The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) on Wednesday suspended demonstrations to free its leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
”The move was taken in good faith out of respect for some eminent people and groups, whose input in the resolution of the problems appears genuine and we sincerely hope an amicable way could be found to solve the crises surrounding the illegal detention of our leader for almost four years now,” IMN spokesperson Ibrahim Musa said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night.
The announcement comes a week after the Nigerian government and security forces proclaimed the IMN a terrorist organisation and vowed harsh consequences against anyone caught associating with it.
Rights groups and media commentators have criticised the proscription as excessive and unconstitutional.
The critics said the IMN is a religious organisation and its ban was a violation of the Nigerian Constitution’s free speech and association guarantees.
The government said the ban was only targeted at allegedly violent elements in the IMN, and strongly argued its action was constitutional. A federal court gave approval for the proscription last week.
It came after a police chief was killed during a protest on July 22.
More than a dozen IMN members were also said to have been killed in the protests, which had held almost daily since 2915 to demand the release of Mr El-Zakzaky from the custody of Nigerian secret police.
Although the IMN initially dismissed the proscription and threatened legal action as well as further protests, the group backed down on Wednesday, citing an ongoing dialogue between respected Nigerian citizens and the Buhari administration.
“If at all any protests occur anywhere in the country, it might be this notice hasn’t reached those in the field or this message is misunderstood or it is some security agents who are mischievously behind it as they have been doing in an attempt to smear our image and be seen as unruly people rather than as victims of savage oppression since 2015,” the group said.
The IMN said it would observe the progress of the dialogue and announce a review in the coming days if necessary.