Mohammed Zakzaky, son of Nigeria's foremost Shi'a preacher Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has raised concerns about the worsening health conditions of his father and mother, saying they had both been deprived of adequate care in custody.
Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zinat, have been held in detention of the State Security Service (SSS) since December 2015 when Nigerian security forces breached their residence in Zaria and took them away. Nearly 350 Shi'a Islam faithful were killed by Nigerian soldiers during the attack on Mr el-Zakzaky's residence and worship centre between December 12 and 13, 2015.
More than 100 members have also been killed in relentless protests to demand the release of their leader since 2015. The demonstrations have held amidst competent court orders for the SSS to release the cleric on both health and fundamental rights grounds.
Amidst his perpetual detention, doctors for Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife said the couple had been suffering chronic ailments that needed urgent attention at a medical facility and not in SSS custody. The secret police, however, insisted the coupled had been getting adequate care in custody.
In January 2018, the SSS arranged a select group of television cameramen to record Mr El-Zakzaky outside its headquarters in Abuja, marking the first time the preacher would be seen in public since he was arrested in 2015.
Mohammed Zakzaky said his parents' health had seriously deteriorated when he visited them in custody on July 6, warning that time was fast running out on their recovery.
"Although I do not wish to give in to despair, at this current point I feel that there is little left that I can do to try to save them, as every single attempt we have currently made has either been deliberately frustrated or simply ignored," Mr Zakzaky said in a statement.
He said his father had excessive concentration of lead in his bloodstream, yet SSS has been preventing him from getting necessary medical care from qualified personnel.
"My father was found to have unusually excessive and life-threatening concentrations of lead and cadmium in his blood. As a result of this, various experts we have consulted recommended immediate hospitalisation in a properly equipped facility and other medical procedures in order to try to save his life. This was over a month ago, yet nothing has been done to date," he said
He also alleged inadequate care of her mother, whose pains he said had continued to worsen.
"My mother, on the other hand, whose numerous medical issues were well known since before, has similarly received none of the care that was recommended. The frequent attack of chronic pain which she had been suffering on average on a monthly basis has now turned into a daily routine. And to date, none of the underlying medical issues causing these attacks has been addressed.
"When we met aside from what could be visibly seen of their deteriorating condition such as my father's teeth which in the space of a month has turned from dark brown to virtually jet black, my father also informed me of how his condition has been worsening since the last time we met.
"Most disturbing of these issues is the fact that he is beginning to show signs that are very similar to what happened before he had a stroke in January 2018. Whereas in the past he had only been suffering intermittent attacks of chronic pain, it has now become virtually a daily occurrence," he said.
Mr Zakzaky said his father's death may be imminent due to the actions of the Nigerian government.
"Years ago I stated that it appears that there is a deliberate attempt to assassinate my parents through deliberate negligence towards their health, back then I did not know the extent of it and I am telling you. The fact that they have managed to survive this long is a miracle.
"Based on all that I have heard from medical experts over the past week, it is with a heavy heart that I decide to say this, but the time frame during which anything can be done to save their health has virtually run out.
"There is also at this time nothing that I can cling what little hope I have left on. This has always been an assassination in progress, and it is almost done. And the assassins are clearly determined to see it through." he said.
For two days, Peter Afunanya, a spokesperson for the SSS, declined PREMIUM TIMES' requests seeking clarifications on the concerns raised by Mr El-Zakzaky's son.