Federal Government may bar the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, from other overseas treatment.
Following reports of IMN leader’s alleged moves to internationalise his agitations and unruly behaviour in India, it was learnt that Federal Government might take into account security reports it already had on the IMN leader which indicated he planned to consolidate foreign support for his group.
Top security officials confirmed that El-Zakzaky’s attitude and activities during his visit to India only confirmed intelligence reports the government already had on the embattled Shiite leader.
A top intelligence officer told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Friday that the Shiite leader might not have another opportunity of travelling overseas for medical treatment.
“I can tell you that it is very unlikely Federal Government would allow him to travel abroad for treatment again. With what he has done confirming some of the security reports we had on him already, the government is not likely to allow him to travel abroad again, even if the court rules otherwise,” the source said.
The source added, “The government has always insisted that he (El-Zakzaky) could be treated within the country. Now that his activities in India, including how he planned to meet his lawyers, had been revealed, I bet the government won’t take a second bet on him.
“At least, the government will consider security reports before taking any decision, even with any court ruling.”
This is as Federal Government on Friday raised the alarm about plans by El-Zakzaky to seek asylum outside the country and eventually relocate to another country.
The government specifically said his actions in India demonstrated malicious intents capable of embarrassing the Nigerian and Indian governments.
A statement issued in Abuja by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Gekpe, entitled, ‘The repatriation of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky from India’, said the wife of the IMN leader also antagonised Indian and Nigerian security agents and accused security agencies of killing her children to win international sympathy as well as disparage the Nigerian government.
The statement read, “The Federal Government wishes to inform the public about the latest development in the Ibraheem El-Zakzaky medical trip controversies to India. The government notes with dismay the acts of misconduct exhibited by El-Zakzaky that necessitated his repatriation.
“The earlier statement of August 14, 2019, by the government addressed the issues that would have raised some questions with the latest occurrences and particularly the uncelebrated return of El-Zakzaky from India.
“The public may note that El-Zakzaky’s actions in India demonstrated malicious intents capable of embarrassing the governments of Nigeria and India.
“With total disrespect and complete loss of decorum for international procedures while in India, he initiated contacts with a team of lawyers led by Ali Zia Kabir Chaudary and Gunjan Singh in that country.
“He also contacted some non-governmental organisations such as Islamic Human Rights Commission and other Shiite groups. His aim was to seek asylum and eventually relocate to another country.
“It is important to note that if an Indian court had granted El-Zakzaky asylum or leave to travel to another country, it would have violated the Nigerian court order that granted him permission to travel for medical treatment.
“However, he used the opportunity of being in India to attempt to internationalise his cause by mobilising the rights groups. Even most unfortunate and rather embarrassing, as earlier stated, was his quest to be relocated to a five-star hotel to receive visitors instead of being admitted to the hospital as a sick person he claimed to be.
“In spite of his misconduct, El-Zakzaky’s spouse went further to antagonise Indian and Nigerian security agents and accuse the latter of killing her children. These acts were aimed at winning international sympathy as well as disparaging the Nigerian government.
“Having subordinated the quest for medical treatment to other ulterior motives, it became obvious that El-Zakzaky was focused on realising some sinister motives, thus the decision to return him to Nigeria.”
However, President, Media Forum of IMN, Mr Ibrahim Musa, denied that El-Zakzaky sought to seek asylum in India, accusing President Muhammadu Buhari administration of deceit.
Reacting to Federal Government’s comments, Musa said: “It’s absolutely not true. This government cannot be believed in what it is saying against El-Zakzaky and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria because of the many lies it has told the public in the past four years.
“Let me give you some few examples: The Federal Government claimed El-Zakzaky’s men wanted to assassinate (Chief of Army Staff, Tukur) Buratai. But they later changed the story.
“The government claimed it killed only seven Shiites in Zaria, but it turned out they buried at least 354 and put them in a mass grave in Mando, Kaduna State.
“It claimed El-Zakzaky was not under arrest but under protective custody and that his wife could leave anytime, but the same government has disobeyed court orders to release him.
“It claimed IMN attacked Nigerian Army in Abuja, but the New York Times video report showed how the Presidential Brigade ambushed and massacred unarmed IMN protesters with battlefield weapons.
“So this administration has lost any integrity such that it can’t be telling the truth now.”
How DSS whisked cleric away from the airport to custody
Meanwhile, El-Zakzaky landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from India, where his planned medical treatment was aborted.
He arrived via Ethiopian Airlines flight ET911 around 12.05 pm on Friday. He was immediately arrested and driven away by operatives of Department of State Services.
IMN spokesperson, Musa, confirmed this development to one of our correspondents.
The sect leader, who left for the Medenta Hospital at New Delhi, India, for medical attention, alongside his wife, Zeenat, on Monday, was allegedly forced to abort his treatment following the alleged refusal of the hospital management to allow his preferred doctors to treat him.
The religious leader in a video released on Thursday said he was given the option of having his treatment at the hospital or returning to Nigeria, saying that he was still discussing with his wife when unnamed officials returned to tell him to prepare for home.
Prior to his landing at Abuja airport on Friday, one of our correspondents noticed as security checkpoints increased on Abuja roads and the airport, especially on roads leading to NAIA.
Journalists who gathered at the arrival terminal of the international wing of the airport were not able to capture the cleric, as sources at NAIA confirmed that he was smuggled out of the facility through a different exit.
Before his flight touched down in Abuja, armed security operatives were deployed in large numbers to the airport.
Govt, Indian hospital wanted to kill cleric – Shiites movement
Following El-Zakzaky’s return to the country, IMN has blamed the Federal Government and the Medenta Hospital in India for the Shiite leader’s aborted treatment, alleging that they planned to kill him.
IMN spokesperson, Musa, in a statement on Friday, said the interference of the Federal Government raised suspicions that it was planning to kill the Sheikh in India using international connections.
Musa said, “He (El-Zakzaky) insisted that if he would not be allowed to see the doctors who brought him to India, he would rather return to Nigeria and seek another destination for his treatment.
“This became clear because of the government’s stance insisting on other doctors other than the ones that he was in India to meet. They finally decided to bring him back for refusing to succumb to be treated by their chosen doctors.”
The Shiite group also condemned DSS for not permitting the cleric to speak to journalists at the airport, demanding the secret police to disclose where the Shiite leader was being kept.
Musa stated that El-Zakzaky and his wife were not allowed to rest after enduring 11 hours flight to New Delhi from Abuja, noting that they were “forcibly treated” by the hospital.
He said, “The hospital compromised its independence and medical ethics, treating without obtaining the consent of the patients. The health workers were furthermore interested in taking selfies with the Sheikh and posting on social media, thereby violating their privacy.
“When the Sheikh noticed some physical assault, in addition to the background circumstances, he lost complete confidence in the hospital and demanded to see his own doctors for a substitute arrangement.”
The IMN spokesman also alleged that Federal Government presented El-Zakzaky to the Indian government as a “dangerous suspect” with an unknown ailment and demanded stringent security around him.
Speaking further, Musa said El-Zakzaky never refused treatment while in India, alleging that Federal Government had an ulterior motive it was nursing using its connections in India when it violated the court order and interfered with the procedures for the Sheikh’s treatment.
He said, “We vehemently condemn the way security agents whisked him away upon arrival without allowing the multitude of journalists who had been waiting for him for hours to have a chat with him.
“We urge the security agency holding him hostage to declare to the public where they are keeping him in the country.
“It is a well-known fact that Nigerian authorities had tried all their antics to see that the Sheikh wasn’t given medical leave.
“Distrustful of the Nigerian government’s offer of a jet to take him to the destination, having survived its attempts to poison and kill him while in detention, our leader declined the offer and chose to pay for his trip through Emirates Airline.
“Their ordeal started right here in Nigeria when they were scheduled to board the plane to Dubai. After a two hours’ drive from Kaduna to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja, they were not given enough time to rest before boarding the plane.
“They endured an eight-hour flight to Dubai and another three-hour flight to New Delhi. Under normal circumstances, as patients suffering life-threatening ailments, they shouldn’t have been subjected to such exhaustion.
“Nonetheless, our leader and his wife endured the journey, hoping that they would get good treatment when they reached New Delhi.”
IMN spokesperson said the group would continue with its struggle to ensure that the Shiite leader got the medical treatment he deserved as ordered by Kaduna High Court.
Allegations against us baseless – US
Meanwhile, United States has dismissed allegations by IMN that it connived with Federal Government to frustrate El-Zakzaky’s treatment in India, describing it as baseless.
The US Mission, in response to inquiries by one of our correspondents, said the right to exercise one’s freedom of thought, conscience, and religion was a universal human right and bedrock of American principle.
“Embassy of the United States to Nigeria has no comment on these baseless allegations. We will state that promoting, protecting, and advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms continue to be a top priority for the United States,” it said.
Provide facility for El-Zakzaky’s treatment, Falana tells FG
Meanwhile, lawyer to El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, Mr. Femi Falana, on Friday called the Federal Government to immediately provide adequate medical facility for the treatment of the couple in Nigeria.
Falana said this while responding to an inquiry if he would file a fresh application for leader of the IMN in Nigeria and his wife to be re-flown abroad for treatment.
He said he found it “disturbing that the planned medical treatment of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife in India was aborted and that they have since returned to Nigeria”.
He said the whole episode showed that Federal Government was not prepared to allow the couple to seek medical treatment abroad.
Falana said, “However, in view of their critical health conditions, the El-Zakzakys and the Federal Government should urgently reach an understanding to facilitate their medical treatment in Nigeria.
“In other words, since the Federal Government is apparently not prepared to allow the couple to seek medical treatment abroad for fear that they may seek political asylum, the authorities should provide adequate medical equipment for their treatment in Nigeria without any further delay.”
He said the “unfortunate episode” had embarrassed the Federal Government and “that Nigeria has become a laughing stock to the extent that her leaders and citizens (who have the financial wherewithal) have to travel abroad for medical treatment”.
He added, “For goodness sake in what way was the Indian Government offended by the insistence of the El-Zakzakys to be treated by doctors of their choice?”