Members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, popularly known as Shiites, have vowed not to back off from their ongoing massive protests in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory until their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is released from detention.
The Secretary, Academic Forum of IMN, Abdullahi Musa, said this while lamenting that President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to free El-Zakzaky from detention despite several indications that his health is fast deteriorating and a court order directing that the Shiite leader should be freed.
Members of Shi’a Muslims under the aegis of IMN on Wednesday stormed Aso Rock presidential villa in their thousands on Wednesday calling for the release of El-Zakzaky who has been in detention for over two years now.
The protest resulted in blockage of entrance and exit from the State House for hours.
Musa said, “As we speak, El-Zakzaky cannot say his daily prayers due to his critical health condition. He suffered a mild stroke in January 2018 but the federal government is hiding that fact from the public. He is blind in one of his eyes and the other one is almost becoming blind.
“The medical personnel that examined El-Zakzaky’s health condition advised the government to let him go and look after himself properly. The Courts have also directed so. Civil and religious groups have likewise called on the government to let him have his freedom. But, the government has refused to heed the call of the people. What other options do we have?
“We have been protesting daily here in Abuja for about 80 days now, we have been maltreated, oppressed, and many of us have been killed by the police including Sheikh Umar Sokoto, but we will not stop until this injustice is stopped and Zakzaky is free.”
However, the FCT Police Commissioner, Mr. Sadiq Bello sent a team of police officers to calm the protesters and implore them to go back to their homes so as to maintain peace and security of the Presidential Villa. He asked them to send a delegation with a message that can be forwarded to the President for action.
El-Zakzaky was arrested in 2015 after his members of his Shiite sect blocked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State. Over 300 members of IMN were allegedly killed in the face-off with troops that followed the blockage of the convoy of the Army chief.
Following speculations that he is dead, the Department of State Services (DSS) in January, for the first time in two years, allowed the religious leader to speak briefly to a select group of journalists.
Though a Federal High Court ordered his unconditional release in 2016, the DSS has refused to release El-Zakzaky and his wife who is being detained along with him. Federal Government said El-Zakzaky was still being held in ‘protective custody’ on the grounds of national security.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana in a letter dated November 7, 2017 and addressed to the President, demanded the immediate release of El-Zakzaky and his wife.