By Suleiman Umaru
Unti his arrest and ongoing trial at the Kaduna state which started, in May 2018, the Department of State Security , DSS, and other security agencies Operatives , had beamed their searchlight on the Islamic State of Iran backed Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, popular, the Shiites led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzakys to forestall further street protests because of their violent activities.
The IMN leader , according to security reports was standing trial over allegations of palpable homicide , unlawful Assembly and disruption of public peace in which scores of people have been killed . The Islamic group which operates like the Islamic Funamentalist group, Boko Haram in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe problem may have started after the violent clash with military in Zaria, in 2015, in Kaduna state , before it was proscribed by Nasir El- Rufai, the governor The Shiite members case was made worse in in December 2015, when the Army raided his residence in Zaria , allegedly killing scores of his followers. He was arrested and detained, forcing many of his followers to relocate and operate underground at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Worried that the IMN group may turn out to be another bone on the neck of the government because of the recent violent Clash with security operatives at Abuja, officials of the ministry of Justice at the instance of the Presidency had rushed to Court where it obtained an ex parte Court Order on Friday , July 27, 2019, which gave the government power to proscribe the Moslem Group believed to have been operating over the years as a terrorist Organisation.
As a prelude to the actual implementation of the Court Order, the legal drafting Department of the ministry were said to have prepared the legal framework for the Katsina state born Nigerian President by publishing the Court Order into an official gazette. The gazette would give the government the legal backing to proscribe the group as it did to the Indigenous People State Of Biafra, IPOD AND the Islamic Fundamentalist , Boko Haram, operating in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe .
Political watchers fear that that Court Order may give the military Authorities the ammunition to deal decisively with the IMN members, popular, the Shiites, anytime they take to the streets to protest against the continued detention of El-Zakzakys, their leader and Zinat, the wife. A recent Statement by the Presidency that the military Authorities are now free to apply maximum force to stop the violence being unleashed by the IMN members on defenseless Nigerians speaks volume.
Shehu Garba, a Senior Special Assistant , SSA, to the President ,on Media and Publicity, in an interview with Channels Television, noted that by the Court Order Proscribing the Sunni Moslem Islamic group, the ‘’ Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria are justified to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the growing violence’’ being unleashed on innocent Nigerians ’’. The Presidential spokesperson, however, disclosed that not all the Shiite groups were affected by the proscription Order’’, stating that ‘’law abiding followers of the Shiite faith are free to carry out their legitimate religious activities in any part of the country without fear of harassment by security operatives’’.
Garba may have spoken the mind of the President who believes that the Shiites have no reason to embark on street protests as the case of El Zakzakys, their leader could only be handled by the Court and not through Presidential fiat. ‘’As far as the country’s laws are concerned , the case involving El- Zak zaky was no longer within the powers of the Presidency to handle’’, he had said.
Given that the President may not want to interfere with the ongoing trial of the Shiite leader, the followers may have resorted to plan B, since street protests had failed to force the government to release him but to go through the Court process.
The group had engaged the services of Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to apply to a High Court to secure permission for El Zakzakys and and Zinat, his wife, to travel to the Asian country of India for treatment. The argument of Falana, their Lawyer was that’’ since their detention in December 2015, the Kaduna state government had not given adequate medical attention to them’’ thus leading to the deterioration of their health condition.
He lamented that the pellet of bullets pumped into the Shiite’s leader body by the trigger hungry military personnel during the raid of his private residence in Zaria, over the last three and half years are yet to be fully removed.
According to the SAN, the pellets had resulted to ‘’lead poison which needed to be urgently removed by highly professional medical experts from India. The Lagos based Lawyer’s argument may not have made a head way to convince the government legal team to support their demand for the trial Judge to grant their request to travel to India for treatment. .
Dari Bayero, Director of Public Prosecution , DPP, may have dashed the hope of the Shiites legal team to facilitate the release of their leader for oversea medical attention when he disclosed that his team had examined the eight medical reports by both Nigerian and foreign Doctors that had accompanied the IMN’s leader Lawyer’s application for permission to travel abroad for medical attention but could not find any reason to support it.
The DPP, insists that there was no basis for the El Zakzakys Lawyers to seek for permission for him to travel to India for medical attention as ‘’there are several medical facilities in the country that can handle his medical needs and that of the wife. Recall that the Court had on January 22, 2019, ordered the Kaduna state government to avail the IMN leader and his wife, , Zeenat, who was also in detention , access to medical care. But that was how far the Judge could go.
Meanwhile, Darius Khobo, a Justice of the Supreme Court and the presiding Judge, was said to have granted the request of the Kaduna state government to review and respond to the Shiite leader’s application for bail, but nobody knows the nature of the review. The Shiite leader’s bail hearing was said to have resumed barely three days after a Federal High Court at Abuja granted the government the power to proscribe the IMN group.
Already, the Kaduna state High Court Judge handling the El-Zakzakys case had set Monday, August 5, 2019, to rule on the bail application filed by the Shiite leader and his wife, Zeenat. Falana, the Shiite leader’s Lawyer , was said to have applied for the bail on July 18, 2019. There are fears that El Zakzakys International Passport may be seized by Security Operatives if the government goes ahead to proscribe the group before the Kaduna High Court delivers Judgment on his bail application by his legal team. The husband and wife may not be the first to be treated as such if it happens. Sambo Dasuki, a retired Colonel and a former National Security Adviser, NSA, to erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan have not been able to travel abroad for medical treatment despite several Court rulings urging the government to allow him to travel abroad for medical attention over the last four years His case may have been made worse as the DSS which seized his Passport on the orders of the Presidency , thus making it impossible for him to travel out of the country despite his failing health.
This is bad news for El Zakzakys and Zeenat, his wife, who may have to forget about travelling to India for medical attention as the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, government headed by Buhari, would never allow them to travel outside the country to avoid giving them room to escape even if the Court ggrants their bail application to travel for oversea treatment. The government, according to sources regard , El-Zakzakys and the wife as VIPs in security Custody who could not be easily let off the hook because of the security implication.