- Afenifere, PANDEF hail govt for obeying court order
Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh, Kasim Sumaina in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, yesterday departed the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for India for medical treatment.
The IMN leader and his wife departed the country for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) aboard Emirates Airline flight number EK 786, en route to India for the medical treatment.
The aircraft, with number, EK 786 took off at 6.45p.m. Nigerian time.
Journalists and IMN members were not allowed to see the duo as they were smuggled into the airport under tight security.
A top official of one of the agencies working in the airport, however, told THISDAY that el-Zakzaky and his wife arrived at the Abuja airport at 3 p.m.
THISDAY also gathered that the IMN leader came into the airport via the Kaduna -Abuja rail service through Abuja (Idu station to airport station) into the international wing of the airport under tight security.
According to the airport source, el-Zakzaky arrived the airport on a wheel chair and was escorted by four men of the Department of State Services (DSS) and two women to board the flight to Dubai.
The IMN leader, who was on a wheelchair, was taken through the airport lift because he was unable to use the escalator.
He was dressed in his usual regalia of black and white.
The duo would be headed for Mendenta Hospital, New Delhi, India, for the medical treatment.
The medical trip followed a Kaduna State High Court order last week, which granted them permission to travel to India for medical treatment.
El-Zakzaky has been in detention since 2015 after soldiers raided the IMN headquarters in Zaria and killed at least 347 Shiites, and yesterday was the first time he and his wife would appear in public in the last four years.
He is standing trial for alleged culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other charges, in another court headed by Justice Gideon Kurada.
The Kaduna State High Court had in a ruling granted them leave to travel to India for treatment following their deteriorating health condition since their arrest and detention in December 2015.
The presiding judge, Justice Dairus Khobo, had ordered that el-Zakzaky and his wife should be allowed to seek treatment abroad.
The judge, however, ordered that the duo be accompanied by officials of the Kaduna State Government and DSS personnel and that they must return immediately after treatment to face his charges.
However, after the court ruling, the Kaduna State Government filed at the State High Court, terms for strict supervision of the medical leave granted to the IMN leader and his wife.
The terms for strict supervision of the medical leave, filed by the state government were as follows:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall confirm the appointments of the defendants/applicants with the Medanta Hospital, India, and undertake all necessary diplomatic arrangements and protocols to ensure compliance with the conditions of the medical leave.
“Each of the defendants/applicants shall undertake to return to Nigeria to continue their trial as soon as they are discharged from the hospital, and shall also be responsible for the cost of their travel, treatment and living expenses while on their medical leave.
“Each of the defendants/applicants shall produce two prominent and reliable persons as sureties, one being a first class chief/emir of national repute and the other a prominent person within Kaduna State who shall undertake to produce the defendants whenever they are needed. The sureties must also produce evidence of landed property within Kaduna State.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria shall obtain from the Government of India an irrevocable guarantee that it will not entertain any application by the defendants/applicants or any third party seeking asylum under any guise or conferring the status of political prisoners or any other status aside from being medical patients on the defendants/applicants and shall also restrain the defendants/applicants from any act inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“Each of the defendants/applicants shall undertake in writing, endorsed by their counsel that while on medical treatment in India, they shall do nothing to jeopardise the ongoing trial, the peace and security of Nigeria and the laws of the Republic of India in whatever form.
“Security agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria shall escort the defendants/applicants and remain with them throughout the duration of their treatment in India and thereafter shall return with them after their discharge from the hospital.
“The Nigerian High Commission in India shall undertake prior vetting and grant consent before any visitor has access to the defendants/applicants while in the Republic of India.
“As is readily evident from the above, many of these terms of supervision depend for their actualisation on actions by the Federal Government of Nigeria which is the sovereign power vested with the constitutional responsibility for foreign affairs…”
When contacted on whether the seven conditions filed at the state High Court for the supervision of el-Zakzaky’s trip were met, Kaduna State Commissioner for Home Affairs and Internal Security, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, who also doubles as spokesman to the Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said he would reply soon.
“Will reply soon” he said in a text message.
He was yet to reply as at the time of filing this report.
But in his reaction, spokesman of the IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said he was not in a position to say if the conditions were met, but confirmed that the conditions given in the court ruling were met.
“I cannot say anything on whether the conditions by the Kaduna State Government were complied with because I am not part of those that have been going to court.
“They came up with the conditions after the court ruling. But I can confirm to you that the ruling of the court was complied with. The court said officials of Kaduna State Government and the DSS should accompany them to the trip” Musa said.
However, a lawyer in the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice who pleaded anonymity, said it would be difficult for the court to grant the state government its request.
The lawyer said the court had already ruled on the matter before the state government filed the conditions.
“Filing those conditions after the court ruling before the state high court is like asking the court to reverse itself because all state high courts are of coordinate jurisdiction.
“If the government wanted those conditions to be considered, it would have made them an alternative prayers while opposing the application for the medical trip and the court would have considered that,” he said.
It was also learnt yesterday that a group of doctors from seven countries– Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq– has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari raising concerns about el-Zakzaky’s conditions. They also asked the Nigerian government to transfer him to a well-equipped hospital as soon as possible.
The letter said el-Zakzaky’s medical and health status required urgent attention.
The doctors told Buhari that the IMN leader is suffering from a total blindness in the left eye and from vision problems in the right eye, including glaucoma and progressive macular atrophy.
According to the diagnosis of the visiting physicians, el-Zakzaky will lose his vision sooner or later if the current circumstances do not change.
They also said he had shown symptoms of Ischemic heart disease, which can lead to Myocardial Infraction, adding that he is also suffering from severe cervical spondylosis, which has resulted in nerve root compression and symptoms are progressive causing insomnia.
“The experiments show that he has heavy metal toxicity, including lead and cadmium. Laboratory tests that are performed on May 31, 2019 show that blood lead level is 171.94µg/dl. Later on June 18, 2019 this level was reported to be 231.48µg while in the last laboratory test the blood lead level was three times more than the toxicity level (grade five of poisoning).
“Based on the points highlighted above, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky should be transferred to a well- equipped medical centre that has neuro-ophthalmologist, glaucoma specialist and low vision expert, cardiologist, orthopedist and neurologist. Also he may need to have a surgery to reduce intraocular pressure,” the doctors said.
Afenifere, PANDEF Hail Govt for Obeying Court Order
Meanwhile, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) have applauded the federal government for obeying the court order for the leader of the IMN and his wife to go to India for medical treatment.
The two groups in separate interviews with THISDAY yesterday, described government’s obedience of the court order which resulted in the duo travelling through Abuja airport yesterday evening as a welcome development.
The spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said: “It is good that the federal government has obeyed the court order on el-Zakzaky and not paying heed to the shenanigan of the Kaduna State Government that wants to vary a court order.
“We encourage the government to do more in that regard to prove we are in a real democratic setting. Nobody has ever questioned the right of the government to arrest a citizen it has allegations against but once the court says he or she deserves freedom, there shouldn’t be any cause for agitation on the person’s freedom.”
On its part, PANDEF, through the National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, told THISDAY that the latest government move is obedience to the rule of law.
According to him, PANDEF position has always been that where the court expressly makes a pronouncement, such pronouncement should be obeyed by the federal government to prevent tendencies of the aggrieved and helpless party resorting to self-help, which is dangerous to democracy.
“Had Sheik Ibrahim el-Zakzaky been released on bail in obedience to previous court rulings, the calamity that erupted as a result of protests by his followers which led to several deaths would have been avoided,” he stated.