By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Following their acquittal over two months ago by a Kaduna State High Court, a group, Center for Excellence Leadership and Development has tasked the Federal Government to release travel documents of Shiekh Ibraheem Zakzaky and hid wife Zeenat, to facilitate traveling out to treat themselves.
Reading the text of a press conference on behalf of the group at the NIgeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Center Abuja on October 4, 2021, Dr Abubakar Manzo said that their health is deteriorating.
“The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has denied holding the passports of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of a large Shi’ite Muslim group in Nigeria, and his wife, Zeenat.
“The denial is contained in Nigeria’s foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence agency’s reply to the couple’s letter demanding their passports for a “critical medical trip.
“The couple said, through their legal team led by Femi Falana SAN, a human rights lawyer, that the agency had held their passports when security operatives, including NIA’s, accompanied them on a medical trip to India, as ordered by a court, in 2019.
“In a letter dated August 2, 2021, sent to NIA, Abubakar Marshal, a member of the defence team, asked the agency to return the couple’s passports and other travelling documents now that their trial at the Kaduna State High Court was over.
“But the agency denied holding the passports.
“We, therefore, urge the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to release the passports of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife to enable them to travel to the hospital of their choice,” the centre said.
They further said, “As you are aware, It has been over two months since the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) and his wife were acquitted and discharged by Kaduna State High Court, after spending almost six years in illegal detention.
“Judge Gideon Kurada had, in his ruling delivered on July 30, 2021, upheld the couple’s no-case submission and dismissed all eight charges, including culpable homicide, disruption of public peace and unlawful assembly, levelled against them by the Kaduna State government.
“The couple who were arrested since December 2015 have been languishing in DSS custody, before later being transferred to Kaduna Correctional Centre facility, with improperly managed life threatening gunshot injuries and numerous health complications that require serious intervention; as a result of which their health condition woefully deteriorated from bad to worse as days went by.In July 2019 the couple had to be granted bail to urgently travel to India in order to attend to their failing health, an effort which was, unfortunately, deliberately frustrated by security agents which resulted in the couple prematurely aborting the trip without receiving medical attention,” they stressed.
They argued that now that the couple are acquitted of all charges filed against them by the Kaduna State Government, they should be allowed to attend to their health, wherever they choose to go, without undue frustration whatsoever.
“But on the contrary, since their aborted medical trip, the couple’s passports and other documents that will allow them to travel is reportedly withheld, and have therefore no access to adequate medical care till date.
“The deterioration in the couple’s health condition is so glaring as the Sheikh could be seen limping and his wife confined to a wheelchair as they exited the court premises last month.
“This is a consequence of lack of access to proper medical attention in the course of the years they have spent in illegal detention.
“The Sheikh and his wife have suffered enough already: six of their children were extrajudicially killed in the pace of less than two years, over a thousand of his followers were killed and buried in mass graves, and hundreds of others killed while peacefully protesting against his illegal detention; therefore not allowing them to travel at the moment is tantamount to rubbing salt in their wounds.
“If anything, the government should, for the good of the nation, maintain the fresh breath of air in the streets of Abuja and other cities considering the security crisis ravaging the country; it’s therefore unwise of the government to add yet another.
“One thing is certain, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is not allowed to attend to his health, those streets will soon be littered with his unrelenting, indefatigable followers.We call on the Federal Government to help facilitate this, as we seriously fear the return of protests in Abuja,” they added.
They insisted that protesting is a constitutional right, and they don’t blame the protestors for discharging one of their constitutional rights.
“But the protests by the IMN in the past had changed Abuja from the tranquil city it used to be to seemingly a battle ground.
“As civil Society Organizations we call the Federal Government as a matter of urgency to release the passports of the couple so that they can attend to their health. Injustice to one is injustice to all, and for peace to reign clergymen, well meaning individuals and all people of conscience should please urge the government to allow the ailing Sheikh and his wife attend to their health, especially as the Sheikh has demonstrated an inconceivable height of perseverance and restraint.
“Not allowing them to attend to their health is a flagrant violation of their fundamental right as humans and as citizens of the country,” they pointed out.
They further.pointed out that, “the right to attend to health is inalienable (right) that should never be infringed upon.”