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Kaduna State where clashes between the military and Shiite Muslims led to over 300 deaths last year has banned the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), saying it was a security threat.
Two days of violence began on December 12, when supporters of the pro-Iranian cleric and IMN head, Ibrahim Zakzaky, refused to allow the chief of army staff’s convoy to pass through the northern city of Zaria in Kaduna state.
In April, rights group Amnesty International accused Nigeria’s military of shooting dead more than 300 Shiite Muslims, burying them in mass graves and destroying evidence of the crime.
The Kaduna state government later confirmed the Amnesty report, saying that the army used “excessive force” and that those responsible for the killings should be prosecuted.
But in a press release issued late Friday, Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai said IMN was a threat to Nigeria.
“The Kaduna state government has issued an order declaring the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) an unlawful society,” a statement said.
It said the term applied to “any organisation whose activities are dangerous to the security and good governance of the state.”
The IMN said it would challenge the move.
“We are not surprised by this decision of the Kaduna state government to ban the IMN,” spokesperson Ibrahim Musa told AFP.
“What do expect from someone that attacked you in your house, killed people in hundreds and demolished homes for no just reason?” Musa said.
“We condemn this illegal decision in the strongest terms and we will challenge this decision through all legitimate means.”
IMN leader Zakzaky, who lost an eye and was left partly paralysed in the violence, has been held in custody since December.
He has previously been imprisoned for calling for an Iranian-style revolution to create an Islamic state in the country’s north.
There have been fears the military action against the Shiite group in Zaria could trigger another violent uprising similar to that of Boko Haram, whose insurgency has left some 20 000 dead since 2009.
”The Kaduna State Government has issued an Order declaring the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) an unlawful society.
”This action is taken in the exercise of the government’s duty to preserve peace and security in the state, and to ensure that all persons and organisations are guided by lawful conduct and with due allegiance to the Nigerian state and its Constitution. The Kaduna state executive council approved the making of this order following deliberations at its meeting of Thursday, 06 October 2016.
”The Order, which has been signed by the Governor, draws on powers vested by the Constitution and the laws of Kaduna State. Section 45 (1) of the Constitution categorically vests in the Governor the powers to take such measures and actions as are necessary for the promotion and protection of: public safety, public order, public morality or public health; orthe rights and freedom of all persons in Kaduna State.
Section 97A of the Penal Code (Cap 110, Laws of Kaduna State, 1991) empowers the Governor to declare as an unlawful society any organisation whose activities are dangerous to the security and good governance of the state.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Zaria Clashes of 12-14 December 2015 found that the IMN is not a registered organisation, that it has a paramilitary wing and that its members do not recognise or respect the laws of the country and the duly constituted authorities that have the responsibility to secure and administer the country.
The Declaration Order noted that since the regrettable events in Zaria which resulted in the loss of 347 lives, the IMN “has overtly continued with unlawful processions, obstruction of public highways, unauthorized occupation of public facilities including schools without regard to the rights of other citizens and the public peace and order of the State”.
The Order noted that “these acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquillity, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna State”.
The Declaration Order, which comes into effect on Friday, 7 October 2016, provides for the prosecution of persons that may be in breach of its provisions under the laws of Kaduna State:
“Whoever manages, or is a member of the said Society under any appellation or mutation with the propensity of causing the breakdown of law and order, or operates in a manner dangerous to the good governance of the State shall, from commencement of this order, be prosecuted in accordance with the Laws of Kaduna State.”
Sections 97A and 97B of the Penal Code prescribe a penalty of imprisonment for seven years or a fine or both for any person convicted for belonging to an unlawful society.
The Kaduna State Government reaffirms its vigorous commitment to upholding the right of citizens to practice the religion of their choice. These are rights fully protected by Sections 38 and 40 of the Constitution.
Such rights to freedom of thought and worship must however be exercised in ways that do not infringe on the rights of others, and should not subject other people to distress and inconvenience. (NAN)
A Nigerian minority Shi’ite Muslim sect that has been declared an unlawful society by a northern state vowed on Saturday to challenge the ban.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria came to prominence when its members clashed with the army in the northern city of Zaria, Kaduna state, in December 2015. A judicial inquiry in August concluded that the army killed 348 of the sect’s members.
The Kaduna state government on Friday said anyone convicted of being a member of the sect could be imprisoned for seven years, fined or both. The size of the fine was not specified.
Diplomats and security analysts say the violence risked spawning a radical Shi’ite militant wing, just as the Boko Haram uprising began in 2009 after security forces killed hundreds of its members and its leader Mohammed Yusuf died in custody.
The Shi’ite sect’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, has been held in custody, without charge, by Nigeria’s security agency since his December arrest following the clashes. His supporters have called for his release.
The Kaduna state government said the group had “overtly continued with unlawful processions” and “obstruction of public highways” since the clashes.
“These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquillity, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna state,” it said, declaring the group unlawful with immediate effect.
A spokesman for the sect, Ibraheem Musa, said its members were not going to be intimidated into resorting to violence.
“Very soon, we shall challenge this ban through legal and peaceful means,” he said.
Members of the sect are among the several thousand Shi’ite Muslims whose movement was inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
The majority of the tens of millions of Muslims in Africa’s most populous nation of 180 million inhabitants are Sunni – including the Boko Haram militants who have killed thousands mainly in the northeast since 2009.
(Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram, Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Powell)