The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), known as the Shiites organisation, has blamed the Federal Government’s failure to obey the court order for their endless protests and face-off with security agencies, often leading to a breakdown of law and order, and loss of lives.
In a judgment on Friday, Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the proscription of the Shiites movement.
The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under the name or platform” in Nigeria.
But Sheikh Yaqoub Yahaya Katsina, who represents Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, restated the group’s resolve to keep marching on the streets and seeking justice for its leader so long as the government remained recalcitrant.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Katsina stressed that those in authority derived their power from the laws of the land and that every country thrives when those laws were obeyed.
Katsina’s declaration came as the group raised the alarm that three of its members who were arrested and detained after the recent protest in Abuja had died in Police custody. They were being held at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) headquarters in Abuja.
In a statement by the IMN spokesman, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, he said the victims died on Wednesday because of bullet wounds sustained during the ‘free Zakzaky protest’ earlier in the week. He called on the Police to release the bodies for burial according to Islamic rites.
Reacting on how to broker peace, Katsina stated that the solution to the crises lay in following rules. “The House of Representatives advised that our leader should be released. A Federal High Court has ruled in favour of our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky. Human rights bodies and activists have made the same call that our leader should be freed. Why has the President Muhammadu Buhari administration refused to heed these calls?
“Even the Kaduna State judicial commission of inquiry into the Zaria genocide said the military should be probed and those found culpable prosecuted. But to date, nothing has been done. One can then safely say it is a government that is asking us to come out on the streets, due to its stubbornness and refusal to obey the law,” he said.
Katsina bemoaned a situation where members of the group had always been the victims in confrontations with successive governments.
“We don’t cast the first stone. We don’t fight governments. It is the other way round. For one reason or the other, governments choose to fight us. Even in the case of the Zaria massacre, initially what government said led to the killings was a road blockade, allegedly made by our supporters. Let’s assume it is true, did government security agencies act according to the law of the land? They didn’t. Rather, they chose to exterminate us, which was wrong,” he recalled.
Katsina dismissed insinuations that Shiites members were almost always unruly and never willing to subject to civil authority.
He said the group believed in the necessity of having a government, which is why its members participate in all government activities, pay taxes and go to court to demand rights.
“If we don’t believe in government, why should we go to court? Our children go to government schools, and we go to government hospitals. Anyone claiming we don’t believe in constituted authority is lying. When criminals are being identified in society, you hardly find any of them in the Shia community. We are law-abiding citizens,” Katsina said.
Following the alleged death of some of its members in police custody, the group has expressed fears that, “more (of its members) might die in police custody because there are at least 15 people who are in the detention centre with various degrees of bullet wounds and without medication; among them women and a minor who had his leg shot.”
The groups’ spokesman, Musa said all pleas made by relatives of the detainees to the police authorities to allow them to have medication had been rebuffed.
He said: “It is unfortunate that when it comes to dealing with the Shiites, the security agencies throw all known laws and conventions to the dogs, and indulge in savagery as exhibited when the police on Wednesday dumped a Muslim brother of the Islamic Movement by the roadside after torturing him and pouring hot water over him.
“We are calling on the International Community and Human Rights Activists and organisations to have a look at the inhumanity taking place at the dreaded headquarters of SARS, where unarmed citizens are kept in dehumanising conditions.”
Proscription of the Shi’ites religious group discriminatory, unconstitutional, says SA
Meanwhile, senior advocate and Constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome have described the order to proscribe the Shi’ite’s religious group as highly discriminatory and unconstitutional, as was the case of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He cited Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides against the ban of religion and of the belief of a people, saying the section makes Nigeria a secular State.
Ozekhome lamented against the legality of the development, adding that ‘’what group could be more terrorist than the Herdsmen and their known anchor, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that has held Nigeria down for years, killing, maiming, burning, raping, turning Nigeria into a crimson field of a bloodbath? Until the government bans and outlaws these, it is certainly not serious.”
Ozekhome argued that members of the IMN were demanding for the release of their leader held in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) in spite of several Court orders.
He explained that a Shi’ite group is a religious group, like the President’s Sunni group and it is not an Association that could be banned.