By Najeeb Maigatari

Why Sheikh Zakzaky Should Be Released?

July 17, 2019 - 12:0

NIGERIA/ JIGAWA - "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” -Martin Luther King Jr. 

The gruesome injustice meted on the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky- courtesy of our deafening silence- is to say the least, the worst atrocity committed in the entire democratic history of Nigeria. 

What led to his arrest, his continued illegal detention even at the face of deteriorating health, the cold blood murder of his 3 biological sons before his very eyes, the killing and burning alive over a thousand of his followers including women and young children, the demolition of his residence, his teaching center, his mother's house and the exhumation of her grave and that of her grandchildren.. Is there justification for any of these? Is there any law- domestic or international- that could justify any of these atrocities? 

To begin with, the Zaria Massacre of 2015, which led to the Sheikh's arrest was a breach of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1976) which states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". It also violates what is contained in Section 4, Chapter 34 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. During the Zaria Massacre, however, innocent civilians were tortured in the most inhuman manner. Women were insulted, tortured, raped and their modesty desecrated. To this date, the whereabout of several hundred innocent citizens is still unknown. 

Sheikh Zakzaky was arrested alongside his wife Zeenah, after the Nigerian army rained bullets on them. They were shot severely at very close range. The Sheikh lost his left eye at the spot. They were then taken very close to death into illegal custody- incommunicado for the first couple of week- to this date. It is worth noting that the illegal detention of the Sheikh and his wife is a gross violation of section 4 chapter 35 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which uphold the right to personal liberty of every citizen of the state. 

This was in December 2015, almost four years ago. Hitherto, the Sheikh and his wife have been denied access to proper medical attention, let alone allow them to attend to their failing health. In 2016, the personnel assigned to them by the DSS has warned the Nigerian government that Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife need urgent medical attention supposedly outside the country, failure of which the Sheikh may lose his sight completely. The government heeds none of the doctor's words, turned deaf ears and left things to continue as they were- that is to say, lack of proper medical attention- as if all is well with the duo. 

Earlier this year, the Sheikh suffered from an acute stroke that could have cost his dear life- thanks to the neurologist for his timely management. However, the neurologist again strongly pointed out the need for the government to release the Sheikh in order to attend to his health. Still the government, in its attempt to secretly and silently kill the Sheikh, failed to heed his words. Since then, the health condition of the Sheikh and his wife has been deteriorating from bad to worse with each passing day. 

The refusal to let the Sheikh and his wife attend to their health violates Article 10 of the ICCPR which requires that: "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person". 

A couple of month ago, a team of foreign doctors were allowed to carry out preliminary investigations onto the Sheikh and his wife's health status- for the first time ever in their almost four years in illegal detention- after which they made public their findings.

The Sheikh is diagnosed with more than 7 health complications among of which include severe Lead and Cadmium poisoning, Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, Stroke, Malignant Hypertension, Spondylitis, Anophthalmia in one eye and Open-Angle Glaucoma on the other. He was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) owing to the gross emotional trauma the Sheikh is subjected to, on daily basis. Each of these health complications requires immediate hospitalization and proper medical attention. 

The story is no different with his wife Zeenah who according to the findings is diagnosed with bilateral osteoarthritis of the knee. A condition characterized by literally 'eating away' the bony cartilages found in joints. Reportedly, she is no longer walking on her feet, but with the aid of a wheelchair. Hypertension, Hyperthyroidism, Chronic Stomach ache, due to shrapnel remains in her stomach, are among other findings. 

The level of Lead in the Sheikh's blood is found to be around 20 times higher than what is considered to be normal, according to the doctors finding. This alone indicates the urgency of the situation. The specialists have made it clear crystal that the duo are in dire need of proper medical attention, like never before, failure of which the worst- that is death- may occur. 

Over the weekend, the only surviving son of the Sheikh, Mohammed Zakzaky, was allowed to visit his parents and sadly the Sheikh has reportedly suffered from another stroke! He not only suffered from the stroke, but his entire health condition has alarmingly deteriorated from bad to worse- within this short period of time. The truth is, Sheikh Zakzaky has suffered the worst atrocities of this government. As a democratic nation, his rights need to be respected and therefore be released immediately. 

There have been numerous calls from clergymen and people of conscience, well-meaning Nigerians, international human right organizations, and peace-loving individuals across the globe, peaceful protests within and outside the country urging the Nigerian government to release the Sheikh and his wife. 

It could be recalled that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has since December 2016 ordered the unconditional release of the Sheikh and his wife. The court also in accordance with Section 4 Chapter 35 Subsection 6 of the constitution of Nigeria ordered that the Sheikh be compensated for his "unconstitutional arrest and detention". To this date, the Nigerian government fails to comply with this valid order of a competent court of the land. 

In addition, last week, the legislators- members House of Representatives- have inequivovally call upon the Federal government to obey court order and release the ailing Sheikh and his wife. In a democratic nation, the demand of the legislators and the judiciary always outweighs that of the executive, especially when it involves enforcing fundamental rights of a citizen or is in the best interest of the state. 

All these said, it is obvious that the continued detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife is "illegal" and by far "unconstitutional". There is no justification, whatsoever, for their detention. It is a clear violation of their every right as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria; the right to life, right to personal liberty, right to dignity of human persons and etcetera. With the judiciary and the legislative recently making a similar call on the federal government- to ensure the Sheikh's release- it is obvious that the continued illegal detention of the Sheikh and his wife is not in the interest of every well-meaning and peace loving Nigerian.

Therefore, Sheikh and his wife should be released immediately and unconditionally as par the order of a competent court of land.

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