The Presidential Investigative Panel looking into the Human Rights abuses by the Military today Tuesday November 7th visited Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky with the intention of taking his testimony in secret. This was coming a day earlier than the date given by the Panel that the testimony would be taken.
It was not clear why the sudden change of date, but the Panel said it was necessitated by the need to wind up their sittings by Wednesday the 8th.
The Panel had approached our lawyers to inform them rather precipitately that the case would be taken at 9:00am Tuesday rather than Wednesday. Our lawyers objected to that sudden change of date on the grounds that the reasons for which the sitting was put off to Wednesday in the first place had not been met. There was no evidence from the Panel that they had obtained the permission from DSS to have the Sheikh brought to give testimony. The lawyers standing for the Sheikh had also not been allowed to see their client to debrief him about the intention of the Panel to take his testimony in camera, and whether or not he was comfortable with that. Those were the reasons why the case could not be heard throughout last week when it was initially scheduled to hold.
When the 9:00am time on Tuesday was declined by the legal team of the Islamic Movement, the Panel gave another time of 4:00pm, which was again declined by the legal team led by Mr. Femi Falana, SAN. The team insisted that they must have access to the Sheikh before they could appear before the panel. As the Panel repeatedly shifted the goalpost in the middle of the game, it appeared that the Panel was acting as if under the influence of some external figures, which had earned it the name of “Kangaroo Panel.” Observers say the way and manner the Panel was handling the issue of this petition shoddily was alarming.
In spite of all the objections from the legal team of the Islamic Movement, the Panel went ahead to see the Sheikh in an undisclosed location in the late afternoon. The head of our legal team, Mr. Falana, SAN and another lawyer in the team, Mrs Falana accompanied the Panel to witness what would transpire in the meeting between the Panel and the Sheikh.
Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky out rightly rejected the idea that his testimony would be taken in camera. He insisted that he will rather give an open testimony. He said he would not answer any cross examination questions in secrecy. The Sheikh further placed a condition that the government must obey the court order to release him before he will give any testimony, since there is no military personnel among those who carried out the heinous crimes at Hussainiyyah and his residence that is being detained.
In its reply, the Panel maintained that it could not make use of what the Sheikh said and would therefore not put it on records since he would not answer any cross examination questions. The Panel therefore left without achieving what they came to get. They requested that the IMN produces their other witnesses tomorrow Wednesday. However, the legal team insisted that Sheikh Zakzaky is their prime witness, whose testimony must be heard first and openly as he wants, and as justice demands, before anyone else could be put in the witness box. It remains to be seen now how the Panel will handle this situation.
In another development, the legal team representing the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has vehemently refused to be served notice of petition written by one Muhammad Ali on the grounds that the terms of reference of the Panel did not include that they were to investigate the IMN as well. “The Panel’s terms of reference precludes it receiving any other petition from anyone other than the ones looking into alleged rights abuses by the Military.” They insisted that if anyone has any grievance against the Movement or any of its leaders or members should seek redress in a competent court of law.
*©#FreeZakzaky Campaign Committee, November 2017*