After over five and half years in the clutches of the military and security agencies, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (the Shiites), Sheikh Ibrahim el Zakzaky and his wife, Zinatu, breathed the air of freedom, courtesy of their acquittal by a Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Gideon Kurada.
The couple came out limping, a symbolic depiction of the travails they have gone through at the hands of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in the past five years. Following a road blockade by members of the sect as part of their annual rites which affected the movement of the then Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, the Army attacked Zakzaky's Zaria commune between December 12 and 14, 2015, killing and burying 347 people in a mass grave.
Hundreds more were injured. The Sheikh lost six sons. The Army claimed they attacked the commune because the Shiites wanted to kill Buratai. President Buhari said the Shiites invited the wrath of the Army upon themselves. The Zakzakys were arrested on December 13, 2015, but were held in the cells of the Directorate of State Services, DSS, for two and half years despite several court directives that they should be released. They were arraigned on May 15, 2018.
Members of the IMN staged countless protests in Kaduna and Abuja until they got tired and stopped. The Zakzakys' travails resemble the fate that a former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki, went through at the hands of this administration. Prolonged detention in DSS cells without trial, which was last witnessed during the military era, has been revived for those the regime considers as its enemies.
The constitutional rights to life, liberty, fair trial and personal dignities of the Zakzakys and members of the IMN have been cynically abused. This is condemnable and unacceptable. Our constitution directs that the affairs of this country can only be conducted according to the constitution. We urge the Zakzakys and the IMN to explore all constitutional means to exert recompense for the gross abuse of their rights.
We also commend Justice Gideon Kurada for upholding the judiciary's image as the home of justice for citizens who are helpless before the might of the state and the temporary occupants of its powerful positions. However, the IMN and its leadership must learn from their harrowing experiences and conduct themselves with greater discipline during their annual Arbaeen symbolic trekking.
Their tendency to block the roads and make movement difficult for other road users has been a sore point which people have forever complained about. Nigeria is a multi-religious society. Our constitution also gives everyone the right to freedom of movement. We must respect these to avoid incurring the wrath of fellow Nigerians and the law.