SHIITE sect the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has been declared a terrorist organisation by an Abuja high court after the federal government successfully obtained an injunction proscribing it.
Over recent weeks, the IMN has intensified its protests in Abuja, demanding the release of its leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015. As the IMN has protested in Abuja on a daily basis, its demonstrations have involved bitter clashes with the security forces and have become more violent by the day.
Earlier this month, one particularly violent clash culminated in the burning of police vehicles, injuries to persons on both sides and the arrest of over 40 suspects. This week, a deputy police commissioner and a youth corper were killed as the two sides clashed again and IMN has vowed to continue its protests until Sheikh El-Zakzaky is released.
With the situation getting out of control and fears that the IMN crisis may escalate into another full scale insurgency as happened with Boko Haram, the federal government has been under pressure to negotiate with the Shiites. According to IMN one source, the federal government has granted its approval for mediators drawn from members of the diplomatic corps to meet with Sheikh El-Zakzaky with a view to resolving the impasse.
However, yesterday, Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja issued an order designated the activities of the Shiite organisation in any part of Nigeria as acts of terrorism and illegality. In its ruling, 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 INM in the federal government 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.
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. In the application, the federal government accused the group of carrying out coordinated violent protests in the country.