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Court declares Shiites’ movement a terrorist group

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the proscription of the Shiites’ movement, declares it a terrorist group.

Saturday PUNCH reports that Justice Nkeonye Maha issued the order in a ruling in which she also designated the activities of the Shiite organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”

The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria.

To complete the process of the proscription of the group, the court ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation “to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the official gazette and two national dailies.”

The judge gave the order following an ex parte application by the Federal Government.

A copy of the ex parte application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019 which was sighted by Saturday PUNCH on Friday, was filed in the name of the ‘Attorney-General of the Federation.’

Justice Maha granted the four prayers contained in the application shortly after the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata, argued the application on Friday.

The IMN was the sole respondent to the application but the group was not represented by a lawyer on Friday since it was an ex parte hearing.

Ruling on Friday, the court made “a declaration that the activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria amounts to acts of terrorism and illegality.”

The court said, “An order of this honourable court proscribing the existence and activities of the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in any part of Nigeria, under whatever form or guise either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called.

“An 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 respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) under any other name or platform howsoever called or described in any part of Nigeria.

“An order directing the applicant (the AGF) to publish the order proscribing the respondent (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) in the official gazette and two national dailies.”

The Federal Government had filed the application before the court on Thursday, barely 72 hours after a protest by members of the group in Abuja led to a bloody clash between them and the police.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, Usman Umar, and a Channels Television journalist, Precious Owolabi, died in the clash with many others injured and property destroyed.

The Shiites have for over two years been regularly taking to the streets particularly in Abuja to demand the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat.

The couple has been in the custody of the Department of State Services since December 2015 after a bloody clash between members of the group and soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State.

In the application for the proscription of the group, the Federal Government accused the group of carrying out coordinated violent protests in the country.

It alleged that the “aggressive activities” of members of the group had led to the loss of lives and destruction of private and public property in the Federal Capital Territory and other cities in northern Nigeria.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT Command, Nyinnaya Adiogu, who deposed to the affidavit filed in support of the application, also alleged that the Shiites engaged in series of illegal activities, “which are inimical to the corporate interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Such activities, according to Adiogu, who said he was briefed by the Inspector-General of Police and the Solicitor-General of the Federation included setting up of a para-military guard called ‘HURRAS’.

The group was also accused of “nefarious activities”, murder, attacks on security agents and provocative preaching and hate speeches while working towards an agenda of creating an Islamic State in Nigeria.

The affidavit, which highlighted what it described as “series of violent and unlawful activities” of the group since 1991, stated that the activities of the IMN members under the guise of clamouring for the release of their leader had not only heightened tension and insecurity in the country but also earned the country negative rating globally.

The affidavit stated in part, “On July 22, 2019, the respondent’s members again launched another vicious cycle of violent protests around the Federal Secretariat (Abuja), during which they set a sub-station/Ambulance Bay of the National Emergency Management Agency, containing a truck and an ambulance on fire.

“A Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, in charge of Operations in the FCT; a national youth corps member by the name of Precious Owolabi, reporting for Channels TV and others were killed by the protesters. (Copies of media reports by The Nation, Daily Trust, Leadership, Punch and The Sun newspapers dated July 23, 2019, on this incident are attached herewith and marked as Exhibit FGN 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E).

“The violent and aggressive activities of the members of the respondent under the guise of clamouring for the release of their leader have not only heightened tension and insecurity in the country, but it is also earning the country negative rating globally.

“Both the US and UK governments have already issued travel warnings on Nigeria on account of these violent protests which are equally deleterious to foreign investments. (A copy of the above report by The Punch newspaper is attached herewith and marked Exhibit FGN 5).”

It recalled that before the July 22, 2019 incident, the group’s members, in a violent protest on July 9, 2019, while trying to force their way into the National Assembly complex, “inflicted fatal injuries on policemen stationed at the National Assembly, shot two policemen and also injured other policemen with stones and clubs, damaged police vehicles and other vehicles belonging to visitors and staff members of the National Assembly who also sustained varying degrees of injuries.”

The affidavit also stated the “nefarious activities” of the group, to include, “unauthorised blocking of public highway (especially the Zaria-Kano Highway during their processions), engagement in illegal road traffic functions, illegal roadblocks, imposition of illegal curfews and checkpoints, raids on police posts, prevention of arrest of their members, invasion of court premises to abort legal proceedings involving respondent members, refusal to submit to ordinary security checks, and attacks on security agents which led to the death of Corporal Dan Kaduna Yakubu;

“Setting up of a para-military guard known as ‘HURRAS’ through which the respondent has been terrorising local residents; respondent has also instituted unregistered security outfits and performed paramilitary ceremonies, hoisting of flag, combat exercises, parades and inspection by the respondent leader reminiscent of state authority.

“Provocative preaching and hate speeches aimed at inciting members against non-members while working towards its agenda of creating an Islamic State in Nigeria.

“Brazen acts of disrespect of Nigerian laws and non-recognition of constituted authorities, refusal to operate within the ambit of the law, failure to register with the appropriate authorities.”

The affidavit also recalled the clash between Shiites and soldiers in the Chief of Army Staff’s convoy in Zaria on December 14, 2015.

It recalled similar clashes between members of the IMN with “security forces in Kaduna” in 1991, and another incident in 1996 when the members of the group allegedly “seized and decapitated a Christian, alleging that his wife used pages from the Quran to clean their baby.”

It also alleged that in June 2005, the group “clashed with emirate authorities in Sokoto over access to the city’s central mosque.”

It alleged that in July 2007, the group “murdered” a Sunni cleric in Sokoto, Umar Dan Maishiya, “for being highly critical of Shiites.”

It added as part of the group’s unlawful activities that the activities of the respondent’s members in Gyallesu, Zaria and environs have been threatening the peace and security of the affected areas over the years.

“Constant conflicts with local communities and forceful takeover or appropriation of mosques not belonging to the respondent in Kaduna and Kano states as well as other northern states.

“Violent protests, creating ethnoreligious strifes and other criminal acts of aggression against individuals and communities which often results in deaths, grievous bodily harm and destruction of property.

“The respondent has over the years manifested its penchant for launching attacks on security agents.”

We won’t abandon our religion –Shiites

However, the spokesperson for the group, Ibrahim Musa, said the government could not proscribe the movement, pointing out that its members were Muslims practising Islam as “revealed” by Prophet Muhammed.

He said the group was neither an association nor a political party that could be proscribed by fiat.

Musa, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on Friday, noted that the IMN was a mass movement and could not be made to abandon its religion just like that.

Musa said, “Firstly, we are not an organisation or association or a political party that can be proscribed by fiat.

“We are Muslims practising Islam as revealed to Prophet Muhammed under the leadership of his family. Ours is a mass movement, hence we can’t abandon our religion just like that.

“We don’t bear arms, we don’t force others to join us, we are just demanding justice within the ambit of the law, therefore, proscribing us won’t work.

“We can’t say this is what we will do if we are proscribed, because it just won’t work. We are in each and every facet of life like other citizens.”

Three of our members died in police custody, Shiites claim

The IMN also said three of its members who were shot and held in police custody had died.

The sect explained that the deceased were arrested during Monday clash between its members and the police during which about 13 persons, including a deputy commissioner of police, died in Abuja.

The President, Media Forum of IMN, Musa, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, said the three detainees died as a result of bullet wounds they sustained during the incident.

The Federal Capital Territory police spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, could not be reached for comments as calls to his phone rang out. He had yet to reply to a text message as of the time of filing this report.

FG, IMN may explore truce as negotiator meets El-Zakzaky

Meanwhile, the Federal Government may have begun moves to negotiate with the IMN in order to end the sect’s violent agitations for the release of its leader, El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat.

However, the development had yet to be independently verified as of the time of filing this report on Friday

A senior IMN member, Abdulrahman Abubakar, who confirmed the development on Friday, said the movement was waiting for the government to set up a committee that would negotiate with the Shiite members.

Abubakar, who is the coordinator, Free El-Zakzaky Campaign, explained that the representative of the European country handling the negotiations had met with El-Zakzaky in custody to hear from him.

Also, other sources said the Federal Government might have opened talks with the IMN to stop their protests against the continued detention of their leader.

Sources at the Nigerian Army Guards Brigade, Abuja, told our correspondent that the FG was not happy with the protests, which turned violent.

At the office of the National Security Adviser, a top source told our correspondent that he was not aware of any negotiation between the FG and Shiites.

Mr Femi Falana (SAN), who has been defending El-Zakzaky in court since 2015 and obtained the Federal High Court’s December 2, 2019 judgment which ordered the clergy man’s release from custody, told one of our correspondents on Friday that he was not aware of the said talks between Shiites and the Federal Government.

“I am not aware of such negotiation,” he said.

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SECURITY

Army chief says war can’t end insurgency

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The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Monday said that Boko Haram and other terror groups operating in the country cannot be defeated by warfare alone.

Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai

He said that finding appropriate narratives that will counter the ideologies of the terror groups will greatly enhance the efforts of the Nigerian Army against terrorism and terrorist groups.

Buratai, who observed that terrorism cannot be totally eliminated, noted that the insurgents’ belief in their ideologies remains their strongest driving force, adding that it is easier to kill members of a terrorist group than to eliminate their ideologies.

The COAS stated this at the opening ceremony of a Spiritual Warfare Seminar organized by the Nigerian Army for religious leaders and clerics at the Army Resource Centre in Abuja.
Buratai, who was represented at the event by Major General Sani Yusuf, said that the seminar was aimed at evolving narratives to defeat the ideologies of religious-based terrorist groups operating in the country.

He challenged the religious leaders to produce appropriate narratives that can effectively counter the ideologies of the insurgents, urging them to leverage on their daily interface with the society to protect the vulnerable people from succumbing to wrong ideologies.

According to him, “the Nigerian Army has attained great feats in the fight against the insurgents, breaking their ranks and degrading their will to fight, however the insurgents’ belief in their ideologies remain the driving force, as such ideological battle can in many ways be more important than the kinetic battle. It just that it is easier to kill members of a terrorist group than to eliminate their ideologies.

“It is a well-known fact that terrorism and terrorist groups cannot be totally eliminated by mainly Military actions, this means focusing our efforts on the underlying narratives through ideologies that employed by these terrorists to lure innocent citizens to their fold.

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SECURITY

FG to drag judge before NJC for granting Sowore bail

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There were indications last night that the federal government was contemplating reporting Justice Taiwo Taiwo, to the National Judicial Council (NJC) on account of his decision to grant bail to the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore.

Justice Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja admitted Sowore to bail on Tuesday and dismissed the objection raised by the Department of State Security (DSS) to the bail.

Shocked Nigerian security and intelligence community met on the matter yesterday and resolved to appeal the judgement.

It also decided to petition the NJC on the issue.
A top government source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that anyone standing trial for a treasonable felony is not entitled to bail.

He said:” Sowore’s bail is likely to bring trouble for that judge. A report has been prepared to report him to NJC in view of the fact that, as far as this country, it is known that a person charged treasonable felony has no bail option.

“So, the security and intelligence community in the country is shocked by the judgement.

“And there is a consensus that the judgement should not only be appealed but that the NJC should be petitioned about the conduct and abuse of power by the judge.”

Sowore was arrested and kept in the custody of the DSS since 3rd of August, 2019, for allegedly calling for “revolution” through the group’s protest fixed for 5th of September 2019.
Sowore on Thursday commenced a contempt suit against the Director-General of the DSS, Yusuf Bichi, for allegedly disobeying the order granting him bail.

On Wednesday his lawyers submitted his passport to a Deputy Chief Registrar of the court.

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Red Cross: 22,000 Nigerians missing in North-east

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Nearly 22,000 Nigerians have been reported missing in the North-east region due to a decade of conflict in the area, according to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer.

Maurer told reporters Thursday in Lagos that the figure is the highest number of missing persons registered with the ICRC in any country.
He also said millions of people had also been displaced due to the conflict.

In 2018, the Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third most terrorized country in the world, for the fourth consecutive year.

ICRC, in a statement, said nearly 60 percent of the missing Nigerians were minors at the time they went missing.

“Every parent’s worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is. This is the tragic reality for thousands of Nigerian parents, leaving them with the anguish of a constant search.

“People have the right to know the fate of their loved ones, and more needs to be done to prevent families from being separated in the first place.

“Families in North-east Nigeria are often separated while fleeing attacks. Others have had loved ones abducted or detained and do not know their whereabouts. The ICRC works with the Nigerian Red Cross and other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the region to trace missing people by showing photographs, calling out names, and going door-to-door in camps and communities,” Maurer said.

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SECURITY

Shiites to defy Police, DSS today

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The Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Police and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) yesterday appeared set for a showdown as they traded words over the sect’s planned procession scheduled to take place today.

While the police warned that the planned religious procession by the Sheik Ibrahim el-Zakzaky-led IMN would be considered illegal in view of the fact that the organization remained proscribed, the DSS alleged plot by what it described as some subversive groups and individuals within and outside the country to undermine national security. It warned that the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on such criminal elements.

But the IMN countered, accusing the federal government of planning to unleash terror on unsuspecting Nigerians in the name of the group.
The Shiite Islamic sect plans an annual procession today. The procession is carried out yearly to mark the birth of the grandson of Prophet Mohammed.
The group said it was covered under the constitutional provision that guaranteed freedom of association.

But the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Adamu Mohammed, in a statement in Abuja, said the police would not allow the procession to take place in view of the status of the group as a proscribed organization thus putting a stamp of illegality on the group.
The group is, however, in court to challenge the proscription order.

The police said in a statement: “It has come to the knowledge of the Nigeria Police Force that some members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) intend to embark on a nationwide procession, ostensibly to cause disruption of the public peace, order, and security in the country.

“The Force notes that in line with the Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice 2019 of 26th July 2019, the activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria have been proscribed. Consequently, all gathering or procession by the group remains ultimately illegal and will be treated as a gathering in the advancement of terrorism.”

The statement signed by Force Public Relations Officer and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mr. Frank Mba, said police commissioners in the 36 states and FCT and their supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) were ordered to put in place measures to avert any procession.

On its part, the DSS said the identified groups and individuals planned to exploit the political differences within and outside the country to destabilize the country.
DSS, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Peter Afunanya, said the groups planned to inflame passions across ethnic and religious divides.

“The aim is to set the country on fire as well as inflame passions across ethnic and religious divides with expected violent consequences. Also, the service expresses dismay over the increasing use of fake news and unsubstantiated information spread across social media platforms to deceive and incite sections of the populace to civil unrest,” DSS said.

But the IMN in a statement yesterday by President, Media Forum of the group, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, alleged that the attack the federal government was planning was specially planned to coincide with the sect’s Ashurah day celebration today.

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