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Sheikh Zakzaky’s lawyers: Why Islamic Movement in Nigeria stayed away from Judicial Commission of Inquiry

Lawyers to the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, have attributed their absence at a Judicial Commission of Inquiry instituted by the Kaduna State government to the commission’s inability to facilitate access to their client.

In a statement Monday signed by Festus Okoye on behalf of Mr. El-Zakzaky’s legal team, the lawyers said the Kaduna State government had already made up its mind to frame charges of culpable homicide, rioting, unlawful assembly, possession of charms and unlawful restraint against 251 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai, in January, set up a judicial commission of inquiry to probe a violent clash between the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Nigerian army one month earlier.

The clash left hundreds of members of the shi’ite sect dead and many more injured, while over 250 were clamped in detention, including their leader, Mr. El-Zakzaky.

On Friday, the Commission submitted its findings to Mr. El-Rufai, without the Islamic group’s participation.

In their statement, Mr. Okoye said it was disingenuous for the Commission’s chairman, Mohammed Garba, to claim he was not aware of the reasons for their withdrawal from further participation in the commission’s proceedings.

On the 8th and 9th of March this year, according to Mr. Okoye, the lawyers met with the Inspector General of Police and Director General of the Department of State Services for authorization to enable Mr. El-Zakzaky attend proceedings.

By March 14, and with the lawyers still denied access to their client, the Commission issued a statement noting that the Islamic group “has been represented by Counsel and is satisfied that the said Counsel has been properly briefed by the IMN to appear before us,” Mr. Okoye said.

The statement also said the Commission showed its “complete lack of power” to compel the DSS and police to facilitate access to Mr. El-Zakzaky, adding that it would have been “an exercise in futility” to participate in the proceedings.

“The Commission never extended invitation to the over 251 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria that are detained in the Kaduna Prison awaiting trial to testify before the Commission,” the statement said.

“These are the direct victims of the incident and over 50 of them are still carrying bullets and bullet wounds in their body and a number of them have died in detention as a result of injuries sustained by them during the clash.”

The statement further noted that the legal team did not have the locus to give evidence on behalf of a client it did not have access to.

“The Legal Team of the Islamic Movement (IMN) on the instructions of the Leader of the Islamic Movement has since activated other constitutional and legal avenues of redress and will continue to use the instrumentality of the law to see that justice is done and that due process and the rule of law continues to be the guiding principle of our democracy.”

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