Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, on Wednesday took to the streets in the Federal Capital Territory FCT demanding the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, who have been in detention since December 2015, despite a court order for their release.
The members, who were not in their usual black attires, marched in separate male and female columns by the roadside along Wuse Market in Abuja as they chanted: “Mr. President, Free Our Leader! Obey Court Order!! Where is your Justice!!!”
Mr. Zakzaky and his wife were arrested on December 14, 2015, following a clash between members of his group and the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State.
At least 347 members of the group were killed with the army saying they blocked a major road and prevented the army chief, Tukur Buratai, from passing.
The killings have been condemned by local and international rights groups and nobody has been prosecuted for them.
After months in detention without being charged to court, Mr. El-Zakzaky approached the court to demand the release of himself and his wife.
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole on December 2 last year said their detention was unlawful and illegal, since protective custody, which was cited as the excuse by the State Security Services, SSS, for their detention, was unknown to the law or the National Security Agencies Act establishing the SSS.
The court ordered the Nigerian government to release the detainees within 45 days of the judgement and to pay each of them N50 million as compensation.
The court further ordered the police to within 24 hours provide them escorts to a safe place.
The government, however, ignored the order and Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife have remained in the custody of the SSS.
The Federal Government later gave public interest and security concerns as the major reasons why it has refused to comply with the court order for the release of the detainees.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, the movement’s head of medical team, Mansur Malumfashi, said Mr. El-Zakzaky was in a critical health condition and demanded his immediate release.
“The IMN leader has been held by the Federal government for two years now and he is under a very serious health condition.
“We took our case to court, the Federal High court. The court released him without any charge against him, they said they should release him and they gave them 45 days and since then, nothing has been done by the government. They are being adamant (against) the court order.
“After the court order, we waited for the days assigned by the court for the government to release our leader, we waited until when the days elapsed before we continued with our protest. We even took this case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and we are waiting for their response. But the protest will continue, even if they are going to finish us, let us know that we are not Nigerians.
“It is our right to choose what we want to serve. We can serve our own shoe, we can serve this road if we like, it is in the constitution, there is freedom of worship in this country.
“Why is it only IMN that is being deprived of their own right of worship? The federal government is against IMN, there is no doubt about it.
“We have been going to Human Rights Commission, London, America etc. We are advising the federal government to listen to our call, to respect the law of the country.
“They have been saying we are violating the law of this country. If we are violating the law of this country, we will not go to court. And this court that ordered the release of our leader is the court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not the IMN court.”
In the aftermath of the clash between Nigerian soldiers and members of the IMN in Zaria, the Kaduna State government set up a panel of inquiry into the incident.
Following the report of the panel, the state government in October last year issued an order declaring the IMN an unlawful society.
The government said the order was to preserve peace and security in the state, and to ensure that all persons and organisations are guided by lawful conduct and with due allegiance to the Nigerian state and Constitution.
The state government further banned public gathering or any activity in the name of the IMN in the state.