By Najeeb Maigatari
It has been more than a couple of months since the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) and his wife, Malama Zeenah, were acquitted and discharged of all charges filed against them, after spending almost six years in illegal detention.
The couple who were arrested in December 2015 had been languishing in the custody of the State Security Service before later being transferred to Kaduna Correctional facility in early December 2019, with inadequately treated life-threatening gunshot injuries and numerous health complications.
It could be recalled that in July 2019, the couple had to be granted bail to urgently travel to India to attend to their failing health that kept deteriorating as days went by, an effort which was, unfortunately, deliberately frustrated by security agents which resulted in the couple prematurely aborting the trip without receiving medical attention.
Now that the couple is acquitted of all charges filed against them by the Kaduna State government, justice demands that they be allowed to attend to their health wherever they choose to go, without undue frustrations whatsoever. But on the contrary, since their aborted medical trip, the couple’s passport and other documents that will allow them to travel are reportedly withheld by agents of the State Security Services and are nowhere to be found.
In an exclusive interview with Press TV on 29th September, the Sheikh pointed out that an attempt to procure new ones proved abortive as the couple were told ‘passport flagging order’ was placed on them, meaning they could not leave the country, for no reason.
It is public knowledge that Nigeria’s health care is criminally under-equipped, debilitated, with an inadequate workforce. As a result, after carefully reviewing the couple’s health condition, many doctors have advised that they best be treated outside the country where health care facilities will be available.
The deterioration in the couple’s health condition is so glaring as the Sheikh could be seen limping and his wife confined to a wheelchair as they exited the court premises last couple of months. This is due to a lack of access to proper medical attention in their years in illegal detention.
The Sheikh and his wife have suffered enough already: six of their children were extrajudicially killed in the pace of fewer than two years, over a thousand of his followers were killed and buried in mass graves and hundreds of others killed while peacefully protesting against his illegal detention. Therefore not allowing them to travel at the moment is tantamount to rubbing salt in their wounds.
Injustice to one is an injustice to all. And, for peace to reign, clergymen, well-meaning individuals, and all people of conscience should please urge the government to allow the ailing Sheikh (H) and his wife attend to their health, especially as the Sheikh has in the face of unnecessary provocations, demonstrated an immeasurably disagreeable height of self-restraint and peacefulness.
The Sheikh and his wife are now free; they have not committed any crime as the Kaduna State High court ruled. Therefore, the right to be allowed to attend to their health outside the country is inalienable as enshrined in the constitution; it is a flagrant violation of their fundamental rights as citizens of the country.
If anything, the government should, for the good of the nation, try to maintain the fresh breath of air in the streets of Abuja and other cities considering the existential security crisis ravaging the country; it’s therefore unwise of the government to create yet another. One thing is sure: if Sheikh Zakzaky (H) is not allowed to attend to his health, those streets will soon be littered with the Sheikh’s unrelenting, indefatigable followers.
Najeeb Maigatari wrote from Jigawa State and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.