The police in Kaduna on Sunday said that they had beefed up security ahead of today’s ruling of the application filed by the embattled leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
Justice Darius Khobo of the Kaduna State High Court will rule on the application filed by El-Zakzaky, who is seeking permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The bail hearing comes barely three days after a Federal High Court in Abuja granted the Federal Government the power to proscribe the Shi’ittes’ organisation.
The Shi’ittes’ protests in Abuja had been violent. They had also resulted in the death of a police officer and a National Youth Scheme Corps member, Precious Owolabi.
On Sunday, the Kaduna State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Yakubu Sabo, assured the people of the state that adequate security had been put in place for hitch-free court appearance.
The spokesman, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the phone, said the public was advised to remain calm and not to be apprehensive where they observe unusual number of security personnel in town.
“As part of the strategy put in place for a smooth process of the court trial, there will be traffic diversion in the following areas: Independence way, Bida Road, all roads leading to Ibrahim Taiwo Road,” he said.
Meanwhile, IMN Shi’ittes have described the Abuja High Court order proscribing its activities and tagging it as a terrorist group, as a “huge joke.”
The Federal Government had on Friday obtained a court order to proscribe the Islamic sect.
The Federal High Court through Justice Nkeonye Maha granted the order and designated the activities of the IMN in any part of the country “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”
But the President, Media Forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim Musa, in a statement on Sunday, stated that the group “learnt of the fallacious court order” but the movement had yet to receive it.
He said, “Our scholars and lawyers are already studying the development, and we will provide an appropriate and adequate response in due course.”
Musa assured the public and the international community that the sect would not be pushed to taking harsh decision no matter the provocation.
The group argued that the Federal Government hastily obtained the court order to sweep the glaring human rights abuses meted to its members by the Buhari’s administration under the carpet.
The statement partly read, “We are in consultations with our lawyers, and we will, as a peaceful people who have been victims of the Buhari government’s sponsored terror attacks throughout his first term and continuing, give an appropriate response.
“…We reject any false terror attacks that the authorities would be plotting in our name, and by this assure the general public that we have never contemplated the use of terror tactics. This is not about to change.
Meanwhile, a judiciary watchdog, Access to Justice, has faulted the proscription of the IMN, describing the court’s pronouncement as “unconstitutional and deeply unfortunate.”
The group in a statement by its convener, Mr Joseph Otteh, said it was dismayed that Justice Maha would grant such an order in a way that sacrificed the rights of the Shi’ites to present their own side of the story.
Describing the court’s approach as flawed, A2J said Justice Maha’s final decision betrayed the long-standing judicial practice of not deciding a case based on a one-sided account.
The group said, “A legitimate judicial process takes account of, and hears the cases and defences of everyone accused of misconduct and/or whose interests would be affected by a court decision and orders. To that extent, Justice Maha’s ruling is strongly objectionable. It did not follow nor respect basic constitutional standards applicable to a judicial proceeding, but disavowed inexplicably and without justification.
“In a democracy, legislations must pass the tests of constitutionality to be enforceable by a court. The court ought to have satisfied itself that the legislation under which it acted, which so gravely imperils the fundamental rights of citizens to assemble and move freely, champion their causes and practise their religion, passes constitutional muster. It did not do so, unfortunately.”
Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties on Sunday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of making Nigeria a country with many terrorist groups with the designation of the IMN as a terrorist group.
The CUPP’s spokesman, Mr. Imo Ugochinyere, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja said the proscription of Shiites could worsen the already precarious security situation in the country.
Also, the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma, has warned President Buhari not to drag Nigeria into another civil war with the proscription of the IMN.
Chukwuma, who gave the warning in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said, “The government is getting it wrong; people who are supposed to be banned are not banned. You have banned Indigenous People of Biafra, you ban Shi’ites but the worst people that are killing Nigerians, the Fulani jihadists, you have not banned.”
However, the Presidency on Sunday said it proscribed the IMN for its “criminality” and resort to violence.
It said in a statement that the government’s action was to halt the killings and wanton destruction of both public and private property by the IMN.
The statement, which was signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, partly read, “The Presidency explains that contrary to the claim by IMN that it had been banned from practising its religion, President (Muhammadu) Buhari’s administration has not banned Shi’ites from observing their five daily prayers and going to Mecca to perform the Holy pilgrimage. Their position is blatantly false and deceptive.
“The IMN is deliberately changing the narrative in order to gain sympathy and divert the attention of the world from its terrorist activities, including attacking soldiers, killing policemen and a youth corps member, destroying government ambulances and public property, consistently defying authority of the state.
“The Presidency agrees that the constitution protects freedom of worship, but not to the detriment of society, especially where such freedom harms others, and breaks law and order.”
It added that any behaviour that would endanger the lives of other Nigerians would not be welcomed by the Buhari administration.