Chief Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome, both human rights lawyers and senior advocates of Nigeria (SAN), have asked the federal government to release Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). They made the demand separately while reacting to the release of Omoyele Sowore, convener of Revolution Now Movement and a former National Security Adviser (NSA).
The Department of State Services (DSS) had refused to free Sowore despite court orders until Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), ordered that Sowore should be released alongside Sambo Dasuki, a former national security adviser, who was also severally granted bail by various courts.
Reacting in a statement, Falana said like Sowore and Dasuki, there have been court orders for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, too, and the time had come for the government to release the IMN leader.
“We have confirmed that the federal government has decided to comply with the orders of some municipal and regional courts for the release of Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Col. Sambo Dasuki. However, we call on the federal government to release other political detainees and suspects in line with valid and subsisting orders of courts,” the senior lawyer said.
“In particular, we request the federal government to liaise with the Kaduna state government to withdraw the charge filed against Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, Mrs Zeenat Ibrahim Zakzaky who have been detained since December 14, 2015.
“The federal high court had on December 2, 2016 declared the detention of the couple illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to release them from custody forthwith. Apart from awarding them reparation of N50 million the federal high court also ordered the federal government to provide them with a temporary accommodation since the Nigerian Army had destroyed their family house in Zaria.
“However, in a bid to stop the protests of the Shiites who were demanding for the release of their leaders on the basis of the orders of the federal high court the federal government asked the Kaduna state government to arraign the couple in the Kaduna state high court. Even though they have been charged with procuring certain persons to kill a soldier the Kaduna state high court has since discharged and acquitted the persons allegedly procured by the Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife to kill the said soldier.”
Falana, counsel to Sheikh Zakzaky, said by ordering the release of Dasuki pursuant to the orders of the courts, the AGF has jettisoned the reactionary position that national security takes precedence over the rule of law. Falana is also the counsel of Sowore.
He added that since the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has now embraced the rule of law, the AGF should ensure that the valid and subsisting orders of all courts are obeyed in accordance with Section 287 of the constitution.
Similarly reacting, Ozekhome in a statement noted that the federal government was beginning to recognize the importance of rule of law other than ‘rule of thumb’. He further urged the government to also order the release of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). Ozekhome added that Sheikh Zakzaky, like Sowore and Dasuki, is perceived worldwide as a political prisoner.
Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since 2015 .