IHRC notes today’s pardon by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari of 2500 prisoners nationwide in a bid to reduce overcrowding in the country’s prisons in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the pardon includes prisoners aged over 60 and those suffering from ill-health likely to lead to death, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Mallima Zeenah are not among those being freed.
The pair continue to be held despite a 2016 federal high court ruling that their detention is unlawful and unconstitutional. To this date the Nigerian authorities have failed to implement the court order to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation.
Instead, perversely, the state authorities in Kaduna decided in 2018 to prosecute the couple and recently transferred them from effective house arrest by the Nigerian state security service, the DSS, to Kaduna State Prison despite the obvious risks that this poses for their physical and psychological wellbeing, especially in the current Coronavirus climate.
The failure of Buhari to release the pair is all the more perverse in view of the fact that the Zakzaky have spent over four years in custody without any court proving any of the charges levelled against them.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “While we welcome this humanitarian move by President Buhari, we cannot help but note the inconsistency in freeing convicted felons but continuing to detain the Zakzakys who are in custody for purely political reasons and not guilty of any crimes.
We urge him to reconsider his decision as a matter of urgency given the emergency situation prevailing in the country”.