The long anticipated appeal by the Federal Government against the judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja that ruled that the continuing detention of Sheikh Zakzaky as unconstitutional and a breach of his fundamental rights, comes for hearing next Monday January 22, 2018.
The appeal with case reference number CA/A/64/2017 is expected to be heard by a special panel of judges.
It will be recalled that Sheikh Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 14, 2015 without being charged, had taken the matter to the Federal High Court Abuja, seeking the end of his fundamental rights to personal liberties, rights to human dignity and properties among others.
In their arguments at the Federal High Court, the respondents in that case, the Department of State Security (DSS), Nigerian Army, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) had argued that they were holding the Sheikh for “Protective Custody” and not for any crime he committed. They said he was not detained in prison but being kept in a secured house with his welfare being well taken care of and that by that time, they had spent well over N5m on him.
In his judgement on December 2nd, 2016 however, the High Court Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, said detention in protective custody of a man, who didn’t request for it but is on the contrary seeking his freedom is alien to our Constitution and indeed all known laws. He called for the release of the Sheikh, and offered him N25m as compensation for the illegal detention, the same as his wife. Further, the Judge ruled that an accommodation be provided for them in Kaduna, or any other town of their choice in Northern Nigeria.
Of course, the government had contemptuously defied the judgement, with some officials giving very absurd and contradictory statements as to the reasons why. At one point, the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed had stunned the country when he mentioned that the government was willing to comply with the court judgement, but were finding it difficult to find appropriate location to get the accommodation they will release him to, because nobody was willing to be neighbours with the Zakzakys. At some other time, the same Minister, said they have not complied with the judgement because the court didn’t have the full picture.
Now that they have formally appealed the judgement, it remains to be seen what the grounds for the appeal are. It seems fairly certain however that it might just be ploy to buy more time for the government, trying to buy more time for itself, as alluded to recently by the AGF in an interview with BBC Hausa service recently when he said they have a chance to take up the matter up to the Supreme Court.