Lawyer and human rights advocate, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has commended members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) for holding a protest rally against the continued detention of their leader, Mr. Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife by the Department of State Security (DSS). He also urged them to keep protesting until all illegal detainees in the country are released.
The IMN leader and his wife have remained in detention since 2015 despite court orders directing that they be freed. IMN members, otherwise known as Shiites held a protest rally, which shut down Abuja on Thursday
In a message of solidarity to the protesting Shiite community, Mr. Falana said the rally was was justified under the constitution, which guarantees the fundamental rights of citizens to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
"Your action is legitimate because it is a protest against impunity arising from the executive lawlessness of the Federal Government. Your demand is in order because it is in line with the tenets of the rule of law. Please keep it up," said Mr. Falana, who is also Mr. Zakzaky's lawyer.
He stated that during the struggle to dislodge military dictatorship in the country, he never imagined that elected governments would disregard court orders.
"It is particularly painful for me that court orders are disobeyed under the current political dispensation whereas under the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta, the orders of court for the release of victims of the obnoxious Decree No 2 of 1984 were complied with," he recalled.
The rights advocate urged IMN members and other lovers of democratic freedom not to allow the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to disobey judgments of competent courts as it happened under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. According to him, the Obasanjo administration treated the judgments of the Supreme Court and other courts with contempt.
"As you are no doubt aware, the Federal High Court presided over by Justice G. O. Kolawole ordered the release of your leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-zakzaky and his wife and awarded them N50 million damages. Since the Nigerian Army and the Nasir El-rufai (governor of Kaduna State) regime had demolished and set their residence on fire on 15 December 2015, the Federal High Court ordered the Federal Government to provide them with a suitable accommodation. Those orders which were granted on December 2, 2016 have been ignored by the Buhari administration, which claims to operate under the rule of law," said Mr. Falana.
He added that having personally experienced illegal arrest and detention under the military, he understands the trauma El-Zakzakys are going through in illegal custody, adding that it is ironical that President Buhari, who heads a civilian administration, is detaining people without trial. Mr. Falana noted that as military head of state, President Buhari detained him without any legal justification. Despite that, the lawyer added, he mobliized his colleagues in the human rights community to fight for President Buhari's release following his overthrow and detention by General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.)
As a result, Mr. Falana said he has the moral right and political obligation to demand the release of all detainees from illegal and contemptuous incarceration by the Buhari administration.
"In solidarising with you on this occasion, I wish to join you in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh Ibraheem and Hajia Elzakzaky. However, if the Federal Government has evidence that they have committed any criminal offence whatsoever, they should be arraigned in court," he said.
He called on IMN members to continue the protests until they succeed in compelling the Federal Government to comply with the orders of the Federal High Court and the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the release of all detainees in the country.