The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is eagerly awaiting mass release of hundreds of its members who are victims of enforced disappearances since the horrendous attacks of December 2015 in Zaria by the Nigerian Army.
Several hundred of members of the Islamic Movement simply disappeared without trace following the attacks and are believed to be held at various detention facilities across the country.
Kaduna state government officials had admitted to burying only 347 in mass grave, which raised hope that many more might still be alive and are being held in incommunicado detention. The Islamic Movement had published names and pictures of close to a thousand of its members who went missing after the heinous attack.
The Nation News recently reported that seven Ijaw youths who were detained for two years in underground cells were released by the new leadership of the DSS following the unceremonious sack of its former Director, Lawal Daura.
The new leadership of the State Secret outfit had made promise to review cases of all detainees in its custody, and might have started making good its promise with the release in Yenagoa of the seven Ijaw youths from Bayelsa State who were arrested two years ago and locked up in the organization’s cell since then.
The agency’s newly appointed Acting Director -General, Mr. Mathew Seiyefa, told reporters at his maiden press conference two weeks ago that he would review the cases of detainees with a view to setting free those who are not supposed to be held.
Only last month, the Kaduna state High Court discharged and acquitted nearly 100 members of the Islamic Movement who were similarly taken alive having survived the massacre and charged to courts for sundry offences including that of culpable homicide punishable by death. Earlier, another Kaduna High Court had similarly discharged and acquitted scores of members of the Islamic Movement. Yet, close to a hundred others remain in prisons and the whereabout of about a thousand others remain unknown.
The seven Bayelsa men released were brought from the DSS Headquarters in Abuja to Yenagoa at the weekend and released to their families who had gathered outside the agency’s office in the state capital to receive them. Some of them shed tears of joy in the warm embrace of their friends as they walked into freedom. The Nation News reported that they looked unkempt with overgrown beards, rough skin and dirty clothes.
One of them, who identified himself as Clinton Ohaigbofa, said they were held without trial in underground cells in Abuja and went through untold hardship and were never charged to court, he said.
Narrating how they landed in DSS detention, he said: “We didn’t do anything. We were arrested on May 24th, 2016. We were taken to the JTF headquarters in Opolo and were later transferred to DMI, Abuja.
“After interrogation, we were transferred to Defence Intelligence Agency. On August 26, 2016, we were transferred to the Department of State Service, Abuja. We stayed there for over two years.” Further reliving their ordeals in the DSS cell, he said: “They treated us badly. We were held in an underground cell. They gave us little bread in the morning, little rice in the afternoon and a morsel of semovita in the evening.
“Each portion of food cannot satisfy a two-year old baby. They deprived us of everything. They didn’t even take us to court. There was no freedom to even see light. They subjected us to severe punishment. They kept us hungry and deprived us of medication. Suspects are being released massively because of the new DSS boss. I don’t know the actual number released so far.”
This is coming as the Islamic Movement is gearing up to join the World in marking the 2018 International Day in support of Victims of Enforced Disappearance on the 30th of August with a Press conference and photo exhibition.