ALERT: Nigeria – Demand authorities release Zakzakys, after positive Covid-19 diagnosis

Sheikh Zakzaky

IHRC’s Free Zakzaky campaign asks campaigners to continue demanding that the Nigerian authorities release Sheikh El-Zakzaky, Muallima Zeenah and all those detained since the Zaria massacre of 2015 from the Islamic Movement.


Requested Action

Model email

Recipient Addresses


Mallimah Zeenah tested positive for Covid-19 last week on 16 January 2021 in Kaduna state prison where she is still being held along with her husband, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky.

The current Covid-19 pandemic crisis is still ongoing. On April 9, Buhari pardoned 2500 prisoners from Nigeria’s prisons. The pardon includes prisoners aged over 60 and those suffering from severe health conditions. However, this pardon did not include Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Muallima Zeenah, who are over 60 and have severe health conditions.

The Sheikh and his wife have been kept in illegal detention for over four years. The Federal High Court of Nigeria has ordered the Sheikh and his wife’s release, including compensation. However, the state authorities have decided to prosecute the couple and imprison them in the Kaduna State Prison where living conditions pose a serious threat for their wellbeing, especially in the current pandemic climate.

We urge the Nigerian authorities to release Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Muallima Zeenah, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and other political prisoners. This is a policy that needs to be implemented quickly in Nigeria, given the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Requested Action

IHRC is calling upon campaigners to write to their country’s Nigerian ambassador / High Commissioner and copy in the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demanding the Nigerian authorities order the release of political prisoners immediately. A model letter is provided.

Model email

Dear [Insert Ambassador / High Commissioner’s name],

I am writing to ask for your urgent intervention as Mallimah Zeenah tested positive for Covid-19 this week in Kaduna state prison where she is currently being held along with her husband, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky.

Overcrowding in Nigeria’s jails, which currently operate at over 150 per cent of capacity, has meant that the virus has spread rapidly within the prison population. Last summer the country released 7,813 prisoners from its Correctional Service centres around the country to relieve pressure and help fight against the pandemic. Many of those released were freed under presidential pardons issued by Buhari. However, the president failed to act on a request by IHRC for the clemency to be extended to the Zakzakys.

This is all the more unacceptable given that the couple have never been convicted of any crimes and are being held unlawfully in defiance of a 2017 court order ordering their release.

The length of time they have spent in custody since being arrested in 2015 reinforces the view that the Nigerian authorities are conducting a witch-hunt against the couple and abusing the judicial system hoping that they will die quietly in custody.

Given Zakzaky’s age and underlying medical conditions, the infection places him at heightened risk of severe illness or death.

I urge your office to play an active role. If anything happens to the Sheikh or his wife, the Nigerian Government will be held directly responsible. Due to the situation’s seriousness and urgency, I demand that they are immediately released from prison.

[Your name]

Recipient Addresses

Click on the following link to find the name, address and contact details of the relevant diplomat in your country:

Selected names and email addresses of Ambassadors / High Commissioners can be found below.  Please contact us if you have trouble finding the details of your country.

Please remember to also cc/ in Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

UK:  Mr Olukunle A. Bamgbose, Acting High Commissioner,

France: Mr Hakeem O. Sulaiman , Ambassador,
Malaysia: Nurudeen Muhammed , Chargé d’Affaires,
Turkey: Mr Ahmed Abdulhamid, Ambassador,
Iran: Mr Hamzat Ibrahim, Ambassador,
India: Mr Sola Enikanolaye , High Commissioner, 
Sweden: Mrs Jane Ada Ndem, Chargé d’Affaires

Note: Due to the COVID19 outbreak, we do not advise sending letters by post