The twists and turns that characterised the trip of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, to India for medical attention ended yesterday as he rejected being treated in the Asian country.
Instead, El-Zakzaky opted to return to Nigeria where a Kaduna State High Court granted his order to seek treatment in India. El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah were allowed to travel to India for medical treatment following the order of the High Court. El-Zakzaky confirmed yesterday that he had resolved to return to Nigeria because of the way the federal government manipulated and mismanaged the medical trip in its favour.
It was further gathered that ElZazaky departed New Delhi in a commercial airline at 5pm Nigerian time yesterday. In a message sent through his office, the IMN leader said that he had decided to return to the country.
A top member of the Islamic Human Right Commission (IHRC) which negotiated the medical treatment in India said that the Nigerian government’s interference and scuttling of the whole process rather than supervision as ordered by the court was the direct cause of the impasse.
When he arrived in India on Wednesday, El-Zakzaky complained that he was still under heavy security watch and denied access to his preferred doctors. In a swift reaction, the federal government in a statement signed by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Information, Grace Gekpe, had countered him, saying that the IMN leader wanted freedom to receive visitors in a five-star hotel.
But yesterday, El-Zakzaky said in a video that he was on his way back to the country because of the disagreements he had with the doctors and the Nigerian government. The development came barely three days after he embarked on the Indian medical trip.
His account of the events leading to his return trip contradicted earlier reports that he rejected being treated in India and demanded that he be returned to Nigeria. His daughter, Suhaila Ibraheem, also confirmed that her father was returning to Nigeria.
Suhaila transcribed the Hausa version of her father’s speech and translated it into English. In the video which LEADERSHIP Friday obtained last night, El-Zakzaky said that federal government officials informed him of the home-bound journey.
She said: “You have already heard the messages regarding the ultimatum we were given of either we agree to be treated here on their terms or return home. So a bit earlier they came here and informed us that they have decided to take us back to Nigeria.
“And now it is almost 10pm (around 9:30) and they have said they will come at 11:30 to take us to the airport in order to take us back to Abuja, this is what they have decided,” ElZakzaky stated in the video.
She continued: “And they have sent government representatives here to inform us of that. So now insha Allah (by the grace of God) we will embark on the journey back home. “We hope this will be for the best,” Suhaila said.
His media office said yesterday that “Sheikh El-Zakzaky is returning to Nigeria from India. 22:00 hours Delhi, 17:00 hours in Abuja Nigeria.” The timing was posted on a Twitter handle, @SZakzakyOffice. The federal government did not comment on the latest development at the time of filing this report last light.
Several senior government officials contacted on the incident declined to speak. Instead, they referred our correspondents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also kept silence on the matter. Following yesterday’s impasse, IMN last night alleged that the government’s interference scuttled the entire process.
IMN claimed that the government never wanted the medical leave in the first place, and did whatever it could to frustrate it.
It said: “The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is completely not happy with the latest development, and we strongly believe any peace-loving person in Nigeria feels the same.”
In the statement issued by the president, Media Forum of the IMN, Ibrahim Musa, he said: “The government left no one in doubt that it never wanted the Sheikh to go for the medical treatment in the first place. They opposed the application in court.
When the order went against them, they indicated their desire to appeal against it. When that wasn’t going to stop the journey, they attempted to prevent it via introduction of stringent conditions that were not put in place by the court.
“Having failed to stop using all these methods, they exploited the clear direction to ‘supervise’ and went ahead to obstruct the medical treatment in New Delhi, India. Why would the Sheikh trust a government that killed thousands of his supporters including his sons, shot him and his wife and further exposed them to heavy metal poisoning?
“As we await his arrival, we pray to Almighty Allah to continue to protect him from the enemies of peace, who were behind the Zaria genocide of December 2015 and the subsequent extreme persecution and torture he is being subjected to,” Musa said.
El-Zakzaky had refused treatment from those he called “unknown doctors” put together to treat him in India. He insisted that he wanted to be treated by the doctors booked to treat him before he and his wife left Nigeria.
The federal government, however, accused him of unruly behaviour in India. This followed claims by IMN members that their leader was being treated like a criminal under heavy security surveillance in India.
They also alleged that El-Zakzaky, who was flown to Medenta Hospital in New Delhi alongside his wife, Zenaat, was being caged and not allowed any form of freedom. But the government described the allegations as “foul cry”, stressing that the claims that the IMN leader was held in circumstances worse than he was in Nigeria should be disregarded.
The government maintained that El-Zakzaky was allowed to embark on the trip with state officials in line with a court order, while his choice to be accompanied by his aides and personal doctors was not opposed.
The government added that the IMN leader chose the hospital where he was admitted in India, but he began to display “ulterior motives” against laid down procedures. Gekpe, who spoke for the federal government, added that El-Zakzaky requested that his passport be handed over to him and declined to subject himself to preliminary medical checks.
She accused him of frustrating the Indian authorities which said it would return him to Nigeria with immediate effect.
The government commended the position of the country and apologised to Indian authorities, noting that ElZakzaky’s prosecution would continue when he returns to Nigeria.
El-Zakzaky has been in “protective” custody of the state since 2015 when his members clashed with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai. IMN had claimed that over 1,000 of its members were killed during the clash but the official figure was put at 300. The victims were given mass burial.
Since then, IMN has been pushing for the unconditional release of their leader by the government with his followers resorting to deadly protests in Abuja where an assistant commissioner of police, a youth corps member serving with Channels Television were killed during a violent demonstration by the group.
According to Gekpe, “the court on 5th August, 2019 granted ElZakzaky leave to travel to India for medical treatment. Consequently, the government and its relevant agencies took steps to comply with the order.
“In line with the court order, ElZakzaky was approved to embark on the trip with state officials and his choice to be accompanied by his aides and personal doctors was not opposed by the government. “On 12th August, 2019, he and other members of the entourage went to India via Dubai. It is to be noted that El-Zakzaky particularly chose Medanta Hospital, India.
However, on arrival Dubai, El-Zakzaky began to display ulterior motives against laid down procedures. “He requested that his passport be handed over to him but the state officials would not budge to his pressure.
The situation became worse in India as he refused to subject himself to preliminary medical checks. “In addition, he demanded free movement and access to visitors of all kinds as well as requested to be allowed to check into a five-star hotel instead of being admitted in the hospital.
The request was refused on the ground that he came into the country for medicals and not as a tourist (more so that his Visa was issued on medical grounds and not for tourism).
He also demanded that Police protection be withdrawn from him by the Indian authorities. “Against medical ethics and standard practice, he requested to nominate doctors of his choice to join the ones tasked by Medanta Hospital to perform medical treatment on him and his wife.
This created a stalemate, which the Hospital insisted that he would not dictate to it on the choice of medical personnel to carry the required medical treatment.
“Frustrated by his antics, the Indian authorities have expressed willingness to return him to Nigeria with immediate effect. This is on the account that they will not allow him use their country to internationalise his group’s activities,” she said.
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