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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Court orders release of El-Zakzaky, wife, awards N50m damages

The Federal Government must release the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, also known as the Shi’ite sect, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, from detention into an accommodation that must be provided for them within 45 days, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered on Friday.

The sect leader and his wife arrested by the Army on December 14, 2015, have been in the custody of the Department of State Services since December 15, 2015.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole delivering a joint judgment in the two rights enforcement suits filed by the two applicants, awarded N25m each, totalling N50m, to the Shi’ite leader and his wife for the violation of their rights by being held in unlawful custody since December 14, 2015.

The judge ruled that the continued detention of the applicants violated their rights under section 35(1) of the Constitution and provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

He ordered the Federal Government to provide a befitting accommodation for the applicants, their family members and followers who used to live with them before they were arrested, within the 45 days period. The judge ordered that the accommodation must be provided in Zaria, Kaduna State, or in other part of the state or alternatively in any other part of northern Nigeria.

The judge ordered that on the expiration of the 45 days period, the DSS should hand over El-Zakzaky and his wife to the Inspector-General of Police, who must delegate a subordinate not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police to escort the applicants to their “new abode” to be provided for them by the Federal Government.

The judge also ordered that after conveying the applicants to the accommodation, the police must provide 24/7 protection for the applicants until the “unproved” security threats against the couple are removed or diminished.

The court warned that the police protection “shall not be used under any guise by the second respondent (the Inspector-General of Police) to place or confine the applicant and his wife in any form of restriction.”

It added that failure of the Federal Government to comply with its orders by releasing the applicants upon the expiration of the 45 days “shall crystalise” into a fresh course of action.

The Shi’ite leader and his wife were arrested following the violent encounter between members of his sect and soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna State on  December 14, 2015.

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