The confrontation, annihilation and incarceration were decades in the making. But it took five years during which fireworks flew back and forth in the High Court of Kaduna State for the court to find and hold that the state had put nothing before the court in proof of the grave charges racked up against Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. The judgment was a triumphant moment for many of those who had followed events in Kaduna since 2015 all through its denouement in 2021.
Between December 12th to 14th 2015, a confrontation between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and the Nigerian army led to horrendous bloodshed. Of course, the Nigerian Army which at the point was already receiving savage excoriation from many quarters for the deteriorating security situation in the country had a right to entertain some apprehension that the group posed a threat, if not to national security, at least to the Kaduna State Government being a constituted authority, especially as its members were said to have obstructed the movement of the then Chief of Army Staff. However, many questioned the proportion of the force used especially as corpses quickly piled up and Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife who lost several family members were whisked away to Abuja while they stood trial at the Kaduna State High Court.
For more than a decade now, in security matters, Nigeria has become as uneasy as an old woman gets when banters are exchanged about bones. In a country where there are now many of those who heat up the polity, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has not been entirely blameless about heating up the polity as experience has shown that the group sometimes allows its right to freedom of religion and association to cut off chunks from the rights of others. That kind of behaviour that does not exactly become a religious group contributed to the impetus which the Nigerian Army had to cut loose its iron fist between the 12th and 14th December 2015 to devastating effect.
A further fracas ensued in Zaria, Kaduna State, on Sunday 10th April 2022 when the Police opened fire on protesters who were demanding the release of the passports of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife who are said to be ill and in need of urgent medical attention abroad. One person was killed while two others were wounded in the melee.
According to eye witnesses the protests had been peaceful and the protesters did nothing to draw the ire of the police. However, given the difficult history of the group with Nigeria`s security agencies, it is doubtful that the protests were entirely peaceful.
At present, Nigeria sits on the edge of a knife. With insecurity causing many parts of the country boil with uncertainty, it can only be prudent that groups and individuals desist from acts capable of compromising what little security there is.
As things stand, security personnel in the country are firmly in the eye of the storm. Tasked with quenching the fires burning everywhere, some paranoia on their part is permissible given that maintaining security which is no easy task even in peaceful times has become almost impossible now.
Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife who were tried by the Kaduna State High Court on eight counts which included alleged culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace among others were discharged and acquitted in June 2021.Himself and his wife are said to be in need of urgent medical attention abroad. If this is so, why have the authorities held on to their passports thereby preventing them from travelling outside the country for medical treatment? In a country where government officials form the bulk of medical tourists junketing to other countries, what right does the government have to hold on to the passports of people who are free citizens of Nigeria and have not been convicted of any crime?
It is not enough to brand anyone a threat to national security and proceed on the basis of that to persecute them. Because Nigeria is a country of laws, every action especially when it affects the rights of citizens must be vigorously tested by the law lest some people hide under the law to lynch innocent Nigerians.
While the passports of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife must be immediately returned to them, his supporters and Nigeria`s security agencies must examine themselves closely to see if the have been sufficiently observant of the obligations they owe Nigeria.