The Nnmadi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra has finally got a hearing date for its appeal challenging its proscription by an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja issued almost two years ago.
The PUNCH confirmed on Thursday that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had fixed October 21 for the hearing of the group’s appeal.
Our correspondent also confirmed on Thursday that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a body of Shiite Muslims, whose proscription by the Federal High Court in Abuja came about two years after IPOB’s, had also got October 28 date for the hearing of its application challenging the proscription order.
The then chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati (retd.), had on September 20, 2017, made the order proscribing IPOB and designating it as a terrorist group.
This followed an ex parte application by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), who accused the group of conducting themselves violently in their agitation for creation of Republic of Biafra.
On January 18, 2018, Justice Abdu-Kafarati dismissed the application filed by IPOB on September 22, 2017 to challenge the proscription order.
The judge held in the January 18, 2018 ruling that the September 20, 2017 proscription order was validly issued.
IPOB, through its lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, had appealed against the judgment which it argued violated its right to fair hearing.
The group also argued that “the important condition requiring the President’s approval under Section 2(1)(c) of the Terrorism/Prevention Amendment Act, before making of an application seeking the proscription order” was not satisfied.
It was learnt that the Court of Appeal in Abuja first scheduled the case for hearing on February 7, 2019 but later adjourned it till March 25.
From March 25, 2019, a three-man panel of the court, led by Justice Abdu Aboki, adjourned the case till October 21.
On its part, the IMN, on Wednesday got a hearing date of October 28 to present its case before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the proscription order issued by the court on July26, 2019.
The judge, Justice Nkeonye Maha, had, following the Federal Government’s ex parte application, issued the order of proscription of the Shiite organisation and designated the group’s activities 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.
But the group, through its lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), alleged as part of the grounds of its application for seeking the reversal of the proscription order that the order was made without jurisdiction.
It contended that the court lacked the jurisdiction to issue the ex parte order against a non-juristic body like the IMN which was not an incorporated entity.
It also alleged that the order breached the fundamental rights of all its members to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution.
It also alleged that the ex parte order violated its members’ right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as well as freedom of assembly and association as guaranteed by various sections of the Constitution.
The Attorney-General of the Federation is the respondent to both the IPOB’s appeal before the Court of Appeal in Abuja and the IMN’s suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The AGF’s office, represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata, had in response to the legal actions urged the courts to affirm the proscription orders.
IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu, who holds dual Nigerian and British citizenship, fled Nigeria in the wake of soldiers’ invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu near Umuahia, Abia State, during military’s ‘Operation Python Dance II’ staged to quell the agitation for the Republic of Biafra.
The leader of the IMN, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, has been in the custody of the Department of State Service after a violent encounter between the group’s members and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State in December, 2015.