President Muhammadu Buhari has been given 7-day ultimatum to unconditional release prominent Shia cleric and leader of of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky from detention.
According to The Independent, the group warned that if the government fails to meet their demand, they will have no other alternative but to call on millions of his followers to take to the streets. It said the sheikh’s supporters will also stage a sit-in until he is released.
Speaking to newsmen, the National coordinator of the group, Bashir Marafa, said they have already begun mobilizing millions of Zakzaky’s followers “to storm [the capital,] Abuja, for what we called ‘MOTHER OF ALL PROTESTS,’ and ‘SIT AROUND IN ABUJA CITY,’ as long as Zakzaky is not released unconditionally, within the next 7 days.”
He said the followers are deeply concerned about the cleric’s health condition, which has been deteriorating over the past nine months in detention. He has been detained since December 13, 2015, when Nigerian forces raided his home and killed three of his sons as well as his wife.
A day earlier, soldiers had attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria in north-central Nigeria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him, which they denied.
Nigerian soldiers allegedly killed hundreds of members of the religious group with many saying about a thousand people were killed. Since that encounter, the Nigerian government has refused to release Zakzaky with his followers alleging that the governement which they accuse of being dictatorial is planning to kill him in custody.
Human rights activists have condemned the Buhari-led government over the unlawful arrest and detention of Zakzaky since 2015. This has forced thousands of his followers to protest. Just last week many held a peaceful mass protest but the police came and dispersed them with tear gas as many were left injured. The president has paid deaf ear to the cry of Zakzaky’s followers as many have predicted this might be another time bomb waiting to explode.