On 2nd December 2016, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja dispensed a judgment ordering state security forces to release Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of Nigeria's largest Shi'ite Muslim sect – the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). Zakzaky has been held in custody without charge for almost a year following a mid-December 2015 clash between his followers and the army in the northern city of Zaria.

Between 12th and 14th of December 2015, security forces launched attacks against protesters in the Shia community of Zaria (Kaduna State), killing hundreds of religious activists. In what has been described by many observers as a “massacre”, Nigerian troops attacked a mosque, a burial site and the home of IMN leader Zakzaky in response to an alleged assassination attempt by the sect against Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Buratai (Sahara Reporters, 24.12.2015).