Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter, urging him to “be humane by ordering the release” of Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, also known as Shiites, and the cleric’s wife, Zainab, from custody.
The detainees have been in the custody of the Department of State Service (DSS) since December 2015 following a clash between El-Zakzaky’s followers and Nigerian soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Falana’s November 7 letter is his second such letter to the Presidency demanding the release of the detainees following an earlier one dated June 2, 2017 addressed to then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo during Buhari’s medical vacation in London.
Falana reminded Buhari that the continued detention of the couple was in violation of the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on December 2, 2016.
He pleaded with the president to consider the detainees’ deteriorating health and immediately order their release.
Falana noted that Buhari, having been illegally detained in the past by former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.), and also recently battled a serious illness, was in a position to appreciate the couple’s “agony” in custody.
He called on the Federal Government to be humane and refrain from subjecting citizens to inhuman treatment.
Meanwhile, Falana who is counsel to El-Zakzaky Wednesday withdrew the petition against the Nigerian Army at the Presidential Investigation Panel on Human Right Violations.
The rights lawyer said stated that although it was painful, he had to withdraw the petition in view of the fact that there was already a judicial commission of inquiry currently handling the case.
He however noted that the panel could on its own decide to listen to any witness in the case, while urging it to keep the petition in view.
Falana also urged the panel to order the federal government to comply with the ruling of the Federal High Court that ordered the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky from detention.
He criticized the federal government for not obeying the ruling of the Federal High Court, adding that since Nigeria’s independence, he had never seen a couple detained together, adding that the couple should be released based on the rule of law.
He lamented his inability to get the petition to a place of final resolution.
“We are already taking other steps to ensure that El-Zakzaky is released, because this is the first time in the history of this country that a couple will be detained,” he said.
Akinseye George, counsel to the Nigerian Army, said that the matter should be removed from the panel’s list, adding that the panel was magnanimous enough to accommodate the petition by shifting dates and time for the petitioner.
He said that the panel should disregard the petitioner’s plea that the petition be kept in view, stressing that the petition ended with the withdrawal.
Justice Biobele George, chairman of the panel, struck out the petition based on voluntary withdrawal by the petitioner.
The Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement sittings ended on November 8.
The panel had travelled round the six geo-political zones to receive petitions and listen to petitioners’ allegations of human rights violation by the military.