Supporters of El-Zakzaky take protest to Lagos
• Groups condemn disobedience of court orders
Some members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shiites, took their struggle for the release of their detained leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, to Lagos yesterday. The Shiites hit some streets in Lagos in protest, demanding that the Federal Government immediately release El-Zakzaky.
The Lagos protest came barely two days after the IMN members clashed with security personnel at the National Assembly in Abuja while protesting against the continued detention of their leader. The protesters walked from Maryland area of Lagos to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) office in Ikeja, carrying placards with various inscriptions and pictures of El-Zakzaky and chanting songs of freedom. They stopped by at the Falana and Falana Chambers, the office of the human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana, where they were received by his wife, Funmi.
Comprising Islamic women who covered their bodies with black hijab from head to toe, nursing mothers with babies on their backs, pregnant women, children, men and members of human rights organisations, the protesters warned of a looming crisis if the Shiites leader or his co-detained wife is allowed to die in custody.
Since December 2015 when the Nigerian Army raided the residence of El-Zakzaky in Zaria, following the violent confrontation that members of the sect had with military officers, the Islamic leader has remained in state detention in Abuja. Several courts have granted El-Zakzaky bail, but the government has not released him, thereby forcing his followers to embark on protests.
The most recent of the protest was at the National Assembly on Tuesday when the IMN members clashed with security operatives while trying to gain access to the parliament. During the confrontation, two policemen were shot and several cars were damaged.
The protesters yesterday, who claimed that many followers of El-Zakzaky were ready to die for him, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider his continued detention of the Islamic leader to prevent anarchy.
The South West Coordinator of IMN, Muftau Zachariah, said it was time for nationalists and patriotic Nigerians who are interested in peaceful coexistence among Nigerians to get involved and speak up against the alleged injustice, capable of destroying the dream of a “one Nigeria.”
“President Buhari wants El-Zakzaky to die, he is hell-bent on killing the innocent man. We want to draw your attention to the fact that El-Zakzaky is in need of urgent medical care and by law should be allowed to attend to his health. The issue of trumped-up charge being brought against him by the Kaduna State government is unfortunate.
“In a case where peaceful approach and adherence to the rule of law are being rebuked by the Federal Government, it is a call to anarchy; we pray that it does not snowball into a crisis in which the masses will bear the brunt. Already people are dying as a result of this disobedience. Our call is to prevent unnecessary death.”
According to him, “The man being unjustly persecuted has 21 million followers, if you kill someone who has 21 million followers who are all ready to die for him, what do you want the country to come into? Buhari definitely is not going to live longer than Nigeria; nobody should love him more than Nigeria.”
“We came here today because we know that Lagos has a lot of reasonable people and nationalists who are interested in the unity and progress of the country,” Zachariah added. On the clash with security agents in Abuja on Tuesday, he said: “If we want to fight, we will now collect gun from one policeman when 21 million of us can gather N1000 each and have N21 billion? How much do they sell guns? We know that the naira has been undervalued, but even at that, with that amount, we can buy weapons. We are not militants but peaceful people.”
Members of human rights groups who joined the protest, including the Human Rights Defenders and Advocacy Centre (HRDAC) and the Freedom Movement, condemned what they described as rising impunity and disobedience of the rule of law by the Federal Government.
The Chairman of HRDAC, Innocent Agbo, said: “ It is with great concern for our Muslim brothers and sisters and the masses at large that we make this request. The court in its own message has granted the cleric bail, but till date, there has been no response or reaction from the government to the court order. Enough is enough!
“Mr President is a product of the constitution, but we wonder why he is not adhering to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution is put in place so that people will have a law to guide them for justice and fair hearing.
“In a situation where those that swear to protect and defend the law are abusing it, it is a call to anarchy, giving people a justifiable reason to carry arm against the government. We have so many arms crises in our country now, giving other people cause to carry arms against the government is uncalled for.”He further requested that all political detainees who have been granted bail and are still under detention should be released. “It is time for President Buhari to obey the rule of law,” he added
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