Hostilities resumed on Friday between the Federal Government and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) moments after officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) took the leader of the sect, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, back into custody.
The couple had returned home earlier in the day from India after complaining that the medical facility made available to them in New Delhi was inferior to the one at the Kirikiri prison in Nigeria.
His Shiite followers issued an angry statement protesting “the way the security agents whisked him away upon arrival without allowing the multitude of journalists that were waiting for him for hours to have a chat with him.”
They claimed that government was not keen on allowing El-Zakzaky receive medical treatment abroad in the first instance.
They vowed to continue their “struggle to ensure that our leader gets the appropriate medical treatment he deserves.”
But the federal government in a swift reaction said El-Zakzaky’s aim was to “seek asylum and eventually relocate to another country.”
His actions in India, government added, “demonstrated malicious intents that were capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria and India.’
The IMN in a statement by its spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said: “As our leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky has landed safely at Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport today (yesterday), we wish to set the records straight in order to disabuse the minds of Nigerians from the false claims perpetrated in some sponsored stories and articles in the media concerning his aborted medical treatment in India.
“However, before we do that, we vehemently condemn the way the security agents whisked him away upon arrival without allowing the multitude of journalists that were waiting for him for hours to have a chat with him. We urge the security agency holding him hostage to declare to the public where they are keeping him in the country.
“It is a well-known fact that the Nigerian authorities had tried all their antics to see that the Sheikh wasn’t given a medical leave.
“Distrustful of the Nigerian government’s offer of a jet to take him to the destination, having survived its attempts to poison and kill him while in detention, our leader Sheikh Zakzaky declined the offer and chose to pay for his trip through the Emirates Airline.
“Their ordeal started right here in Nigeria when they were scheduled to board the plane to Dubai. After a 2 hours’ drive from Kaduna to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja, they were not given enough time to rest before boarding the plane.
“They endured an 8-hour flight to Dubai and another 3-hour flight to New Delhi.
“Under normal circumstances, as patients suffering life threatening ailments, they shouldn’t have been subjected to such exhaustion.
“Nonetheless, our leader and his wife endured the journey, hoping that they would get good treatment when they reached New Delhi.
“However, even though they needed rest, on arrival, they were wheeled to a hospital without their personal physician that accompanied them from Nigeria.
“They were then subjected to physical examination in the absence of the doctors that examined them in Nigeria, and when they requested for their presence, it was turned down.
“Even a physician that came from London was also denied access to them. It was at this point that Sheikh Zakzaky refused any attempt to have him forcibly treated.
“More so, the Hospital compromised its stance and medical ethics. As a result, the Sheikh lost interest in the hospital and demanded to see his own doctors for a substitute arrangement.
“It is well within every patient’s right to decide whether or not to be treated and to also decide who attends to his health. It is called ‘giving of consent’, which every sane autonomous person with capacity is entitled to.
“Contrary to the Nigerian government’s press statement that misinformed that it was against “medical ethics and standard practice,” it is in fact at the very essence of medical ethics, which every elementary medical person knows.
“The interference of the government raised suspicion that it was planning to kill the Sheikh in India, using its international connections.
“He insisted that if he would not be allowed to see the doctors that brought him to India, he would rather come back to Nigeria and seek another destination for his treatment.
“This became clear because of the government’s stance insisting on other doctors than the ones that he was in India to meet.
“They finally decided to bring him back for refusing to succumb to be treated by their chosen doctors.
“It is worth noting that the Kaduna high court allowed the Sheikh to go to India with the government only supervising.
“Instead, the federal government presented him to the Indian government as a dangerous suspect with an unknown ailment coming to India and demanded that stringent security be placed on him.
“There was even a report that the security agents in India subjected him to physical assault.
“It is glaringly clear that the Nigerian government had an ulterior motive it was nursing using its connections in India when it violated court order and interfered with the procedures of the Sheikh’s treatment.
“This can also be deduced from the way the security agents whisked him away to unknown destination after arrival at Abuja International airport, without allowing him to have audience with the journalists that were waiting for his arrival.
“The Islamic Movement will however continue its struggle to ensure that our leader gets the appropriate medical treatment he deserves as ordered by the Kaduna High court.
“And as we continue with the struggle, we wish to reiterate our call for the federal government to comply with an earlier Abuja high court that has freed him since 2016.
“We believe obedience to this court order will finally solve the crisis that has been lingering since the Zaria genocide of December 2015.”
FG: he tried to seek asylum in India
The Federal Government however blamed El-Zakzaky for the stalemate, alleging that he tried to seek asylum in India.
Reacting to the IMN statement, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Gekpe, said: “The Federal Government wishes to inform the public about the latest development in the Ibraheem El-Zakzaky medical trip controversies to India.
“The Government notes with dismay the acts of misconduct exhibited by El-Zakzaky that necessitated his repatriation.
“The earlier statement of 14th August 2019 by the Government addressed the issues that would have raised some questions with the latest occurrences and particularly the uncelebrated return of El-Zakzaky from India.
“The public may note that El-Zakzaky’s actions in India demonstrated malicious intents that were capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria and India.
“With total disrespect and complete loss of decorum for international procedures while in India, he initiated contacts with a team of lawyers led by Ali Zia Kabir Chaudary and Gunjan Singh in that country.
“He also contacted some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and other Shiite groups. His aim was to seek asylum and eventually relocate to another country.
“It is important to note that if an Indian court had granted El-Zakzaky asylum or leave to travel to another country, it would have violated the Nigerian court order that granted him permission to travel for medical treatment.
“However, he used the opportunity of being in India to attempt to internationalise his cause by mobilising the Rights groups.
“Even most unfortunate and rather embarrassing as earlier stated, was his quest to be relocated to a 5-Star hotel to receive visitors instead of being admitted in the hospital as a sick person he claimed to be.”
In an earlier statement on Wednesday, the Permanent Secretary had said: “The Court on 5th August, 2019 granted Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky leave to travel to India for medical treatment. Consequently, the Government and its relevant agencies took steps to comply with the order.
“In line with the Court Order, El-Zakzaky was approved to embark on the trip with state officials and his choice to be accompanied by his aides and personal doctors was not opposed by the government.
“On 12th August, 2019, he and other members of the entourage went to India via Dubai. It is to be noted that El-Zakzaky particularly chose Medanta Hospital, India.
“However, on reaching Dubai, El-Zakzaky began to display ulterior motives against laid down procedures.
“He requested that his passport be handed over to him but the state officials would not budge to his pressure. The situation became worse in India as he refused to subject himself to preliminary medical checks.
“In addition, he demanded free movement and access to visitors of all kinds as well as requested to be allowed to check into a 5-star hotel instead of being admitted in the hospital.
“The request was refused on the ground that he came into the country for medicals and not as a tourist (more so that his visa was issued on medical grounds and not for tourism).
“He also demanded that police protection be withdrawn from him by the Indian authorities.
“Against medical ethics and standard practice, he requested to nominate doctors of his choice to join the ones tasked by Medanta Hospital to perform medical treatment on him and his wife.
“This created a stalemate, which the Hospital insisted that he would not dictate to it on the choice of medical personnel to carry the required medical treatment.
“Frustrated by his antics, the Indian authorities have expressed willingness to return him to Nigeria with immediate effect. This is on the account that they will not allow him use their country to internationalize his group’s activities.
“Against this background, the Nigerian government wishes to commend the stand of the Indian Government as well as apologise to her for the unruly behaviour of El-Zakzaky.
“Similarly, the attention of the public and indeed the international community is hereby drawn to these unfortunate developments.
“The government also wishes to use this opportunity to affirm its readiness to undertake the prosecution of El-Zakzaky through due process if and when he is returned to the country.
“On this note, his foul cry that he is being held in circumstances worse than he was in Nigeria should be disregarded.”
‘Iranian cleric phoned El-Zakzaky in India, expressed support for treatment’
The influential Teheran Times reported yesterday that the secretary general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought (WFPIST), Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, phoned El-Zakzaky on Thursday to assure him that Iran would do its utmost to help the process of his medical treatment.
The paper said: “Learning about the physical and mental conditions of the ailing Nigerian cleric, Ayatollah Araki voiced concern about Sheikh Zakzaky’s health, and gave him an assurance that both Iran and the WFPIST would make every effort to contribute to the process of his medical treatment.
“The Nigerian Muslim leader, for his part, expressed gratitude to Iran for its helpful efforts, saying the course of his treatment at New Delhi’s Medanta hospital has not still begun.
“According to Ayatollah Araki, Sheikh Zakzaky’s morale was high.
“Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife flew out of Nigeria on Tuesday to get medical treatment in India.
“The Arabic-language al-Ahed new agency reported on Wednesday that Sheikh Zakzaky has decided to leave India because the severe security restrictions have adversely affected the course of his medical treatment.
“The top Shiite cleric has been held in detention since December 2015 and was charged just in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty.
“Zakzaky has lost his left eyesight in a raid by the Nigerian army on his residence in the northern town of Zaria in December 2015.
“During the raid, the cleric’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed.”
Falana seeks adequate treatment for sect leader at home
Counsel to the El-Zakzakys, Mr.Femi Falana (SAN) last night berated the federal government for its handling of the ‘critical health conditions of the El-zakzakys’.
He said: “I have just confirmed the disturbing news that the planned medical treatment of Sheikh Ibraheem El-zakzaky and his wife in India was aborted and that they have since returned to Nigeria.
“Having regards to this unfortunate episode I am of the firm view that what has embarrassed the federal government is the fact that Nigeria has become a laughing stock to the extent that her leaders and citizens (who have the financial wherewithal) have to travel abroad for medical treatment.
“For goodness sake in what way was the Indian Government offended by the insistence of the El-zakzakys to be treated by doctors of their choice?
“However, in view of their critical health conditions the El-zakzakys and the federal government should urgently reach an understanding to facilitate their medical treatment in Nigeria.
“In other words, since the federal government is apparently not prepared to allow the couple to seek medical treatment abroad for fear that they may seek political asylum the authorities should provide adequate medical equipment for their treatment in Nigeria without any further delay.”
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