Here’s what happened at the rallies held to demand Sheikh Zakzaky’s release

On Thursday the 4th of March, Nigerians in the northern part of the country reignited a series of rallies in different cities including Kano, Zaria, Yola and Kaduna to demand the urgent release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Shiite cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in the custody of the Nigerian Armed Forces since December last year for allegedly attempting to assassinate the Nigerian Army Chief of Staff. The protesters also used this medium to condemn the Nigerian army for the killings of Shiite Muslims in the region during the same period.

The protest was organised by the Youth Wing of the IMN which maintained that its members will continue to carry out peaceful protests until their demands are considered. According to them, detaining Zakzaky and several of his supporters in this manner is a violation of the Nigerian constitution. Additionally, the protesters accused the Judicial Inquiry Commission set up in Kaduna regarding Zakzaky’s case of denying them necessary access to the detainees.

On Friday, March 5th, the rally continued at the Fagge Jumma’at Mosque in Kano which saw thousands of Muslims in attendance. The special guest speaker at the rally, Malam Yakubu Yahya Katsina addressed the Zaria massacre of December 2015 and the state of the Nigerian Army. He reemphasised the IMN’s demands concerning the release of Zakzaky and demanded that the security forces return the bodies of those killed last year as well as provide financial compensation for the loss of lives and property.

Last weekend’s rallies are merely a few of the several held in respect of Zakzaky’s unjust imprisonment over the course of the last two months. In February, Kano school pupils participated in a demonstration to free the Shiite leader. The proceedings of the Judicial Inquiry Commission on the incidence between Zakzaky and the Nigerian Army was adjourned for a second time in one month on February 29 following Zakzaky’s absence.

Maxwel Kyon, the IMN’s counsel had previously pleaded with the panel for a two-week grace to enable him gain access to Zakzaky on February 24, and was refused. Following the IMN’s threat to boycott the proceedings, the chairman of the inquiry, Lawal Mohammed adjourned the sitting till today, March 7, with claims that Zakzaky will be present.

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