The Kaduna State government yesterday issued an order declaring the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) an unlawful society.
With this declaration, any member of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) known as Shi’ite caught carrying out unlawful activities in the state stands the risk of being sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
According to the state government, the action was taken 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.
A statement issued by Mr. Samuel Aruwan, spokesman of the State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa, noted that the action was taken in the exercise of 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.
He said the Kaduna state executive council approved the making of the order, following deliberations at its meeting held on Thursday, October 6, 2016. The order, which was signed by the state governor, draws on powers vested by the 1999 constitution and the laws of Kaduna State.
Section 45 (1) of the Constitution categorically vests in the state 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; or the rights and freedom of all persons in Kaduna State”.
Section 97A of the Penal Code (Cap 110, Laws of Kaduna State, 1991) also empowers the governor declare as an unlawful society any organisation whose activities are dangerous to the security and good governance of the 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 Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Zaria clashes of December 12 and 14, 2015 found that the IMN was not a registered organisation and that it has a paramilitary wing.
Also, the commission said members of the group 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 by the state government 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”.
“These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquility, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna State”, the Order further noted.
The Declaration Order, which came into effect yesterday, Friday, October 7, 2016, provides for the prosecution of persons that may be in breach of its provisions under the laws of Kaduna State.
It states in part: “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.
“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”.
The Kaduna government said to arrive at its decision, it relied on the findings of a panel it established to investigate the attack on the Shiite group by the Army.
The group had refused to appear before the panel and said it would do so only when its leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and other members detained by the government are released.