the Shiite group yesterday confirmed the involvement of "eminent people and groups whose input in the resolution of the problems appears genuine."

The statement, which was signed by the president of the Media Forum of IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said the group was suspending the protests to allow for new openings into the resolution of the problems surrounding the continued detention of their leader.

"If at all any protests occur anywhere in the country, it might be this notice hasn't reach those in the field or this message is misunderstood or it is some security agents who are mischievously behind it as they have been doing in an attempt to smear our image and be seen as unruly people rather than as victims of savage oppression since 2015," Musa said.

"The Islamic Movement wishes to thank both national and international civil rights activists and organizations who have been busy demanding the protection of our fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.

"We also thank the press, both national and international, and the social media activists for the full coverage of our activities throughout the struggle for justice.

"We are committed to exploring the new openings we have seen in resolving this protracted issue. We therefore reiterate our demand that our leader, his wife and several others in detention be given their freedom denied to them since 2015," the statement said.

How deal was struck on Zakzaky

The prominent persons, who intervened in the impasse, were said to have reached out to the second most senior member of the Shiite group after obtaining the understanding of both the federal and the Kaduna State governments on the need to de-escalate the growing tensions.

Zakzaky and his wife, whoare standing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other charges before a Kaduna State High Court, may be granted bail.

Daily Trust reports that the court had adjourned ruling on Zakzaky's bail application to August 5. The Shiite leader and his wife Zeenat are seeking for permission to travel to India for medical attention.

"If the court grants the Shiite leader permission to get medical attention, the government may not object so long it is in India," a source told Daily Trust last night.

At the hearing on Monday, counsel to Zakzaky, Femi Falana (SAN) had told the court that pellets lodged in his client's body in December, 2015 had resulted in lead poisoning.

"My client is not in court because his health is very bad and even during the last appearance, he could not climb the staircase to the courtroom that is why we applied that he be excused from appearance in court and it was granted," Falana said at the last court sitting.

The Kaduna State Director of Public Prosecution, Dari Bayero had objected to the bail, insisting that there were several medical facilities in the country that could handle the medical needs of Zakzaky and his wife.

Daily Trust reports that Zakzaky had been granted bail in the past but the government said the Shiite leader was still in detention "for his own safety."

The Federal Government had proscribed the group after obtaining a court order which it has since gazetted. The IMN however said it has instituted a legal action against the proscription order.

Other similarly proscribed groups

The proscription of IMN is not the first time the Federal Government is proscribing the activities of a group. The Boko Haram sect, the Ansaru sect and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have all been proscribed by the Federal Government in the past.

In June, 2013, then president, Goodluck Jonathan approved the proscription of the Boko Hram sect, otherwise known as the Jamaatu Ahlis-Sunna Liddaawati Wal Jihad and the Ansaru sect also known as Jama'atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan.

The proscriptions were brought under Section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 and gazetted as the Terrorism (Prevention) (Proscription Order) Notice 2013.

The Kaduna State Government had in 2016 proscribed the IMN in Kaduna following the violence that greeted the sect's procession in December, 2015.

Also, in September, 2017, the Federal Government obtained an order from the Federal High Court in Abuja proscribing IPOB's activities as "acts of terrorism and illegal."

The order was gazette in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 99, Volume 104 dated September 20, 2017 and made under the Terrorism Prevention Act, No 10, 2011.

The order 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 groups will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as Amended) and liable to prosecution."

The Federal Government followed it up with letters by then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the governments of the United Kingdom and USA informing them of the proscription of the IPOB.

Although the IPOB challenged the order but the Federal High Court declined to vacate the order.

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