A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to release the leader Shi’a Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, within 45 days.
The Shiite leader was arrested by the military on December 14, 2015, after a clash between the movement and officers of the Nigerian army. According to reports, the army killed at least 347 members of the group.
In his judgement, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, ordered the DSS to provide an accommodation for El-Zakzaky, his wife and family members within Kaduna State or any part of the northern region.
The counsel to the Security agency, Tijjani Gazali, had argued that Mr. El-Zakzaky was kept in protective custody of the DSS.
However, Justice Kolawole declared that the continuous detention of El-Zakzaky since December 2015 was unlawful and illegal since the issue of protective custody was unknown to law or the National Security Agencies Act establishing the DSS.
“I have not been shown any incident report or any complaint lodged by residents around the neighbourhood that the applicant has become a nuisance to his neigbourhood,” said the judge.
“If the applicant dies in custody which I do not pray for, it could result in many needless deaths,” the judge said citing the death of former leader of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
He added that the DSS will pay a fine of N25 million each to Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife, making a cumulative of 50 million Naira as general damages.
The court further said EL-Zakzaky and his family must be released unconditionally to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) within 45 days. The IGP is also ordered to convey El-Zakzaky and his wife to the accommodation provided by the government.
Sheikh El-Zakzaky has been detained by the DSS since December last year, after members of the Shi’a movement clashed with the Nigerian Army along Kaduna Zaria road.
Months after his arrest, his lawyer, Femi Falana, said the court should declare that the continued detention of his client without charging him, was unlawful and violating his fundamental rights.
The DSS then released a statement in defence of accusations by the council to the leader of the Shiites saying that El-Zakzaky was being detained at his own will.
“He needs not give his consent because it is the duty of the DSS to protect every Nigerian especially one who is as vulnerable as the shite leader is at the moment,” Counsel to the DSS Mr Tijani Gazali said.