KADUNA State government has announced that it will appeal the recent court decision ordering the security services to release the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigerian (IMN) Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky to enable him go abroad for medical treatment.
On Monday, Justice Darius Khobo of the Kaduna high court ruled that Sheikh El-Zakzaky should be granted bail to go to India for seek medical attention. In his ruling, the judge stated that given the deteriorating health conditions of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, they should both be accompanied by officials of the Kaduna State government during the medical trip.
Since December 2015, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, the leader of the IMN sect, has been in detention after being arrested following a clash between his supporters and the Nigerian Army in Zaria. While in detention, however, his health has deteriorated, with the sheikh said to have lost one eye and he is also reported to have suffered several mild strokes, leading to calls for his release.
After Monday’s ruling, the Department for State Security said it will abide by the ruling but the Kaduna State government has said it will appeal the judgement. Although it conceded that it will have to allow Sheikh El-Zakzaky go to India for treatment, the Kaduna State government has listed several Draconian conditions which it wants met before releasing the cleric.
Samuel Aruwan, the Kaduna State commissioner for internal security and home affairs, has said that among the conditions to be met are that the sheikh and his wife must produce two prominent sureties, including a first-class chief or emir. Among other conditions are that the Indian government must not entertain a political asylum plea and the Nigerian high commission in India must vet all visitors who want to see the sheikh.
Mr Aruwan said: “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.”
He added that while the Kaduna State government respects the court’s ruling on medical leave, it disagrees with the premises on which it is based. According to Mr Aruwan, an appeal will be lodged on the matter but a stay of execution will not be sought as the state government believes that a person may choose to travel abroad for any medical condition at his own cost.
Human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana, has already criticised the Kaduna State government over the stringent conditions. He added that since the DSS, which is holding the El-Zakzakys, has announced on behalf of the federal government that the court order would be obeyed, the so-called terms of agreements of the Kaduna State government should be ignored because it is the height of provocative contempt.
Mr Falana added: “I thought that the Kaduna State government had planned to appeal against the order of the Honourable Darius Khobo granting leave to the El-Zakzakys to travel to India for urgent medical treatment under the supervision of the government. I hope that the plan to pursue an appeal in the case has been shelved as the Court of Appeal has ruled that you cannot stay the execution of orders of this nature.
That remains the position of the law as espoused in the case of Mowarin v Nigerian Army, which was decided under a military dictatorship in the country. The so-called agreement is totally alien to the penal code and the administration of criminal justice law of Kaduna State, hence, the agreement is not brought under any substantive or adjectival law.”