In search of a legal solution to the perceived danger posed by members of Shi'ites Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, the Federal Government last week secured an exparte order from a Federal High Court in Abuja proscribing the group. Before then, government had unsuccessfully used various means to curtail the activities of the group which main demand is the release of their detained leader, Ibrahim ElZakzaky and his wife. Since Federal Government secured the order declaring the group an illegal organisation, there has however, been an unusual consensus in the legal community that the order is legal and a nullity.
Those who expressed their thoughts on the matter include in this edition of Vanguard Law and Human Rights are John Odugbela, SAN, Executive Director of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwummadu, Gideon Okebu, Israel Mbaebie, Malcolm Omirhobo, David Fadile, Dele Igbinedion and Morah Ekwuomo.
Religious movement cannot be proscribed- Odugbela, SAN
"It's unconstitutional, null and void. They are a religious movement and not political or an ethnicity group that you can proscribe. I want to believe they are Islamic movement and practice Islam as a religion. So what exactly has been proscribed? Their constitutional right of association? Or their right to peaceful procession or rally? We need to know exactly what was proscribed. The best way is to engage them in order to ascertain what exactly is their problem I think it's a question of mindsets."
FG lacks right to approach court- Ugwummadu
"By disobeying numerous orders and judgments of competent courts of justice including the ECOWAS Courts of Justice on the release of the leader of the Shiite Movement, the same FG is not just in breach of S.287 of the 1999 Constitution, it is acting contemptuously against the orders of court and cannot even be heard until it purges itself of the alleged contempt.
"In the event, FG inadvertently put forward the wrong foot from the beginning and now expects a normalized behaviour from other parties and members of the public. The order is against the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and movement as guaranteed by Ss39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution respectively.
This is the position of the Court of Appeal in the case of IGP v ANPP in which President Buhari and his defunct political party were the Applicants.
Resorting to the same law now presumably the Anti-Terrorism Act to deal with the present complicated matter is already self defeatist."
The process is unknown to law -Okebu
"Exparte Orders are usually made in situations of real urgency where the subject matter of litigation is about to be dissipated or destroyed. By requirement of law, an exparte Order is to be granted for a short period of time which is usually 7 days or 14 days depending on the Jurisdiction where the application is brought.
It is sacrosanct to note that an exparte Order can never finally declare a right or confer an obligation.
"In other words a declaration can never be sought or granted vide an exparte Order. Usually, declarations are only granted after hearing a substantive suit or an originating application. Therefore, any exparte application which makes a declaration such as the application in context is unknown to law, bearing in mind the graveness of the allegation."
It is a troubling sign- Mbaebie
"How else can one explain the fact that a former Attorney-General & Minister of of Justice of the Federation would have the temerity and effrontery to appear before the Red Chambers to justify the series of disobediences to valid court orders by this government?
To make matters worse, none of the Law Makers was able to reprimand him.
This is really quite disheartening.
"Or how else can one explain a situation where our courts whose valid orders have been flagrantly and serially breached by this government would proceed to hear another matter brought by same government? It is truly a troubling sign.
Our courts ought to have collectively made a resolve not to hear any matter instituted by the Federal government until it obeys all its orders. That's how it ought to have been. What we have now is seemingly intimidated and browbeaten judiciary."
Order against natural justice-Omirhobo
"I have not been opportune to see the said ex-parte order but suffice it to say that the order offends one of the cardinal principles of natural justice that says that before you come to a conclusion both sides must be heard .
In this case the proscribed movement side of the story was not and has not been heard so I strongly encourage them to challenge their proscription in a court of law.
"Again the said proscription is an insult on the collective sensibility of all Nigerians, be you a Moslem, a Christian or a traditionalist.
It portends danger to our right to freedom of religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly.
For Nigeria to be a country bound in freedom, peace and unity we must all resist this because today it is IMN turn tomorrow it may be Catholic Church turn unless we all remain cowed."
FG action is an overkill-Fadile
"It is my firm view that declaring them as terrorists group is overkill. Fulani herdsmen have killed many innocent Nigerians in Benue and some part of Nigerian yet the Federal government rebuffed all entreaties to declare them terrorists.
In my view, rather than obtaining order declaring them as terrorists, I would rather prefer an order barring their incessant protests since right to peacefully assembly is also not absolute."
Shiite should seek review- Igbinedion
"The order is merely an ex parte one, and the Shi'ite Islamic Sect, if they are duly registered as a corporate entity, are free to pursue their legal rights to seek a review of the Judicial Declaration.
But they must do this with legally admissible evidence and not grand standing or with the widely acknowledged violent demonstrations which they have been orchestrating in the Federal Capital Territory, as such actions does not help their case, but only serves to fit them into the narrative that they are truly a violent, terrorist and illegal organisation.
Further, I consider the Federal Government's application (for the Order declaring the Shi'ite movement as a terrorist organisation) as having been properly made.
That was the right step to take in the circumstances.
It is unacceptable, illegal and condemnable that such group or organisation should be training its members to stockpile and bear arms in a democratic society."
Proscription will not deter IMN -- Nlebedim
"This declaration is wrong. The Buhari adminstration has not told Nigerians what he has against this group and failing to release its leader and wife in custody over four years now in the face of numerous court orders for his release.
Even though the group is a radical group operating mainly in Zaria Kaduna state, it is not known to have unleashed an terror to citizens aside from the clash involving the Army chief and the casualties that ensured on both sides. MACBAN had unleashed terror and has and will continue to unleash terror killing, maiming and destroying properties throughout Nig.
How come they have not been proscribed? Recall too that IPOP suffered a similar thing when it was proscribed. Clearing the Buhari's administration has clue about addressing the numerous challenges bedeviling this country. Before the group attacked, it had made peaceful overture to government for the release of its leader without luck. Its proscription will not serve any useful purpose. Government should engage them before it snowballs."
FG destroying our legal system -- Ohemu
"What I can simply say is that, this government is destroying the little that is left of our legal system. The judiciary has been relegated as a result of the continuous intimidation of members of the bench, how can the IMN be proscribed by exparte order without granting the opportunity of being heard? It is very wrong and we cannot continue this way."
Government action double-faced -- Ekwuomo
"The proscription is, no doubts, unconstitutional, as it violently violates inalienable human rights clearly delineated in the Constitution, mainly in the areas of rights to freedom of religion and worship, movement, association and speech, amongst others; and for further infringement on the sect's rights to fair-hearing clearly provided for in section 36(1) of the Constitution, the grand norm of our laws, since it was hard and obtained, from commencement to conclusion, through the instrumentality of ex-parte proceedings.
It also, portrays the government's actions as double-faced, when examined against the background of similar use of sledge-hammer on IPOB, whereas the horrendous and long- standing murderous activities of herdsmen, which leave in their wake torrents of tears, blood and monumental anguish in all sections and helmets of Nigeria in daily blood-bath, are treated with kid- gloves and, you may add, pats on the backs.
These ugly and increasing trends of government's sledgehammer falling heavily on the opposition and voices of dissent only need immediate abatement.