After 2,055 days in detention, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim Elzakzaky, regained freedom on Wednesday, after a High Court in Kaduna dismissed the homicide case against him and his wife, Zeenat Elzakzaky.
Mr Elzakzaki’s travail, which started in December 2015 has caused series of protests in Abuja and other places in the north.
Following clashes between the sect and the Nigerian Army, which according to reports resulted in the death of over 300 members of the IMN, including two sons of Mr Elzakzaky, he was arrested by the DSS and kept for two years without trial.
In the course of the detention, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had claimed that the government was spending N3.5 million monthly on feeding Mr Elzakzaky and his wife.
In 2018, the Kaduna State government filed 8 count charges against Mr Elzakzaky, including aiding and abetting culpable homicide punishable by death.
On Wednesday, Justice Gideon Kurada, had ruled that Mr Elzakzaky has no charges to answer.
However, his new found freedom could be short-lived as the Kaduna State government has filed fresh charges against him. The new charges border on terrorism and treasonable felony.
Daris Bayero, the Director of Kaduna State Public Prosecution, had said the fresh charges precedes the 2015 arrest, hence, the government will be asking the court to issue a fresh arrest warrant against the IMN leader.
According to Bayero, the new charges were filed on the 26th of July, 2 days before the court granted him bail and will be prosecuted in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Adding that, ” The terrorism case was filed based on the utterances of El-Zakzaky, under section 17 (A) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013.”
With section 17(a) cited by Mr Bayero, Elzakzaky risks life imprisonment if the government is able to convince the court.
Section 17 (a) reads, “Any person who conspires with another to commit an offence under this Act in Nigeria, or to commit a terrorist act in any place outside Nigeria being an act, which if done in Nigeria would have constituted an offence under this Act, shall be deemed to have conspired to do that act in Nigeria and is liable on conviction to –
“(a) life imprisonment where the act of terrorism is committed; and
“(b) an imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty years, where the act of conspiracy is committed.”
According to a legal expert, the IMN leader could be arrested if the facts presented by the prosecutor are different from the facts used in the homicide case.
Samson Itodo, a legal practitioner, said the government can indeed arrest him for other offences if new facts are presented to the Court.
“if the government—the fact that the judge ruled that there is no case submission and he is allowed to go—if the government has new reports, or fresh information bordering on terrorism and so on, they can still arrest him. The fact that he was set free on those previous charges, does not mean that fresh charges cannot be brought up against him, once the government has proof of that.
“Once there are fresh charges, you can’t be talking about human rights. If the charges are substantiated, he can still be rearrested, tried and sentenced.”
While the legal basis has been established, the current administration has a long history of using technicalities to disobey court rulings, by re-arresting a suspect with fresh charges after pronouncements by courts.
Sowore and DSS court storming saga
In 2019, the Department of State Security (DSS) agent had attempted to re-arrest Omoyele Sowore after the court had granted him bail in his Revolution Now trial. The Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had insisted that the DSS should release Sowore after the government had failed to comply with previous order.
Videos that emerged from the scene showed an ugly incident of gun bearing agents moving towards the court and subsequently, some persons trying to drag Mr Sowore.
Following the drama, Mr Sowore was later arrested by the DSS and not released till the 23rd of December, 2019.
Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser had a long-running battle with the federal government over the $2.1 billion arms procurement scandal.
While Dasuki was under house arrest, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered that the seized passport of the ex-NSA should be released to him, but the government flouted that order, and formerly arrested Mr Dasuki on the 1st of December 2015.
It would be recalled that on July 24th, a court of appeal in Abuja ruled that the continued detention of Dasuki is unlawful and unconstitutional.
The release of both Dasuki and Sowore followed the directive of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Before now, Mr Elzakzaky has seen several court rulings disobeyed by the government in the past couple of years.
In 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja had ruled that the detention of Elzakzaky was unlawful and illegal.
The court ruled that he should be released unconditionally and a sum of N50 million should be paid as compensation to the cleric.
According to reports, Mr Elzakzaky has been moved to Abuja and the courts are currently on vacation, which means the government will have to wait.