We are constrained to address this press conference to correct impressions, misrepresentations, distortions and misunderstanding relating to our role in representing the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Islamic Movement in Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government. We also consider it imperative to put issues in their proper context and perspective and allow the Nigerian people to be the sole determinants of the issues in contention. This we consider as imperative considering insinuations and misrepresentations of our position relating to our appearance for the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Zaria between the 12th and 14th December 2015
It is now a matter of common knowledge that between Saturday 12th and Monday 14th December 2015 there were clashes between the Nigerian Military and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. This resulted in deaths, maiming, and destruction of properties of the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. Between the 12th and 14th day of December 2016, the Nigerian Military laid siege in the house of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. He and his wife Zeenat were shot severally and they sustained severe and life threatening injuries. Subsequently, the Nigerian Army informed the Nigerian public that they took both of them into custody. The Nigerian Army later informed the Nigerian people that the leader of the Islamic Movement and the wife have been handed over to the Nigerian Police Force.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Presumably, as a result of the events that took place in Zaria between the 12th and 14th December 2015, the Kaduna State Government inaugurated a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the 29th day of January 2016 with 13 terms of reference and headed by a Justice of the Court of Appeal.
Our Appearance before the Judicial Commission
On the 2nd day of February 2016, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry established by the Kaduna State Government informed the Islamic Movement in Nigeria that it would hold its Public Sitting on Monday, 22nd February, 2016. The Commission invited the Islamic Movement in Nigeria to submit written Memorandum/da(both in soft and hard copies) on the terms of reference given to the Commission. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria received the said letter on the 5th day of February 2016.
On the 8th day of February 2016 the letter was referred to the Legal Team of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and we wrote to the Inspector General of Police intimating him of the fact that “the Islamic Movement in Nigeria is insisting that it must get the express permission and authorization of its leader Sheik Ibrahim Zak Zaky before it will take a decision on whether to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry. This is in view of the fact that Sheik Ibrahim Zak Zaky is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. He is also the spokesperson of the Movement as well as the custodian of its properties.”
In the said letter we also informed the Inspector General of Police that “considering the magnitude of the events that took place in Zaria between the 12th and 14th day of December 2016 and the subsequent events in Kaduna State, the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria are of the firm view that their team of lawyers must see their leader and get instructions and proper briefings from him before the period for the submission of Memorandum elapses”
On the 8th day of February 2016 we met with the Inspector General of Police and on the 8th and 9th day of February 2016 we met with the Director General of the Department of State Services that were said to have custody of the leader of the Islamic Movement and his wife Zeenat. The meeting did not produce results and the Legal team could not see the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
On the 11th day of February 2016 we wrote to the Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and averred that “The lead counsel to Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Femi Falana, SAN and all the counsel engaged for the purpose of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry regret to inform you that we are not in a position to submit memorandum/da on behalf of the leader of the Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. This is predicated on the fact that we have no access to and have been denied access to the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria who is the leader of the Movement as well as its spokesperson and custodian of its properties. We applied to see the leader of the Movement and made frantic efforts to be allowed access to him to no avail. Find attached to this letter request to the Inspector General of Police in that regard. We are therefore unable to submit any form of Memorandum/da on behalf of the leader of the Movement and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria”.
On the 19th day of February 2016 we again met with the Director General of the Department of State Services. It was agreed that we will see the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria on Wednesday the 24th day of February 2016. We kept the appointment and did not see the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. On the same 24th day of February 2016, a member of the Legal Team, Maxwell Kyon Esq appeared before the Judicial Commission and clearly stated that the legal team appeared out of respect to the Commission considering the fact that we are yet to meet with and conference with the leader of the Movement and cannot in the circumstances provide meaningful representation and or put up any meaningful appearance. It was on the basis of this that the judicial commission adjourned and instructed Counsel to the Commission to assist in facilitating access to the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and adjourned to Monday the 29th day of February for report on the said facilitation and visit. On the 29th day of February 2016 Maxwell Kyon appeared before the Commission and informed the Commission that nobody has seen the leader of the Movement and that the facilitation has not yielded any positive result.
On the 9th day of March 2016 Festus Okoye and Maxwell Kyon appeared before the Commission and gave a detailed exposition of the efforts that the Legal Team made and continues to make to be granted access to the leader of the Islamic Movement. It was on the basis of this that the Commission directed that Counsel to the Commission should liaise with the Attorney general of the Federation and the Attorney General of Kaduna State to facilitate access to the leader of the Movement.
On the 7th day of March, 2016 the Commission wrote to the Attorney General of the Federation and that of Kaduna State. The Commission served copies of the said letters on the Legal Team on the 8thn day of March 2016. In paragraph 3 and 4 of the said letter the Commission stated that the Attorney General of the Federation may “wish to note however, that the other principal party, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria(IMN) has not submitted any, on the ground that the Counsel to the IMN Messers Femi Falana Sam and Festus Okoye Esq alleged that the Department of State Services(DSS) that is holding the leader of the IMN, Mallam Ibrahim Yakubu El-Zakzaky inspite of several efforts, denied them access to the leader hence, their inability to prepare and submit any Memorandum to the Commission. This position was reiterated at the Commission’s proceedings of Monday, 7th March, 2016”. In paragraphs 4 of the said letter, the Secretary to the Commission stated that “Also the Senior Counsel to the Commission Yusuf Ali SAN applied to the Commission that the hon. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice be kindly requested to collaborate and facilitate the accessibility of the team of Lawyers representing the IMN and the Commission to see the detained leader of the IMN between now and Friday 11th March, 2016. Also the Learned Counsel to the Commission has been mandated to report back at the next sitting of the Commission scheduled for Monday, 14th March, 2016”.
The Events of the 14th March 2016
On the 14th day of March 2016 the Counsel to the Commission reported that they had written to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Kaduna State but they had difficulties in getting the Attorney General to act on the said letter.
Unfortunately, the Secretary to the Commission Dr Bala Babaji issued a Press Statement after the Commissions sitting on March 14, 2016 and stated that the Commission has taken the following decisions. “The Commission notes that IMN has been represented by Counsel and is satisfied that the said Counsel has been properly briefed by the IMN to appear before us. The Commission has strived hard to afford all parties to be fairly represented and treated with justice and fairness in all its deliberations. The Commission intends to proceed with its deliberations on Monday, March 21, 2016 by taking the Memorandum submitted by the Army. The Commission will furthermore issue to the public its schedule of appearances and presentations in due course. Counsel to the IMN are to submit their memorandum no later than March 21, 2016”.
From the inception of the Commission, we made it clear that we appeared out of respect to the Commission. We also made it clear that Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria as well as its spokesperson and custodian of its properties. We therefore consider it out of place for the Commission to turn around and claim that it is satisfied that the team of lawyers has been properly briefed by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. What the Commission has done and seeks to do is to graft the team of lawyers to a brief in which they are yet to have any form of briefing from the leader of the Islamic Movement and his wife that have been in the custody of the security agencies since the 14thn day of December 2105. We believe it is unethical and professional wrong to pretend to be representing a client and the wife that have been held by the government and have not been seen in public.
The Commission is aware and the Nigerian people are aware and our jurisprudence is clear that any person detained on suspicion of having committed a criminal offence is presumed innocent and such a person shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time and if he is not tried within a period of two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail he shall (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date. This fundamental constitutional right has been denied the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and his wife. No explanation has been offered for this fundamental constitutional breach.
Moreover, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has fundamental issues with some members of the Judicial Commission and believes that their membership of the Commission is in furtherance of a pre determined agenda to ban, decimate and or emasculate the Movement. Some members of the Commission hold very strong public views against the Movement and their views are in the public domain. It will therefore amount to wishful thinking to expect a member that has canvassed the banning of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the closure of its schools to become a changed lover of the policies and programs of the Movement on mere membership of the Commission. These members accepted to serve because they have scores to settle with the Movement. The expectation is that these members ought to on their own decline their membership of the Commission.
It is also our firm view that justice is rooted in confidence and it is incongruous for us to continue to appear before the Commission that was fully aware that we have been denied access to the leader of the Movement and still went ahead to command that we should file a Memorandum and continue to appear before them whether we have access to the leader of the Movement or not.
We cannot in good conscience continue to represent a client whose whereabouts is shrouded in secrecy and in mystery. We cannot in good conscience continue to pretend to represent a client that we are not sure of his state of health considering the fact that he was shot severally by the Nigerian Military before he was taken away. We cannot in good conscience continue to represent a client that we are not aware whether he is alive or dead.
Furthermore, it is self evident that clause g and h in the Commissions terms of reference of the Commission are self serving and has nothing to do with the overall intendment of the Commission. The determination of the evolution of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, its legal status, organization, structure, membership, growth, assets, resources, culture and practices have nothing to do with the events that took place in Zaria between the 12th and 14th of December 2016. The Kaduna State Government should also go ahead to determine the legal status and evolution of the Nigerian military. Those that set up the Commission are aware that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) guarantees freedom of association and no government is permitted abridge the said rights. We believe that the said clause was inserted in a desperate move to find justification for the banning of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
1. The Legal Team of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria will not be used and will not allow itself to be used to legitimize a pre determined position and agenda against the Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
2. The Legal Team thought it could lend its support to the Movement to tell the Nigerian public and the international community its own version of the events of the 12th to 14th of December 2015 but all efforts aimed at getting proper briefing from the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria met a brick wall.
3. The Legal Team has resolved that in the light of the realities of lack of access, briefing and representation for the Movement, the most honorable thing to do is to withdraw completely from appearance before the Commission in whatever form and manner and to cease any form of representation in whatever form or manner for the Movement.
4. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria believes that the Nigerian people are entitled to know the truth of what happened in Zaria and Kaduna and will explore alternative means and avenues of letting the Nigerian people know the truth of what happened.
FESTUS OKOYE ESQ
MAXWELL KYON ESQ.
HARUNA MAGASHI ESQ.