The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Ibrahim El-ZakZaky and his wife, Zeenat, Friday were arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) on arrival to Nigeria. El-Zakzaky and wife arrived in Nigeria through an Ethiopian Airlines at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja. Ibrahim Musa, IMN spokesperson confirmed that the Shiites cleric and his wife were taken away by the DSS operatives.
El-Zakzaky had rejected medical treatment in India, claiming the Nigerian government frustrated efforts to get his preferred doctors to attend to him and Zeenat. “All what we have seen here, have shown us that there is no trust, they just brought us here for another detention,” El-Zakzaky said while in India.
The Nigerian Government, however, denied El-Zakzaky’s claims. The permanent secretary at Nigeria’s information and culture ministry Grace Gekpe, in a statement on Wednesday, described the allegations as baseless. She accused the Shiites leader of seeking medical treatment abroad for “ulterior motives against laid down procedures”.
Huhuonline.com has learnt that El-Zakzaky was brought back to Nigeria to forestall a legal ambush after the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) made a determination that El-Zakzaky, had secured the services of some human rights lawyers in India to file a court case today to restrain the federal government from repatriating him and his wife back to Nigeria, where he faces an eight-count of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disturbance of public peace.
Authoritative Aso Rock sources confided to Huhuonline.com that the federal government moved fast to preempt the legal ambush as the sinister plot vindicated prior intelligence that El-Zakzaky’s insistence on foreign medical treatment was a decoy to flee Nigeria.
The decision to return the cleric to Nigeria contradicts claims by IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Musa’s, who said El-Zakzaky had decided to return to Nigeria following the refusal of Medanta Hospital in New Delhi to allow his chosen medical team to supervise his treatment. Musa also claimed El-Zakzaky felt insecure with the tight security around him in the hospital.
But presidential sources told Huhuonline.com that El-Zakzaky’s homecoming was at the instance of the Nigerian government, saying although the cleric and his wife travelled to India on Emirates Airlines on their own tickets, they arrived Abuja Friday afternoon on Ethiopian Airlines on first class tickets purchased by the government.
El-Zakzaky and his wife, who had been in detention since December, 2015, were flown to India for medical treatment on Monday, following last week’s order by the Kaduna State High Court, directing the State government and Department of State Services (DSS) to allow the cleric to travel abroad for medical treatment. The cleric, however, complained on Wednesday that he was not allowed access to his medical team that had recommended the Medanta Hospital to him, saying he would rather go to Malaysia, Indonesia or Turkey for treatment than be treated by doctors he did not trust. He also protested the tight security around him, saying the hospital was worse than prison detention in Nigeria.
However, one of the sources, who provided details of the drama that eventually culminated in the decision to bring back El-Zakzaky, explained that when the idea of going abroad for medical treatment was being negotiated between el-Zakzaky and the DSS, the IMN leader was specific about two things: the location, which he said had to be India, and the hospital.
He said while the DSS was disposed to obey the court order for him to go to the Medanta hospital, the NIA was reticent on El-Zakzaky’s preferred choice of hospital, preferring another hospital, where the intelligence agency could allow him all the latitude he needed, while monitoring him in a covert manner because of the relationship the NIA had with the hospital.
However, he further explained, since the court order was specific about the hospital to which he would be taken, based on his preference, the NIA had to make their own plans on how to monitor El-Zakzaky, given the foreign interests in his case. The source said the moment they arrived in India, El-Zakzaky and Zeenah became aggressive and started making demands, starting with their passports.
DSS sources told Huhuonline.com that El-Zakzaky and his wife travelled to India with “special passports.”
“Although El-Zakzaky’s passport obtained on January 29, 2015 is due to expire on 28 January, 2020, it is an old passport, while that of his wife, obtained January 8, 2014 expired in January this year. They did not go through any process and their data were not captured but we got both of them passports and Visa. How we did it, they didn’t know but the moment we arrived Delhi, the first thing they wanted was their passports,” the sources explained.
The federal government in a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Ms. Grace Gekpe, had accused El-Zakzaky of frustrating the Indian hospital authorities with his demands, disclosing that upon arrival, El-Zakzaky demanded to be checked into a five-star hotel and whenever they are ready, they would go to the hospital. His demands amounted to a breach of the terms of his court ordered medical leave.
“It was obvious he had malicious intent. He wanted to be treated like a visiting head of state rather than a man on medical bail. Some things became very clear in India. One, the energy with which he fought the security agencies and the clarity of his voice were unbelievable. His wife, who left home on wheelchair, also rose to her feet the moment they arrived Delhi. She was the most aggressive, always shouting on security agents that she called ‘murderers of my children.’
“She railed and shouted at them. ‘These are the people that killed my children, I don’t want to see you,’ she kept shouting.” The sources revealed that El-Zakzaky and Zeenah were not as sick as they pretended to be and that the hospital had told security agents that within a week, they would be fine based on the medical report sent prior to their arrival. “Matters came to a head when El-Zakzaky demanded to meet with his lawyers in India and the request was turned down. His plan was to embarrass and blackmail Nigeria internationally but he failed,” the sources noted.
But the IMN had a different narrative, insisting that El-Zakzaky was coming back on his own volition following his loss of confidence in the arrangements for his treatment. The IMN’s spokesman, Musa, claimed that the cleric was uncomfortable with the arrangement made for his treatment and accommodation in India and would prefer to return to Nigeria, in the absence of any alternative arrangement. Musa said the Indian Minister of Minority Affairs, Muktar Abbas Naqvi, who is also a Shiite Muslim, visited El-Zakzaky at the hospital, in a bid to “ease the difficulties he was facing.”
The IMN spokesman also discounted the claim by the federal government that El-Zakzaky demanded to be put in a five-star hotel, retain his international passport and was mixing up with unapproved visitors, saying government’s position was a blatant lie. “As at this morning, the Sheikh was saying it is either he has an alternative or he comes home because the Nigerian government officials have so far shattered all the arrangements so far made,” he said.
Musa explained el-Zakzaky’s concerns: “The Sheikh insisted that the doctors who had already examined him before should be allowed to have a say in his treatment. Initially, they agreed that his doctors should be part of the team and observe the treatment. But they later refused and the Sheikh said since they will not allow the doctors to observe the treatment, it is better he return home. The doctors are not working in the hospital, but the Sheikh has the right to ensure that his doctors are part of the team to treat him.
The group accused the Indian government of conniving with the federal government to bring new doctors other than those they had prior arrangement with to treat El-Zakzaky. Musa said the Indian minister of minority groups; himself a Shiite Muslim visited the cleric but could not resolve the issues of contention. On claims by the federal government that El-Zakzaky was frustrating the Indian hospital authorities by making demands that violated his bail conditions, Musa said it was just a blatant lie presented by the permanent secretary, ministry of information, as El-Zakzaky had already expressed his desire to return to Nigeria in a video message as the Indian hospital was not willing to allow them access to doctors they have trust in.
He said: “This is why we conclude that we cannot get the cooperation we expected from the hospital. We no longer have any trust in the hospital; so, a diplomatic staff from the Nigerian High Commission came here and we held talks for hours. It was during the discussion that I told him about what we need and that if we could not get a better place we had better return home. Moreover, we are aware that the Indian government sent an ultimatum that we have two hours to decide whether to accept treatment from the hospital or we leave the country but I told them that two hours ultimatum was too long.
He maintained: “I could decide in less than two minutes to leave the country now since the last discussion it is more than 24 hours and they are yet to show up and ask us to leave the country but the truth is so long as they will not treat us at a hospital we trust. We had better go to another country. It is possible to go to another country and be treated by doctors we have trust in.”
Meanwhile, Suhaila Zakzaky, a daughter of the cleric, expressed worries over the deteriorating health of her father, pointing out that unless urgent medical treatment was given to her father, he could die of lead poisoning. Suhaila, in an interview with the BBC, said the poisoning might be from shrapnel when her father was shot in 2015.
“I am really worried…especially because of the lead and cadmium poisoning. His doctors say if he gets to a certain level his organs could start failing and that’s really scary because that means he could just die at any moment,” she explained.