…As 26-year-old man set to commit suicide, over Calabar’s non-payment of late father’s N13m gratuity***
The Federal Government and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who was taken to India for medical treatment, are now engaged in battle of wits, with the Federal Government protesting the Sheikh’s alleged refusal to subject himself to medical treatment, culminating in direct frustration of the Indian hospital.
El-Zakzaky, who was arrested in 2015 following a clash between his members and military personnel in Zaria, and following a Kaduna High Court order on Aug. 5, 2019, was granted bail on medical grounds.
The Cleric, along with wife, subsequently traveled to India, via Dubai, for medical treatment on Sunday, Aug. 12, after government and relevant agencies took steps to comply with the order; and on arrival, allegedly insisted on being granted some freedom of movement, including a choice of doctors to join those of the hospital, to attend to him.
The Federal Government, in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the religious leader was frustrating the authorities of the Indian hospital where he was to be treated, and subsequently threatened to bring him back home, for immediate prosecution.
Titled “The true story on El-Zakzaky in India”, the government said that the cleric, who particularly chose Medanta Hospital, India for the treatment, had begun to display ulterior motives against laid down procedures.
The statement signed by Grace Isu Gekpe, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said that the cleric refused to subject himself to preliminary medical checks after State officials resisted his pressure to hand over his International Passport to him.
“He also demanded free movement and access to visitors of all kinds, and also requested to be allowed to check into a 5-Star Hotel instead of being admitted in the hospital.
“That request was rejected on the ground that he came into the country for medicals, and not as a tourist, especially with the Visa issued on medical grounds and not for tourism.
“He also demanded that Police protection be withdrawn from him by the Indian authorities.
“Against medical ethics and standard practice, he requested to nominate Doctors of his choice to join the ones tasked by Medanta Hospital to perform medical treatment on him and his wife.
“That demand created a stalemate as the Hospital insisted that he would not dictate to it on the choice of medical personnel to carry the required medical treatment.
“Frustrated by his antics, the Indian authorities have expressed willingness to return him to Nigeria with immediate effect. This is on the account that they will not allow him use their country to internationalize his group’s activities.
“Against this background, the Nigerian government wishes to commend the stand of the Indian Government as well as apologize to her for the unruly behaviour of El-Zakzaky.
“Similarly, the attention of the public and, indeed, the international community, is hereby drawn to these unfortunate developments,” the statement said.
The statement affirmed government’s readiness to prosecute El-Zakzaky through due process if and when he is returned to the country, urging Nigerians to ignore his claims that he was being held in circumstances worse than he was in Nigeria.
In another development, an indigene of Yala Local Government Area of Cross River, Mr Joseph Odey, 26, on Wednesday protested the non-payment of his late father’s gratuity put at N13 million, threatening to commit suicide if the government delays further.
Odey, who spoke to journalists during his protest to the governor’s office in Calabar, said his deceased father, Anthony Odey, served the Cross River Government for 32 years.
He added that his father’s last post, was Principal of Government Secondary School, Ebo in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River.
According to him, his father died on Dec.12, 2015, three years before his retirement from service.
“Following his sad death, I commenced processing the papers for payment of his benefits, completed it in 2017 and received official approval in January 2018.
“After waiting for another year and no payment was made to my family by the government, I approached the accountant-general of the state about the matter but he told me that no payment was being considered.
“He added that there was a backlog of pending payments stretching back to 2014, all awaiting the governor’s approval.
“Following this disclosure, I have attempted several times to bring this issue to the governor’s attention, but failed as all messages to that effect were not answered.
“My late father’s gratuity is N13 million and I have the blue print which I got from the Office of the Accountant- General of the state.
“My family has been facing hard times since the death of our father who was the breadwinner of the family.
“My two immediate younger sisters at different levels of study in the university are on the verge of dropping out, while the third who passed WAEC and JAMB exams this year faces an uncertain future due to our financial incapacitation”, he said.
He appealed to Gov. Ben Ayade to ensure the settlement of the gratuity to enable his siblings to live a decent life.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Christian Ita, said the present administration inherited a backlog of gratuities from 2013 while reacting to Odey’s protest.
He said the payments for 2013 had been concluded while the ones for 2014 were being paid in batches.
“The state would definitely pay, what is delaying the payment is a function of money, but it will pay, since the young man has gone through the whole process with the office of the accountant-general”, he said.