The Leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has suffered a ‘stroke’ amid concern his health is taking a turn for the worse.
The 68-year-old reportedly speaks with a slur and can no longer stand for prayers, and is on the verge of losing his eyesight.
El-Zakzaky has been in detention since December 2015, following a violent clash in Zaria, Kaduna State, between members of his group and the Nigerian military.
The movement, however, says his incarceration is illegal, criticising the Buhari administration for denying the leader access to medical treatment.
“The health situation of the Sheikh has nosedived. He has suffered what turned out to be a stroke. But the authorities illegally detaining him have kept a blind eye to his dire situation,” the IMN disclosed at a press conference yesterday.
The Spokesman for the group, Professor Abdullahi Danladi, said: “It emerged that his health condition suffered severe knocks in the past week, such that he was critically ill and in urgent need of the best medical attention possible. But the Buhari administration is negligent about it. He suffered slurred speech, weakness of the right side of the upper limb and general weakness of both lower limbs. Consequently, he has been unable to walk or even stand for the past week. The Sheikh is also known to have been hypertensive for more than 10 years.”
The police in Abuja yesterday arrested 52 members of the group who were protesting against the leader’s detention. They began the demonstration from Garki Area 10 and headed towards Area 1. They were, however, stopped by armed security operatives at Moshood Abiola Road.
Policemen fired tear gas canisters, while some youths responded with stones.
The incident caused panic in the area, as traders hurriedly closed their shops while motorists sought alternative routes.
Police spokesman Anjuguri Manzah said the FCT command recovered petrol bombs and catapults used “to attack police operatives and damage police operational vehicles.” He said some policemen suffered injuries, adding that the arrested persons would be charged to court, following investigations.
Lawyers meanwhile have condemned the rights record of the Buhari administration.
“We have never had it so bad under a civilian government, where a government will deliberately disobey court orders and authorise the detention of citizens, not even under the military era,” said Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.
He recalled: “In the case of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), three courts – two Nigerian courts and the ECOWAS court – ordered his release, yet government disregarded them.”
According to him, “ It is the worst case of human rights violation. But worse than detention is the spate of killings. You need to be alive to enjoy human rights. It is a very serious situation to continue to disobey when a court has ordered the release of someone. Right now, El-Zakzaky is fighting for his life. He has lost an eye in detention and may soon lose the other.”
Falana’s concern was re-echoed by Lagos lawyer and human rights campaigner, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, who noted: “This government does not respect orders and judgments made by the courts.”
He cited “The judgment of the ECOWAS court of human rights, which gave a final decision that Dasuki should be released on bail. That has not been respected.” He added: “The Federal High Court in Abuja gave an order that Mallam El-Zakzaky should be released within 43 days with his wife. It is over a year now and that decision has not been respected.”
According to the IMN, “The 67-year-old was shot at close range during the murderous attack on his home by the military in December 2015. In the process, the Sheikh lost his left eye and is on the verge of losing the right, sequel to the brutal treatment meted out to him by armed soldiers. The Department of State Service has also denied him foreign medical treatment recommended by the local specialist who attended to him.”
An “alternative arrangement” by the family of the detained to bring an eye specialist from within the country or from abroad was also rejected “without any legal justification,” the group said.
“That we are agitated by the latest development is to say the least. We are deeply concerned and disenchanted by the attitude of this administration towards our peaceful protests and demands that the Sheikh and his wife be released, as ordered by a Federal High Court in Abuja. The court has affirmed the Sheikh’s fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
Urging President Buhari to release the couple for proper medical care, the IMN noted: “As we focus our attention on the deteriorating health of Sheikh El-Zakzaky, we are not oblivious of the medical condition of his wife, Malama Zeenah Ibrahim.
For reasons best known to the Department of State Service, some of the bullets lodged in her body during the brutal attack of December 14, 2015 have not been extracted up till now. In the circumstances, she has been subjected to excruciating pain and agony on a daily basis. Her life, which is currently in danger, may be saved and prolonged, if she is allowed to receive adequate medical attention without any further delay.”
The group added: “We are strongly appealing to people of conscience, human rights organisations, activists and the international community to prevail upon this administration to tread the path of justice and pave the way for our leader to go and look after his health properly.”