Members of the house of representatives have asked the federal government to obey the court orders directing the release of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
At plenary on Wednesday, the lawmakers said IMN members who have been protesting their leader’s continued detention could wreak more havoc.
El-Zakzaky was arrested after the group better known as Shi’ites clashed with a convoy of the chief of army staff in Kaduna state in 2015.
Different courts have granted him bail but the government has insisted on detaining him thereby agitating his followers who invaded the National Assembly Complex on Tuesday to protest the release of their leader.
The protesters clashed with security operatives while trying to gain access to the parliament. Two police officers were shot while several cars were damaged during the clash.
At plenary on Wednesday, Ndudi Elumelu, minority leader, introduced a motion calling on his colleagues to probe the matter and ensure adequate security measures are in place at the legislative chamber.
While some of his colleagues agreed with the need for improved security, others emphasised that they should instead address “the root cause” of the protests which they identified as the continued detention of el-Zakzaky.
They argued that the circumstances surrounding the matter are similar to what led to the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgent group.
Onofiok Luke from Akwa Ibom said it is unfortunate that while the lawmakers are empowered to make laws, the federal government is going against the rule of law in disobedience to the court orders ordering the release of the IMN leader.
“If the court has given an order for the release of the man, we should call on the government to release him. The discourse should not be on the invasion of the national assembly alone,” he said.
Bamidele Salam from Osun state said El-Zakzaky’s continued detention is injustice and “injustice to one is injustice to all.”
“I want to urge the federal government to look into the matter of the leader of this movement and allow the rule of law to take its course … to ensure that Boko Haram is not replicated in Shiites movement,” he said.
“If we are able to secure the national assembly, what happens to the man and woman in the market elsewhere?“
Simon Davou from Plateau state said rather than detain el-Zakzaky against court orders, the government should release him “and ensure surveillance, with enough security operatives to monitor his activities.”
Lai Mohammed, former minister of information, had in defence of the Islamic leader’s continued detention said last year, that no one wants to accept him as a neighbour.
“The court ruled that he will be released after his house has been rebuilt. Nobody wants to accept El-Zakzaky as a neighbor,” he had said during a Channels TV programme. So we have been able to build a house, where do we release him to?”