The spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a group propagating the Shi’ite ideology in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, is currently in police custody, being guarded as he received treatment at an undisclosed medical facility, the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, has said.
A clash between members of the sect and the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, on December 12 and 13 in Zaria left a yet unknown number of sect members, including the sect’s second-in-command, Muhammad Turi, dead.
The Chief of Army Staff earlier disclosed that the Shi’ite leader and other suspects arrested during the clash were handed over to relevant authorities for prosecution.
He however did not specifically disclose the “relevant authority” detaining Mr. El-Zakzaky, and followers.
Reports say Mr. Arase disclosed to members of the special committee of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) who met him in his office yesterday (Monday) that Mr. El-Zakzaky was currently under police custody.
The NSCIA had last week raised a seven-man committee, with Daud Naibi as chairman and Ishaq Oloyede, Muzammil Hanga, Abubakar Tsav, Ibrahim Suleiman, Yusuf Ali, Abubakar Siddique and Is-haq Oloyede as members.
The committee was mandated to meet all parties involved in the clash and report to the council.
During the meeting with Mr. Arase and all the Deputy Inspectors General of Police, Assistant Inspectors General of Police and Commissioners of Police at the force headquarters in Abuja, the NSCIA delegation sought to know the whereabouts of the Shiite leader.
Mr. Arase, was reported to have admitted that Mr. Elzakzaky was in police custody receiving treatment, but could not yet grant anyone access to him until his health improves.
The police chief reportedly assured the delegation that Mr. El-Zakzaky was doing well and not under any life-threatening condition.
Arase was also quoted as saying that after Mr. El-Zakzaky’s recuperation, he would have to seek “orders from the above” before allowing the NSCIA delegation access to the sect leader.
Mr. Arase reports directly to President Muhammadu Buhari, and at times through the the National Security Adviser.
Apart from seeking to be allowed access to Mr. El-Zakzaky, the NSCIA delegation had requested Mr. Arase to allow the bodies of those killed in the clash to be released to their families for burial.
The delegation also demanded to know the exact number of those killed and injured in the clash and wanted access to the injured.
In his response, the police inspector-general promised he would revert to the NSCIA after seeking permission on the best response to the delegation’s requests.
The Nigerian troops had laid siege on the Shiite enclave on December 12 and 13, arresting Mr. El-Zakzaky, his wife, and an unspecified number of his followers.
The sect’s headquarters as well as its leader’s residence were flattened .
Although the Nigerian government is yet to react to the killings, the Nigerian Army claimed Mr. Buratai narrowly escaped death after the sect members attacked his motorcade and attempted to deny him passage.
The group’s spokesman, who earlier blamed the army for the killings, was also killed hours after releasing the statement.
The killings attracted local and global attention, with Iranian authorities reportedly summoning their ambassador for debriefing.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs also urged the Nigerian government to investigate the Zaria killings.
The Secretary General of the NSCIA, Is-haq Oloyede, last week said the Muslim leaders decided to come together “to express their concern about what is happening in Zaria and call for restraint on the part of all stakeholders in the interest of peace and security of Nigeria”.