John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Kaduna State yesterday aborted a peaceful protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), demanding the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, despite a recent court ruling ordering for his release.
Dressed in their usual black, hundreds of members of the movement trooped out to protest along Kano road in the heart of Kaduna after realising that the police had taken over their usual meeting point at the Leventis Roundabout, along the busy Ahmadu Bello Way in Kaduna.
They were however dispersed by the police just before they could start the procession.
Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention for over one year since their arrest in December 15, 2015, following a clash between his members and the Nigerian army in Zaria.
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on December 2, ordered the release of Zakzaky and his wife within 45 days, with a fine of N50 million to be paid to them by the State Security Services (SSS).
The protesters who alleged that they were teargased by the police called on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to obey the court order and release their leader.
One of the leaders of the movement, Sheikh Qasim Umar, who addressed the protesters before they were dispersed by the police, urged the acting president to set a good precedence by obeying the court order, especially as a professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
“If we say the IMN is the most oppressed community in recent Nigerian history, it is not an overstatement. Please consider the following facts: Within 48 hours, the Nigerian army massacred over 1,000 unarmed civilians in Zaria in December, 2015. Where in the annals of Nigerian history has such a tragedy taken place, without the leadership of the country batting an eyelid of concern?”
According to Umar, “The atrocities committed by the army are the first of its kind by any national and supposedly well-trained army. Where in the world are soldiers seen burning people alive? But they burnt the elder sister to Sheikh Zakzaky and several others alive.
“Where in the world are soldiers video-taped pouring petrol on corpses and burning them? They burnt hundreds in Zaria, which is why probably the Kaduna State government was only able to document the death of 347 people at the hands of the Nigerian Army. “Where in the world are soldiers involved in burying hundreds of people in a mass grave in the middle of the night, if not in Mando, Kaduna under the full consent of the state governor?
“Not only that, the state governor has the temerity to even declare the Islamic Movement in Nigeria as an unlawful society, after all the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of religion and association.
“Now, under such an obnoxious state order, dozens are in jail simply because they were arrested in black attire, allegedly worn only by the Shias.
The most intriguing aspect of the oppression visited upon us is the continued detention of our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky, and his wife, even after a Federal High Court order to release them. Where in the world is a democratic government contemptuous of its courts if not the present administration in Nigeria?” Umar asked.
He stressed that “as a professor of law, we hope he will use his good office to terminate the flagrant disregard to the court order displayed by the ailing President.”