Abuja and Kaduna — The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from India, yesterday afternoon, was whisked away on arrival and taken into custody by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
On the same day, the federal government issued a statement claiming that El-Zakzaky was planning to seek asylum in an unnamed country, adding that his actions in India demonstrated malicious intents that were capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria and India.
In a swift reaction, the IMN said the DSS was holding El-Zakzaky hostage and further accused the federal government of scuttling the treatment of its leader and his wife's in India.
El-Zakzaky, whose medical trip to India was aborted because of disagreement with the Indian authorities, arrived via an Ethiopian Airline around 12.05pm and was immediately driven away by the security operatives.
The Shiite leader, who went to Medenta Hospital, New Delhi, India, with his wife, Zeenat, on Monday, was forced to abort his treatment following an alleged refusal of the hospital management to allow his preferred doctors to treat him.
The religious leader, in a video released on Thursday, said he was given an option of having his treatment at the hospital or returning to Nigeria, noting that he was still discussing with his wife when unnamed officials returned to tell him to prepare for home.
He also complained that he was placed under heavy security watch, adding that he was not allowed to move from his room to the next one.
He accused the governments of the United States, India, and Nigeria of frustrating his treatment.
His allegations were, however, dismissed by the federal government which accused him of making unreasonable requests, including lodging in a 5-star hotel.
The statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Isu Gekpe, entitled: "The repatriation of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky from India", said the wife of the IMN leader also antagonised the Indian and Nigerian security agencies and accused them of killing her children to win international sympathy, as well as disparage the Nigerian government.
The statement reads: "The Federal Government wishes to inform the public about the latest development in the Ibraheem El-zakzaky medical trip controversies to India. The government notes with dismay the acts of misconduct exhibited by El-Zakzaky that necessitated his repatriation.
"The earlier statement of August 14, 2019, by the government addressed the issues that would have raised some questions with the latest occurrences and particularly the uncelebrated return of El-Zakzaky from India.
"The public may note that El-Zakzaky's actions in India demonstrated malicious intents that were capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria and India. With total disrespect and complete loss of decorum for international procedures while in India, he initiated contacts with a team of lawyers led by Ali Zia Kabir Chaudary and Gunjan Singh in that country.
"He also contacted some Non-Governmental Organisations, such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission and other Shiite groups. His aim was to seek asylum and eventually relocate to another country. It is important to note that if an Indian court had granted El-Zakzaky asylum or leave to travel to another country, it would have violated the Nigerian court order that granted him permission to travel for medical treatment.
"However, he used the opportunity of being in India to attempt to internationalise his cause by mobilising the rights groups. Even most unfortunate and rather embarrassing as earlier stated, was his quest to be relocated to a 5-Star hotel to receive visitors instead of being admitted in the hospital as a sick person he claimed to be.
"Having subordinated the quest for medical treatment to other ulterior motives, it became obvious that El-Zakzaky was focused on realising some sinister motives, thus the decision to return him to Nigeria."