Sheikh El-Zakzaky, The Forgotten Prisoner of Conscience

By Najeeb Maigatari

In December 2015, the Nigerian military, under the pretense of road blockade to the Chief of Army Staff, attacked members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, thereby killing over 1000 innocent and armless citizens, including women and children.

While testifying before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the attack, the then Secretary to Kaduna State government confirmed that 347 members of the Movement were killed and secretly buried in mass grave.

And since then, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, has been in illegal detention alongside his wife Zeenah Ibraheem; each of them suffering from life threatening health conditions.

In December 2016, a year after the duo was dragged over the dead bodies of their three biological children killed in cold blood before their eyes- a Federal High court sitting in Abuja ruled that the detention of the Sheikh and his wife is “illegal and unconstitutional” and therefore ordered their release immediately and unconditionally within an ultimatum of 45 days, failure of which, according to the learned judge Gabriel Kolawole, is a blatant disregard for the rule of law.

The Nigerian government, however, refused to comply with the court order till now. In a country where rule of law is the “authority” and every other person is a servant to it, Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife should have since then been released as per the court order.

The Nigerian government instead, following huge pressure against the continued detention of the Sheikh from well meaning individuals, human right organizations and international community; decided to transfer the duo from Abuja to another DSS facility in Kaduna State under the guise of carrying out the recommendations of the established Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Zaria massacre.

This decision could have been flawless if only, as recommended by the Kaduna JCI, the indicted Nigerian military were brought book. But none of them were, till now.

It could be recalled that in August last year the Kaduna state High court ordered for the Sheikh and his wife to be flown to India in order to get medical attention, following a comprehensive diagnosis of their health conditions by foreign doctors who unanimously concluded that the conditions could best be treated abroad. Unfortunately, the medical trip was deliberately frustrated by security operatives and had to finally be aborted.

The Sheikh is reportedly going through the hardest moment of his life right now. He reportedly has had several incidents of insane blood pressure spikes, which predisposes him to the risk of having stroke and other fatal health complications. The story is no different with his his wife Zeenah, who reportedly is coughing out blood-stained sputum.

In December last year, the United States placed Nigeria and six other countries on the special watch list of countries that had engaged in or tolerated severe violation of religious freedom and other human rights abuses.

Part of the report reads: “The federal government continued to detain the leader of the IMN, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, along with his wife and hundreds of other members, and state government’s continued to ban the group’s activities”. In a similar report earlier this week, the U.S faults the government’s continued ill-treatment of the Sheikh and his wife.

Letting an iconic figure like Sheikh Zakzaky die in prison is the last thing Nigeria would want right now. As a nation, we’re already ravaged by hunger, insecurity, and economic crisis among others- no one would certainly want the repeat of another Boko Haram which is one of the most deadly terrorist organization in the world today.

The government should therefore do the needful, by rendering the Sheikh and his wife the best medical care possible because a stitch in time, they say, saves nine. And most importantly, justice should be served to Sheikh Zakzaky and other victims of Zaria massacre.

Maigatari writes from Jigawa, and could be reached via [email protected]