A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), thursday urged the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to ensure the release of the detained leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat.
Falana, who made this call in an open letter addressed to Malami, said the minister and the presidency never ceased to justify the detention of the couple, who have been in custody since December 2015.
He said the Department of State Services (DSS) had about a month ago, also justified the sect leader’s detention.
He said the minister could therefore not turn around to push the responsibility of the detention of the couple to the Kaduna State Government.
The SAN, who is the lawyer to the El-Zakzakys, was reacting to a last week’s claim by Malami that he could not ensure the release of the couple because they were being prosecuted by the Kaduna State Government.
Malami had while explaining why El-Zakzaky, and his wife, were not released on the Christmas Eve like the immediate-past National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, said “the federal government does not interfere with the cases that are being prosecuted by a state governments.”
Responding in his open letter to Malami yesterday, Falana stated, “Notwithstanding the pending criminal case in the Kaduna State High Court, your office and the Presidency have not ceased to justify the refusal of the federal government to comply with the orders of the Federal High Court and the Kaduna State High Court.”
Falana recalled how the Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in its judgment on December 2, 2016, awarded the couple N50million damages for their illegal detention, ordered the Department of State Service to release them from custody and provide them with a house since the Nigerian Army had burnt down and demolished their house in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The senior lawyer stated, “Without any legal basis whatsoever, the Federal Government refused to comply with the aforesaid court orders.
“Curiously, the contemptuous acts of the federal government were publicly defended by your good self and some other high ranking officials of the Buhari administration.”
Falana recalled how the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, during an interview on Channels Television said the administration refused to obey Justice Gabriel Kolawole’s order on the release of El-Zakzakkys because it had appealed the ruling.
Falana also reminded the minister that on July 26, 2019, during his screening for reappointment as the Attorney-General of the Federation, Malami told the Senate that the disobedience of court orders by the administration in respect of Elzakzaky and others was based on national security.
“In justifying the decision of the federal government to detain Messrs Sowore and Bakare in defiance of the orders of the federal high court the State Security Service issued a statement on November 14, 2019 wherein it claimed that the duo as well as Elzakzaky and Dasuki were enjoying themselves in custody as ‘they are allowed access to people and use of other facilities like telephones, gymnasium, TV, newspapers and medical facilities,” Falana explained.
He also reminded the AGF that on January 19, 2017 “the federal government claimed that Mrs Zeinat Elzakzaky was not in detention but decided to keep her husband’s company.”
The senior lawyer also noted that on June 16, 2017, “the Honourable Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, explained that the reason why our clients had not been released was that the house being built for them by the federal government had not been completed.”
He urged the minister to ensure the compliance with orders which had been issued by both the Kaduna State High Court and the Federal State High Court in respect of the couple.
He added, “However, following the release of Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) from illegal custody last week you were reported to have said that our clients could only be released by the Kaduna State government.
“With respect, your position has failed to take cognisance of the fact that your office, the Presidency and the State Security Service had, up till last month, repeatedly given contradictory reasons to justify the disobedience of the aforesaid court orders for the release of our clients.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge you to use your good offices to review your position and ensure the immediate and unconditional compliance with the valid and subsisting orders of the Federal High Court and the Kaduna State High Court concerning our clients.
“This request is in line with the new policy of the Buhari administration to operate under the rule of law.”