The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, on Thursday spoke to Channels TV on the continued illegal detention of Sheikh Zakzaky, insisting that he is in “protective custody” with his family. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) finds this absurd and an insult on the collective intelligence of the good people of Nigeria and the international community.
Why should the executive arm of the government still insist on “protective custody” defence of their contemptuous posture, when the federal high court in Abuja had rejected that notion categorically and set our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky free? The judiciary was emphatically against the argument by the government of “protective custody” alibi, insisting that it has no place in the constitution or any laws known to man.
A further insult on the intelligence of Nigerians was when Lai went on to claim that Sheikh Zakzaky is not being detained by the known detaining authorities in Nigeria because he is not in prison or in Department of State Services (DSS) or police cell but in a “house” with his family. This blatant lie should make the Minister bury his head in shame. Firstly, what do you call detention if the detainee’s liberties are curtailed so much as to deny him free movement and association? Sheikh Zakzaky is being denied his rights to freely move and associate. He is being denied access to even medical care of his choice and the last time he saw his lawyers was over a year ago. Secondly, what the world knows is that he is in the custody of DSS, and that is the fact. To say anything that would suggest that he isn’t in the custody of DSS is extremely dishonest. The assertion by the Minister even went to the extreme of implying that the Sheikh is in a house built for him by the Federal government as ordered by the court. This fraudulent lie by Lai is felonious to put it mildly. We challenge the Federal government to open the gates of the house and invite journalists, his supporters and the international community to visit him in the house to gauge the degree of his freedom!
Mr Lai’s shameless lies were simply inexhaustible. He went further to suggest that the Federal government attempted to obey the court order by building a house for him, but was deterred by people not wanting to accept to be his neighbours. This is a gross perversion of truths by the Minister. In the first place, the Federal High court had ordered the Federal government to build a house for the Sheikh in Kaduna or any town of his choice in northern Nigeria. As far as we know, neither the Sheikh nor his solicitors were approached by the government to enquire about the Sheikh’s choice of his new residence. So how did the government go about looking for where to build the house? Secondly, we again challenge the government to publicise the places it went about seeking for the new residence and were turned back by neighbours, and we would in turn show people who are more than willing to be Sheikh’s neighbours in such places. Our response therefore to the sarcastic rhetoric by Lai that where they will release Sheikh Zakzaky to since nobody wants to be a neighbour is to simply say that they should release him and see the millions of willing neighbours from among his followers and sympathisers.
Notwithstanding these recent somersaults by the Federal government through Lai and Garba Shehu on the continued unjustifiable detention of the Sheikh and his wife in contempt of the court, we will not relent in our unequivocal call for the immediate and unconditional release of both and all the other members of the Islamic Movement being detained in various detention facilities including underground cells.
PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF IMN