By Najeeb Maigatari
It is no longer news that Zeenah Ibraheem, the wife of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, has reportedly tested positive for Corona virus a couple days ago. This was contained in a statement made public by the only surviving son of the Sheikh, Mohammed Zakzaky.
Mohammed further added that despite his mother testing positive for the disease, all necessary efforts to have medical doctors ascertain the severity of the infection at the correctional facility, were thrown at their faces and deliberately frustrated.
It is worrisome that Malama Zeenah, a 59 year old mother of 9, according to her personal physician is already suffering from Hyperlipidemia among other health conditions, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a potential risk factor for severe Covid-19 complications.
This has therefore made it pertinent, as a matter of urgency, that Zeenah El-Zakzaky be allowed access to the required medical attention every COVID-19 positive patient is entitled to, so as to avert a looming crisis. It is worth noting for those at high risk of complications, that there is slim or no chance of coming back from a certain stage in the course of the disease, if proper care is not instituted early.
Although the Kaduna Command of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) had earlier denied that Zeenah El-Zakzaky contracted the infection, in a statement signed by ASCI AD Wadai, the Public Relations Officer of the command; but medical reports exclusively obtained by HumAngle, an online media platform, have confirmed that she did tested positive for the Coronavirus.
One of the medical reports was issued by the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital on January 16th, and the other by the Ministry of Health, Kaduna State, on January 20th; and she is confirmed positive in both.
There is no denying the fact that Kaduna State has established itself as one of the best amongst other sister states in the North, in terms of efficiently combating and containing this deadly pandemic. The rapidity with which task force and other public enlightenment teams were timely mobilized in the state is highly commendable.
In addition, the proactiveness with which people were traced, tested and isolated is also hailed by medical experts. In view of this, the case of Zeenah El-Zakzaky should not be any different, she should immediately be taken to a well equipped isolating center specially designed to offer the best medical care there is for such patients, and her husband be frequently monitored as he quarantines himself for being a primary contact to the victim.
Even more important is that, by so doing, the state government will avert an outbreak in the correctional facility, which if God forbid happens, would be disastrous. It is in fact the last thing the government would want at a time when the country is faced with second wave of the pandemic, which is by far more infectious. It therefore should not allow several months of a job well done become futile overnight.
This is exactly why as part of the measure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has sometime last year directed all the Chief Judges (at Federal and State High Courts) to take urgent steps towards the decongestion of correctional facilities nationwide.
It is surprising, however, that Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah Ibraheem, although both belong to the high risk category- and therefore met the stipulated criteria, were unfortunately not amongst those pardoned at the time. Had the duo were included (in the pardon), this would not have happened.
Since their illegal detention in 2015 the couple were on several occasions denied access to proper medical attention as a result of which their health conditions have continued to deteriorate from bad to worse as days pass by.
Zeenah El-Zakzaky, whose six sons were killed extrajudicially by the Nigerian army in the pace of less than 18 months, who has suffered from osteoarthritis, owing to inadequate medical care, to a point that she reportedly has to be confined to wheelchair; is an oppressed citizen whose continued detention against a valid court order from a Federal High Court, is illegal and unconstitutional.
The Kaduna State government owing to its unmatched seriousness about combating the pandemic; should not allow a COVID-19 positive patient- Zeenah El-Zakzaky in this regard, in a facility as dilapidated as Kaduna Central Prison. Doing so will simply be a mistake, a kind of which its fatal consequence will be unwise to not ward off beforehand.
A stitch in time, it is said, saves nine. And certainly, a word is enough for the wise.
Najeeb Maigatari writes in from Jigawa State, and could be reached via Maigatari313@gmail.com