Nigerian govt’s action stalls court hearing to review Shiite IMN’s status

El-Zakzaky
El-Zakzaky. [Photo credit: Guardian Nigeria]

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday adjourned a suit by the Nigerian government against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

The court also fixed September 11 to hear the motion filed by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), asking the court to vacate the exparte order it gave on July 26 proscribing its activities in the country.

Justice Nkeonye Maha adjourned the case, after hearing the two counsel.

The Solicitor General of the Federation, Ayo Apata, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had applied for more time to regularise the process.

The counsel to the Shiite group, Femi Falana, did not oppose the request either.

Outlawing IMN

The court had, upon an ex-parte motion by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), also declared the group a terrorist organisation.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the IMN, in a notice of motion filed, on August 2, by its lawyer, Mr Falana, particularly sought the court to vacate the ”ex-parte order made on July 26, in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019 between: AGF vs. IMN proscribing the existence and activities of the group in Nigeria under whatever form, either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called or referred to.”

The group also asked the court to set aside the order ”restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the IMN, under any other name or platform howsoever called or described in any part of Nigeria.”

The IMN stated that the reasons for its requests include that “the ex-parte order made on July 26, was made without jurisdiction, as the order was made against a non-juristic body.

“This honourable court on July 26, pursuant to an ex parte application brought by the IMN made an order, inter alia, proscribing the existence and activities of the group in any part of Nigeria under whatever form, either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called or referred to without affording the Respondent/Applicant the right of fair hearing,” NAN reports.

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The group also said no fair hearing was granted the applicant/respondent before the order was made.

“The honourable court did not grant the declaration ‘that the activities of the IMN in any part of Nigeria amounts (sic) to acts of terrorism and illegality,’” the group said.

NAN highlighted that according to IMN, there was no urgency warranting the grant of the order ex parte.

The federal government had on July 29, published the order in its official gazette as directed by the court.

It reads: “Notice is hereby given that by the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/Cs/876/2019 dated July 26, 2019 as per the schedule to this notice, the activities of IMN in Nigeria are declared to be terrorism and illegal in any part of Nigeria, as proscribed, pursuant to Sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended).

“Consequently, the general public is hereby 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 group will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended) and liable to prosecution,” the NAN report stated.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the Nigerian government and security forces proclaimed the IMN a terrorist organisation and vowed harsh consequences against anyone caught associating with it.

Rights groups and media commentators have criticised the proscription as excessive and unconstitutional.

Criticising the said action by the federal government, they said the IMN is a religious organisation and its ban was a violation of the Nigerian Constitution’s free speech and association guarantees.

But responding, the government said the ban was only targeted at allegedly violent elements in the IMN, and strongly argued its action was constitutional. A federal court gave the approval for the proscription on July 26.

It came after a top police official and a journalist were killed during a protest on July 22.

More than a dozen IMN members were also said to have been killed in the protests, which had held regularly since 2015 to demand the release of the IMN leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat from the custody of Nigerian secret police.

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