The action instituted yesterday at the Federal High Court in Sokoto is for the enforcement of the fundamental Human Rights of the entire Shia populace in Sokoto State. This action became necessary because of the recent developments in Sokoto State where the government has refused to take responsibility. It will be recalled that early this week we issued a press statement in which we said we would hold Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal responsible for any attack on our persons or properties.
The issue in Sokoto, and indeed in many other states in this regard is not far-fetched. The problem between the Shia community in Sokoto State and the government of Sokoto state and security agencies within Sokoto state has become a perennial issue, just as it is in many other states of the federation. It will be recalled that in 2006/07, there was a very serious crisis in Sokoto, where the government in Sokoto state then said that we the Shia should stop practicing our faith. This is a constitutional matter. It is not something within the powers of any government to dictate. Precisely Section 38 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended gives us the right to practice our faith, our right to freedom of religion, thought and conscience. These things are enshrined there. The rights are inalienable.
Now, a situation where the government of Sokoto state will begin to tell any particular group not to practice their faith, or the practice should be limited to particular activities, is an outright breach of that right. We have to legally challenge this.
We, therefore, filed the application because we are looking for two things. One to express our pains to the entire Nigerian Society and the World at large that this is what is happening in Sokoto state, and by extension in many other parts of the country. Secondly, we are looking at the gain of taking on this action, because the issue is not who is involved now or where. The issue of the breach in fundamental human rights does not really depend on who is involved and where. The fundamental issue is who is next. If we close our eyes and watch this kind of activity go on with impunity, one day it could be you or some other group. Somebody could tell any other person in Nigeria not to practice his faith, and there will be a total breakdown of law and order.
Now, if we again allow the government to have its way, to unleash mayhem on a group just because of their belief, thoughts and religious observances, the bitter experience of 2006/7 in Sokoto, when a lot of our members were arrested innocently, prosecuted but eventually vindicated by the court of appeal in Sokoto, in the popular case of Malam Kasim Muhammad and 112 others Vs Commissioner of Police could be re-enacted. If we allow a repeat of the situation in Kaduna at the moment, it might spill over to other states of the Federation. We have to let the court enforce our fundamental rights.
In the Sokoto case of 2006/7, we did not foresee that something like that was going to happen. We also did not envisage what is playing out in many places riding on the Federal government’s mood of breaching the rights of our leader with impunity to further deny us our inalienable rights. We will not take chances. The essence of going to court is to exercise our rights enshrined under section 46 of the constitution, that if we perceive that our fundamental rights will at any stage, at any time be breached, we should approach the courts to forestall the breach. We are here to forestall the breach so that the type of arrest that was conducted in 2006/7, when that unfortunate case took place should no longer repeat itself. That is why we are in court.
Henceforth, we shall continue to take pro-active steps in matters like this everywhere we foresee a breach of our rights. We will not wait for them to kill and maim us and then arrest and detain us or send some daft to label us terrorist and seek to outlaw our faith.
The prayers sought in the suit filed yesterday in Federal High Court Sokoto, request among others, that the state government and/or any of its agents and the security agencies acting in Sokoto state be restrained from infringing on the religious rights of the Shia community. The action was filed by counsel to the group, Barrister Alex Adojo.
The court has set 29th November 2017 as the date for hearing the case.
PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF IMN