The Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the unconditional release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of Shiite sect in Nigeria, and his wife, Malama Zeatudden, from detention, within 45 days.
The court also ordered the Federal Government to provide a new accommodation for El-Zakzaky in Zaria or any northern town of his choice.
The court, presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, also awarded El-Zakzaky and his wife N50 million as general damages.
Shiite members had on Thursday at the National Assembly, protested against the detention of Zakzaky.
Kolawole, in his ruling, said no extant law within the country’s statutory legal frameworks and external ones subscribed to by the state had allowed anybody to be held against his or her wish.
El-Zakzaky had filed a fundamental right enforcement suit against the Federal Government challenging both him and his spouse detention.
The court therefore, held that the continued detention of the applicant without trial amounted to a gross violation of the constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
“I have studied the addresses of Femi Falana (SAN), counsel to the applicant and the counter argument advanced by Tijani Gazali counsel to the state.
The issues raised in the application were to me fundamental rights issues.
The fact, however, remains that the respondents have not denied they have not kept the applicant and wife in detention since December 15,’’ he said.
Kolawole further said that the defence of the respondents was not tenable in law, adding that the state had not justified why the applicant and his wife were held under protective custody.
According to him, neither the constitution nor the National Security Act allows a citizen to be in protective custody except on grounds of suspicious contagious disease.
“The respondents have not shown evidence to indicate that El-Zakzaky and his wife are plagued with such ailments that required them to be kept away from their community.
It is also clear from the counter affidavit that no such evidence as to complaints of threat on the life of the applicant and his family to warrant their protection.
The court has come to the conclusion that the applicant and his wife have been kept against their desires, thereby resulting in the breach of their rights to liberty.
This court refuse to accept that the applicant and his wife were under protective custody,’’ the Judge held.
The court ordered the construction of a new accommodation for El-Zakzaky’s family in any part of Kaduna State or any town so approved by the applicant within the Northern region.
Kolawole further ordered the Inspector-General of Police to deploy policemen to protect the shiite’s leader in his new home pending the diffusion of the acclaimed threat on his life.
“I have ordered the immediate release of the applicant and his wife because the family house in Zaria was destroyed between December 12 and December 14, 2015. I have given the 45 days as a reprieve for the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation in conjunction with the DSS to provide the new accommodation before their releases,’’ he said.
Speaking with newsmen after the proceedings, Festus Okoye, counsel to the Shiite’s leader, described the outcome of the suit as a victory for civil rule.
He said the development would go a long way to douse the tension the detention of El-Zakzaky’s had generated in members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
“We are, however, waiting for the government to without delay carry out the orders of the court, that way peace and stability would return to our Federation,’’ Okoye said.
On his part, Gazali said the judgment would be tested in superior courts, adding that some of the issues raised were not distilled by the trial court.