Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, popularly known as Shi’ites, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky has narrated his alleged ordeal and that of his wife while in the Department of State Services custody.
In an interview with Punch, the Shiite leader accused the Nigerian government of seizing his passport and not allowing him seek medical attention abroad even though he has fragments of a bullet scattered all over his body which are poisonous.
Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky said; Let me start by thanking journalists for being with us all through. They have undergone a lot of tribulations. And, in fact, one of them was killed in action in July 2019 in front of the federal secretariat. So, we thank them very much for standing by us. And when we came out I did not immediately give a chance to journalists to interact with us, because we were hoping that (after our release from detention) it would take only a little time for us to be allowed to go out (of the country) for medical attention. That was what we were hoping for, because we came out with health issues.
My wife and myself, we still have fragments of bullets in our body. My wife have a full bullet (lodged in her body) which they (doctors) have been unable to remove here (in Nigeria). They say they could not remove it; but experts from outside (the country) promise that they can do it. In addition to that, she has for the past five years, since July 2016, been chair-bounded; she can only walk using a wheelchair and she prays while sitting on a chair. And they know very well that she needs a knee replacement, which, of course, if done in this county it may take the patient about three months to be able to walk again. But elsewhere it may take less than a week.
Myself, I have fragments of a bullet scattered all over my body and these fragments are secreting poisonous substances – lead, cadmium and others. And with the recommendation of doctors here, including government doctors, I need what they call ‘Chelation therapy,’ which will remove the poisons. The fragments also have to be removed, which they (doctors here) say they cannot remove because they are very tiny and are moving around my body.
So, we were hoping at that time (we were released) that it would be a matter of weeks before we would be given the chance to go out for medical attention; but up till now, they (government) have not allowed us to do that. I have to apologise to you (journalists) for not giving you this chance at the very beginning.
On what led to his arrest and detention, he said; This is an occasion when we remember the Zaria massacre, which happened six years ago. It happened on December 12, 13 and 14, 2015 – three consecutive days. Soldiers in the Nigerian Army had cordoned off Zaria town, all the roads leading to the town; and they carried out systematic killing of people they considered unwanted. Whatever name they gave us at that time, they were said to be clearing people they called “Shi’ites”. In fact, in Gyallesu (my residence in Zaria), when they found someone they wanted to shoot, they would ask if he was a Shiíte and once the crowd said yes, they would just fire the person! And if the crowd said, “No!” they would allow the person to go. So, clearly, they were saying that they were destroying Shia once and for all.
On the 14th of the same month, they reached me and opened fire on us – myself and my family, instantly killing three of my sons in front of me, and injuring both my wife and me and some others who were with us. Luckily enough, for the wisdom of God, we don’t know why, but He so designed that my wife and I would survive the shootings that nobody could have survived at all! God is able to do anything He wishes.
On December 15, they brought us to Abuja, first to the military hospital, and later at 12am midnight, they changed hospital from military hospital to DSS (Department of State Services) hospital. And then, they (DSS) kept us in their custody for some years, and then they took us back to Kaduna (still in their custody); and finally, they took us to prison. And as you all know, at the end of the day, the court found us innocent, discharged and acquitted us in the same way three other different courts have discharged and acquitted so many others who were arraigned on the same or similar charges (as ours).
I find that up till today, they still say, “El-Zakzaky and his wife were arrested following a clash between his followers and the Nigerian Army when his people blocked the road on the day the Chief of Army Staff was passing.” This matter was taken to court, where they accused some people of blocking the road. They claimed we instigated the blockage. Based on the same allegation about 153 others were also arraigned before different courts. The charged included murder of a soldier.
But the first court, which gave its verdict sometime in July 2018, not only said that those arraigned before it (77 of them) did not commit the crime they were accused of. In fact, the court pronounced that no such crime was committed. This is very important. There was no blockage of road whatsoever and nobody killed anybody! The army cordoned off everywhere and killed everybody they could identify as Shia. Whatever you might be, because at a place we call Husseiniyyah (an Islamic centre) near Unity Bank, they thought that Shi’ites wear black clothes, and because the uniform of workers in that bank is black they shot all of them.
My house is situated about three kilometres away from the area where the said road was blocked. I don’t know whether my house also blocked the road against the Chief of Army Staff. They went and cordoned off the road and killed everybody they could find, including our neighbours. A lot of students in the Congo Campus of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria were also killed. Some students of the Federal College of Education, which is in our neighbourhood, were also killed; some of them are not even Muslims, so they killed everybody they could find.
And then, very importantly, the first court said the road was not blocked; nobody blocked any road. The second court gave similar verdict. And the third court, in fact, brought up part of my speech in its verdict. I had said, “If the soldiers come to attack us in our territory don’t block their way.” That was very clear and the judge even continued to mention this particularly. So, where was blockage of road here? Simple, they could not say why they attacked us; it was very clear that this was a premeditated attack in order to destroy all of us.
El-Zakzaky also disclosed that Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed was not lying when he said millions were budgeted for him and his wife’s welfare while in detention. He however stated that the money was allegedly diverted by the DSS as they took care of himself and his wife.
He said; Actually, we were not given the opportunity to tell the real story while we were in detention because the people who were detaining us made things difficult for us. The real truth is that all through our detention we fed ourselves. Since the time we reached Kaduna, after we were released, nobody gave us a single bottle of water! We were feeding ourselves. Even during our stay in Abuja, we were feeding ourselves. But this is something that cannot be disclosed because it was illegal. Legally, they were supposed to feed us. But they didn’t want anybody to hear that we were feeding ourselves. For the entire five years, seven months that we were in detention, we fed ourselves; nobody gave us a bottle of water!
We were even paying electricity and water bills, while in detention. We were paying also for the fuel to power the generator. We bought our own generator in Abuja, even when we were in detention and we were buying fuel to run it.
He was actually not lying. The DSS told him so. But what I learnt was that about N4m was taken out of the FIRS coffers for our feeding every month. But that money was going to their pocket; not a single kobo was given to or spent on us. It is true that they were taking the money out of the treasury but they did not spend it on our feeding. It is a lie that they were feeding us with this money!
He mentioned N3.5m; that was what they quoted him to have said. But from my own source, I learnt that it was N4m every month.