‘Shey na today’? That was the question that came to mind on hearing that a Kaduna High Court had, through Justice Gideon Kurada, acquitted the leader of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and wife, Zeenat.
The reason for my pessimism is not far-fetched – we’ve seen this play out before. This time, the court has actually turned things one notch up by issuing a discharge warrant to facilitate the duo’s immediate release. The question, however, is, will this be honoured? Will he actually be freed? Can we finally say we have seen the end of this? Or are we still to expect another dramatic move from the state or powers that be?
On December 2, 2016, a Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the release of the couple and awarded N50m and a newly built house in damages to them. This would not be the last time a Nigerian court would rule in their favour to no avail. And then, as if under the influence of cannabis, the same court, in January 2017, threatened to order the arrest of Ibrahim Idris, the then IGP; Abubakar Malami, the then Minister of Justice; and Lawal Daura, the then Director General of DSS for contempt of court. Who takes a hornless bull seriously? Those ones were, probably, not moved a bit, and nothing happened. This is Nigeria.
Following the 2016 Elzakzaky judgment, there were calls from some members of Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives and a number of local and international human rights bodies for obedience. In January 2017, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the defendants to be freed. But the prosecuting parties chose contempt and held on to the Islamic leader and his wife.
After the Abuja High Court episode, Elzakzaky was brought before Justice Kurada on May 15, 2018, on charges bordering on unlawful assembly and fueling public unrest, among others. Just to spice things up this time, the case had a new prosecutor – The Kaduna State Government. What followed were several court appearances, protests, bloody clashes, turned-down bail applications, more calls for the Islamic leader’s release and press releases by commissions and organizations. Again, Buhari was not moved, el-Rufai did not bulge, and then, nothing happened.
Eventually, Justice Kurada has chosen to take this a step forward by discharging and acquitting the Islamic leader and his wife. But, again, I ask, have we really seen the end of this?
The IMN, through Ibrahim Musa, its media forum president, have said it expected the authorities to respect the judgment of the ‘honourable’ court and the course of justice by releasing the sheikh and his wife with immediate effect.
Ordinarily, you do not have to hope a court order would be effected. But in our beloved country, you have to. You may have to fast and pray, too. We actually live in a cruise country where the rule of law is spending time in jail, and where government agencies chest, control and volley court orders just like a football striker.
I am not a prophet of doom, but, I won’t be surprised if we wake up tomorrow only to find out that the authorities have chosen to bless us with another episode of the Elzakzaky drama.
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