The Nigeria Police Force and members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria, also known as Shi’ites, may clash at the group’s upcoming Ashura procession on Tuesday.
The Ashura procession, also called the Day of Ashura, is the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar.
It is observed annually by Shi’ite Muslims worldwide to commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala in Iraq.
Known as the third Shia Imam, Husayn was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shia Imam.
Husayn was said to have died during the Battle of Karbala, which was fought on October 10, 680 between his army and the army of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid I.
Despite the fact that the Shi’ites group has been proscribed, it has dared the police and insisted it would observe the Ashura procession on Tuesday.
However, the Nigeria Police Force had also dared the group to march and see what they (the police) would do.
The development came amid a recent directive from the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for the arrest of all identified Shi’ite leaders across the country.
The IGP also directed a team of special police to dismantle the IMN structures in the country, vowing the police would not allow the Shi’ite group to violate its proscription by the court.
However, a highly placed member of the Shi’ite group told SUNDAY PUNCH that its members would troop out from “cities and villages” in the 19 northern states and Abuja to mark its annual procession in memory of Imam Husayn (the third imam of Islam revered by Shi’ites)
The source said IMN members had vowed it would observe its annual Ashura procession.
Confirming the move, the President, Media Forum of IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said some Shi’ites had already commenced the mourning procession in various cities, noting that no arrest had been reported so far.
He also said the IMN leaders and members had no plans to leave Nigeria or seek asylum in any country, noting that their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, had demonstrated love for Nigeria.
Musa, who doubles as the Shi’ite spokesperson, stated, “To date, there have been no arrests since we started the Ashura mourning procession in various cities and villages.
“We will join our Shia brothers worldwide in commemorating the killing of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Husayn on the tenth of Muharram (Tuesday).
“Our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky, has demonstrated our love for our country. We would rather die here than leave since we are not criminals. Our procession will hold on Tuesday in Abuja and major cities in the North, Insha Allah.”
He stated the procession would be peaceful and hitch-free.
When asked what they would do if confronted by the police, Musa said, “Ours is a peaceful religious procession, that is why our women and children join us. So, if there is any confrontation, it is the government that may cause it, not us.
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives just as Imam Husayn did in Karbala. We are not going to war, we are going on a mourning procession which is a universal event on that day.”
The IMN spokesperson also explained that the order proscribing the group had been challenged, expressing the confidence that justice would be done in the matter.
March and see what we’ll do, police tell Shi’ites
When contacted about the upcoming procession of the Shi’ites, the Nigeria Police Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, said he would not disclose the next action of the police.
“What do you want me to say? Let them (Shi’ites) carry out their procession first, then you would see what the police would do,” he said briefly.
The Federal Government had on July 30, 2019, proscribed the Islamic Movement in Nigeria following a July 26, 2019 court order which designated the activities of the Shi’ites organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.”
The court order came after about four days after members of the Shi’ite group clashed with the police in Abuja, which led to the killing of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, Federal Capital Territory Police Command, Umar Usman, and a Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi.
In her ruling, Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja directed the Federal Government to publish the Shi’ites proscription order in its gazette and in two national dailies. This was subsequently done.
A copy of the gazette titled – ‘Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice, 2019’ – described it as “Government Notice No. 79”.
“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 Islamic Movement 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 notice had read.
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 Federal Government had claimed that El-Zakzaky’s sole objective was to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state, insisting that the cleric had the full support of Iran to achieve this aim.
The government made the claims in a counter-affidavit it filed against the IMN’s motion challenging the Federal High Court’s order of July 26, 2019, proscribing the group.
The counter-affidavit was deposed to by Enyinnaya Adiogu, a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operation in the Federal Capital Territory Command.
It stated that El-Zakzaky was influenced by the Iranian revolution, which led to the emergence of Ayatollah Khomeini as the Asian country’s leader in 1979 after Shah was overthrown in a popular uprising.
The government further claimed that the IMN members first pledge their allegiance to Khomeini at their gatherings, and then to their local leader, El-Zakzaky.
It added, “The IMN views itself as a government and Sheikh El-Zakzaky as the only legitimate source of authority in Nigeria and it does not recognise the authority of the Nigerian government and views its leaders both Muslims and Christians as corrupt and ungodly.”
El-Zakzaky and his wife had recently been permitted to travel to India for medical care, but their treatment was aborted and they were repatriated to the country following the alleged refusal of the Medenta Hospital at New Delhi to allow their preferred doctors treat them.
The religious leader in a video alleged he was given the option of having his treatment at the hospital or returning to Nigeria, saying that he was still discussing with his wife when unnamed officials returned to tell him to prepare for home.
Following the IMN leader’s return to the country, the Federal Government accused the sheikh of plotting to seek asylum in India and escape from Nigeria..