In Nigeria, people have been demanding democratic rule, the rule of the people. Their leader, Sheik Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, is imprisoned. He is an outspoken Muslim cleric, the head of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement, a movement that he founded in the late 1970s when he was a student at Ahmadu Bello University.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): In Nigeria, people have been demanding democratic rule, the rule of the people. Their leader, Sheik Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, is imprisoned. He is an outspoken Muslim cleric, the head of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement, a movement that he founded in the late 1970s when he was a student at Ahmadu Bello University.
El Zakzaky, began propagating Islam around 1979, at the time of the Iranian revolution which saw Iran’s monarchy overthrown and replaced with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Imam Khomeini.
Sheikh Zakzaky believed that the establishment of a republic along similar religious lines in Nigeria would be liberating. He has been detained several times in the past for civil disobedience under military regimes in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s. He continues to be seen as a threat by Nigerian authorities.
In December 2015, the Nigerian Army raided his residence in Zaria, seriously injured him, and killed hundreds of his followers. Since then, he has remained under state detention in the nation’s capital, even though his release was ordered in late 2016.
Nigerian authorities have tried to murder Sheikh Zakzaky several times. His son has repeatedly raised concern about the deteriorating health of the 66-year-old cleric, who has been held in detention along with his wife for more than four years.
Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye.
During the brutal crackdown, three of his sons lost their lives, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.
Zakzaky was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all accusations brought up against him by his country’s authorities.
His son, Mohammad, recently said that he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition after visiting him, stressing that he needed to be immediately hospitalised as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.”
Around the world every human rights organisation has denounced and condemned such brutal acts. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has called on Nigeria to immediately release Zakzaky from prison due to his health condition.
In a recent letter to the United Nations, dozens of Western intellectuals called on UN chief Antonio Guterres to pressure Nigeria to release the senior Muslim figure.
They also urged the world body to take concrete action against ongoing violations being committed against scholars and rights campaigners by Nigerian authorities and the administration of President Muhammad Buhari.
Everyone around the world should pray for Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, for their liberty and for medical care that they need.
Prolonged detention of popular leader 'Sheikh Zakzaky'
WITH national and global media attention riveted on the assertive push-back by victims of the murderous Fulani militants/herders and federal duplicity, ongoing episodes of repression and disdain for the rule of law by the central government are going almost unnoticed. Amnesty International has been calling for the release of Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife from detention since 2017.
The news that Zeenat, detained along with her husband, el-Zakzaky, popular leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, had come down with the deadly COVID-19 disease was soon followed by a court order that she be released to an isolation centre for treatment. The court later withdrew the order. Assuredly, the prolonged detention of the el-Zakzakys and other members of the movement in defiance of court orders is unjust and lawless. It is another clear demonstration of the Buhari regime’s dictatorial rule. Rather than align with universal democratic practice, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), persists in running a government that violates basic rights and tramples on the rule of law. Under him, the security agencies often adopt Gestapo tactics. The long-running saga of the el-Zakzakys is appalling and offensive to decency.
Recently, a son of the detainees revealed that Zeenat had tested positive for COVID-19. Entreaties to correctional centre authorities in Kaduna where she is being detained that she be released for proper care fell on deaf ears. Similarly, the Kaduna State Government that is prosecuting the Shi’ite leaders for incitement to murder failed to intervene. The IMN members resumed street protests in the Federal Capital Territory, Kaduna, Zaria and some other northern cities. They were (as usual) met with brutal force. One person died from police bullets in Abuja and several others suffered gunshot wounds or were rendered unconscious by tear gas.
The bloody drama began in December 2015 when Buhari forces attacked peaceful rally of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Zakzaky gathered for celebrating birth day of Prophet Muhammad in Kaduna-Zaria highway. Later, troops attacked the Zaria headquarters of the IMN, as well as other Shi'ite premises in Kaduna State. The death toll was appalling. A judicial panel set up by the KDSG determined in 2016 that 347 sect members were killed and buried in mass graves, contrary to denials by the military. Shi'ite Muslims insist that almost 1,000 were killed, including several sons of el-Zakzaky. A report by Human Rights Watch quoting unofficial sources, said up to 110 others had been killed by 2018 in subsequent crackdowns on IMN protesters in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Yobe, Plateau, Sokoto and Abuja. It said three IMN members with severe gunshot wounds were denied medical care and died of their injuries.
Two wrongs do not approximate to a right and a democratic government should not engage in law enforcement with barbarity. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights says firearms should never be used “simply to disperse an assembly” and prohibits intentional lethal use of force by law enforcement officials “unless it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life and all other means are insufficient to achieve that objective.”
Since the el-Zakzakys were detained in December 2015, they and several other followers have remained in detention sites, moved from military custody to the State Security Service confinement and later, to civilian correctional services custody. Eventually charged for allegedly being accessories to murder, the government has defied several court orders granting them bail or leave to obtain medical treatment at home and abroad. One such court indulgence in 2019 authorising el-Zakzaky to receive medical treatment in India became farcical after the Nigerian government applied diplomatic and strong arm methods to deny the medical team a free hand to attend to its patient. He was returned home to captivity without receiving the medical attention he had sought.
This travesty should stop. No government has the right to detain anyone indefinitely. Since the detainees have been accused allegedly of violating the law, arrested and arraigned in court, the rule of law and justice system should be allowed to operate unfettered. Indefinite detention outside the law is reprehensive; disobedience of court orders is lawless and subversive of the constitution and democracy. As a creation of, and guarantor of law and order, the government is duty-bound to operate strictly within the law. But the Buhari regime exhibits contempt for the rule of law; it had similarly at various times, held a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, an online publisher, Omoyele Sowore, in defiance of court orders. It has meted out violence and arbitrary arrests to self-determination groups, youth protesters under the #EndSARS hashtag and harassed judges.
Buhari must conform to democratic norms. By his actions, he lends credence to allegations that he is pursuing personal vendetta, ethnic bias in some cases and in the case of the Shi'ite Muslims. Amnesty International and HRW have separately warned that unbridled repression could radicalise groups and create another insurgent front. Those accused of breaking the law should be dealt with according to the law; the law presumes everyone to be innocent until otherwise proved by a competent court.
The el-Zakzakys should be allowed medical attention; the government should obey all court orders. There should be speedy trial of all accused persons as the delayed justice is decidedly unjust. Buhari should drop his martial culture and behave like an elected civilian leader, not like the military dictator he once was, otherwise his fate become like Iraq's dictator Saddam and also leader of the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Osama Bin Laden.