By Abdulmumin Giwa
Delivering his judgment in a case seeking the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, the High Court Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawale vindicated the IMN in his judgment summary.
He never wanted to get to the level of having to deliver his judgment in the case in order to save the image of the Nigerian government by allowing an opportunity for out of court settlement, an opportunity the government never considered.
Justice Kolawale expressed dismay over the level of religious intolerance where he told the court that he doesn’t like cases bordering on religious issues.
What is more interesting is his concept about the IMN which he described as a school of thought in Islam and not a sect as some people think. He explained that although there are no demographic references but it is clear that the Shiites are in a minority when compared to the largely Sunni inclined adherents. For this he attributed what happened to the Shiites as largely caused by intolerance. This fact has severally been mentioned by the IMN in its call for unity and understanding.
Justice Kolawale made reference to the fact that Nigeria is a federation with a constitution that allows for freedom of worship to buttress his point. He explained that the Nigerian constitution allows one to practice the faith of his choice alone or in congregation, in public or in private and also preach it. He said, what is more is that he has the right to change from one religion to another and must not be discriminated at. He further explained that where the rights of others stop is where the rights of others begin. He thereby called for religious tolerance and understanding among adherents of various faiths.
The IMN had always reminded those in authority that its members have the rights to practice their faith as Nigerians but the advocacy had always fallen in deaf ears. This worsened when the Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai went ahead of the Nigerian constitution to ban the IMN to satisfy his sectarian sentiment.
The governor’s action even led to a sectarian attack by sponsored Sunni thugs on the IMN members where they burned shops and residences of IMN members in Kaduna in particular and even killed and maimed some. On his own part El-Rufai even used state resources to demolish schools, medical and Islamic centers of the IMN all with the intention of provoking the IMN into violence and in total disregard to constitutional provisions.
Justice Kolawale is particular on the need to protect the image of Nigeria as a democratic entity on issues that boarder around human rights. He made reference to allegations of extra-judicial killings labeled against the Nigerian Army by the Amnesty International (AI). He described such as very embarrassing and telling on the image of the country among the league of democratic states.
It is really unimaginable how the Nigerian Army will attack unarmed civilians in a killing spree and kill over a thousand people including women and children. When it comes to killing the Shiites the security are always well armed and equipped but any time the Army is attacked and killed by militants or terrorists organizations they complain that they don’t have good arms.
It is more like their arms are meant for murdering of unarmed civilians and their gallantry only displayed in the mass murder of unarmed women and children.
Justice Kolawale expressed dismay over the alleged killing of the three biological sons of Sheikh Zakzaky by the Nigerian Army and shooting him and his wife severally and also demolishing is residence. This is an abuse of democratic tenets using state security agency against unarmed civilians.
In his fifty-six paged judgment, Justice Kolawale also described the detention of Sheikh Zakzaky as unlawful. He said that he had used microscopic glasses to look for where the Nigerian constitution or the acts establishing the security agencies allows for detention without trial for almost a year but could not find any.
The IMN had always described the detention of its leaders as illegal and a violation of the Nigerian constitution. It had staged several peaceful rallies and protests calling for his immediate and unconditional release and had also issued press statements to that effect. But in its usual character of tyranny and dictatorship the Nigerian government refused to heed the call. In fact the government had attacked several peaceful protest and killed several IMN members in several occasions unprovoked.
Imagine what the Nigerian police did in Kano where they attacked a peaceful trekking event by the IMN and simply engaged in a killing spree unprovoked. This led to the Nigerian police chief having to lie to the public that the tens of thousands of IMN members, that include women and children were armed to the teeth in order to deceive the public and justify their crime. Yet the police successfully killed over one hundred of them unprovoked simply because they see them as Shiites. This is a flagrant abuse of human rights by the Nigerian government.
Justice Kolawale thereby issued the order for the release of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. He not only ordered the release of the revered leader but also supported the release with some conditions. He ordered that a house be provided for the Sheikh within 45 days from the judgment.
The DSS is to hand over the IMN leader to the Inspector General of Police (IG) who within 24 hours is to convey the leader to the house provided under an entourage led by not less than the rank of an AIG.
Earlier in the course of hearing in the case, the DSS claimed that the IMN leader was being held in protective custody with his own consent for fear that his life is under threat. They also claimed that Femi Falana SAN, the lead counsel representing the IMN leader was not contracted by him to represent him. But when the court said it would invite the Sheikh to tell the world whether he was being detained with his consent and that Falana was not contracted by him, the respondents systematically avoided that.
It was clear that the Nigerian Army was the only threat on the life of Sheikh Zakzaky, if there was any, because they were the ones that attacked him, killed his children, killed almost a thousand of his followers and dumped them in a mass graves, burned his elder sister and nephew alive along with others, demolished his residence and Islamic centers and also the tomb of his mother. Definitely they are the threat to the life of the Sheikh and not anybody.
Justice Kolawale observed that the IMN leader never complained of his life being threatened by anybody prior to the attack by the Army.
Hence, the High Court Judge said that the police should as a matter of necessity provide the IMN leader with 24 hours, seven days a week protection in his house until there is no more threat to his life as they claim.
He also ordered that the Sheikh and his wife be paid the sum of 25 million naira each as general damages. He explained that he could not order for more than that amount because of the current recession in the country under which funds are scarce and people are living in untold hardship.
The court has now issued an order but by the nature of the Wahabbbi/APC regime in Nigeria, it is only right to be pessimistic about government’s compliance with the order. This is because the entire violations and clampdown on the movement is in the interest of the President and his team. He had said earlier that he does not obey court order for some flimsy reasons he gave.
In a country with a president that does not respect and obey court orders and has personal interest in the killing of the IMN members definitely it is not wrong to be pessimistic about implementing the order. It has turned out to be a government that does not respect the Nigerian constitution and is accusing innocent citizens of violating the constitution.
If the government claims that the IMN does not regard the Nigerian constitution then it should lead by example and prove to the world that its interest is that of protecting and upholding the constitution by simply obeying the court order issued by Justice Kolawale and not otherwise.
But we shall remain pessimistic because the body language of the Nigerian regime is that of obeying the Nigerian constitution only when it serves its whims and caprices but disregards the constitution where it goes against its personal greed. It is now left for the Nigerian government to clear its already tarnished human rights records by simply respecting the court order.