By Anthony Ogbonna
Vocal Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has, Wednesday, lambasted the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu over a statement credited to him wherein he claimed that Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, was being held in prison for his own good.
Mr. Shehu had, while reacting to questions on the human rights’ record of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, in Abuja on Tuesday, also said that the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and the Shi’ite leader were still being kept by the government in the public interest.
“On the issue of El-Zakzaky, the information we have is that he is being kept more for his own safety than the offences he committed. “If you set him free today, what do you think will likely be the reactions out there on the streets of Kaduna or in Zazzau where he comes from.”
However, reacting to Garba Shehu’s comments, the fierce Human Rights lawyer queried whether Shehu had “suddenly become so power drunk to the extent that he can conveniently set aside the judgment of the federal high court?”
He continued by saying, “Even under the neo-tarzanist Buhari/Idiagbon military junta, court orders which directed that victims of the obnoxious Detention of Persons Decree No 2 of 1984 be released from illegal custody were complied with,”
“But under a democratic government Mr. Shehu wants Nigerians to believe that El-zakzakys are held in ‘protective custody’ after the federal high court had declared such detention illegal and unconstitutional.”
“Or has Mr. Shehu suddenly become so power drunk to the extent that he can conveniently set aside the judgment of the federal high court?”
“Is Mr. Shehu not aware that Elzakzaky has lost one of his eyes in the dungeon of the State Security Service and may lose the other eye due to denial of urgent medical treatment?” Mr. Falana continued.
“Why has his request to travel abroad for medical attention at his own expense been refused by the federal government?”
“Since neither President Muhammadu Buhari nor Acting President Yemi Osinbajo could have authorized the contemptuous statement issued on behalf of the Presidency, Mr. Shehu Garba should be called to order and restrained from further exposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ridicule before the comity of civilized nations,” said Mr. Falana.
“However, since the federal government continues to proclaim loudly that it operates under the rule of law it cannot be operated to treat court orders with disdain. To that extent, El-zakzaky and his wife must be released from the illegal custody of the State Security Service since the federal high court has dismissed the official claim that they are held in ‘protective custody.’
“A government which is desirous to secure conviction of persons charged with criminal offences cannot treat the orders of the same court with disdain and impunity.”
Recall that Justice Gabriel Kolawole of an Abuja Federal High Court, in his judgment in December 2016, ordered the Department of State Service (DSS) to release El-Zakzaky within 45 days.
Kolawole also ordered the Federal Government to provide an accommodation for El-Zakzaky, his wife and family members within Kaduna State or any part of the northern region.
The court declared the continuous detention of El-Zakzaky since December 13, 2015 as unlawful and illegal since the issue of protective custody was unknown to law or the National Security Agencies Act establishing the DSS.
However, the presidential spokesman said El-Zakzaky could not be released as government was putting public and security interest dimensions into consideration.