There was pandemonium in Abuja, the nation’s capital, yesterday as protesting members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) clashed with officers of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agents.
Members of the group popularly known as Shiites, who had been around major streets of Abuja since last week, are protesting the continued detention of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Eyewitnesses at the scene of the clash told LEADERSHIP that the maturity and emotional restraint of the security operatives were all it took to prevent the fracas from degenerating into a more bloody mayhem.
“The Shiite members were seen throwing stones and sticks at an armoured tank mobilized to the protest scene. They were several attempts by the protesters to break into the armoured vehicle. The Shiites members were not moved by the teargas continuously fired by security agents to disperse them”, one of them who spoke to ur correspondent said.
The FCT Police Command was however said to have restored normalcy after the incident had resulted in the destruction of some government and Police operational vehicles.
According to spokesperson of the Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, the members of the Shiite group also injured 22 Police personnel during the protest.
Manzah said, “The FCT Police Command later restored normalcy at parts of Maitama following a violent protest by members of the El-Zakzaky Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) who went on rampage and were attacking innocent citizens, disrupting business activities, obstructing traffic movement and smashing windscreen of innocent citizens’ vehicles in the affected areas
“Following the unfortunate incident which also resulted in the destruction of some government and Police operational vehicles, the members of the Shiite group also injured 22 police personnel during the protest.”
Manzah said the police also arrested 115 members of the sect, recovered catapults, iron bars, stones, ball bearings and pink head bands from them.
DSP Manzah further said, “A Joint Team of detectives from the Command in conjunction with operatives from the IGP Monitoring Unit have commenced investigation into the incident. The arrested suspects will be charged to court upon the conclusion of investigation.
“The FCT Police Command hereby warn members of Shiites movement from further disrupting the peace, harmony and free flow of traffic in FCT.
“This is to also to urge the members of the public particularly parents not to allow their children or wards to be used as instrument of violence in any demonstration by any group that could jeopardise public peace and harmony. It is therefore imperative to state that anyone caught in the act of violent demonstration or any act capable of causing the breach of public peace will be made to face the wrath of the law.”
The Command noted that contrary to speculations from some sections of the media, no life was lost in the violent protest as the Police operatives deployed to quell the protest were professional in handling the situation.
On its part, the Shiite group condemned what it described as Police attack on its peaceful procession in Abuja.
In a statement signed by president, media forum of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim Musa, the sect claimed that the Police opened fire on the peaceful free Zakzaky protesters, killing at least one and injuring many others.
Musa said, “It all started in the afternoon after the Police laid siege on the venue of Free Zakzaky sit out, Unity Fountain. The peaceful protest march was then started with the intent of reaching the offices of National Human rights commission.
“That was when a combined team of security agents, including the Police, Army and Civil defence attacked the protesters with tear gas canisters, water cannon and even live bullets. We have confirmed massive arrests of persons as well thereafter, numbering about 230. Many of them have injuries consequent on the police aggression.
“It was purely a show of shame by the Police and other security services, who are hell bent on forcibly stopping our legitimate campaign for the government to obey the orders of its courts by freeing Sheikh Zakzaky.
“Ours is a legitimate struggle. We have the right to protest and assemble peacefully. This we have done in Abuja and other places peacefully for almost two and half years now since the heinous Zaria massacre. We have undoubtedly stepped up our campaign in Abuja since the last 100 days on learning of the deteriorating health condition of our leader, who had suffered a mild stroke in custody, and has been denied access to adequate medical care. It is noteworthy that these rallies and processions had been peaceful, with daily sit out at the Unity Fountain and street protests.
The Shiite group reiterated its demand that Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife be freed from illegal detention, as well as hundreds of its memberts still in detention with various security agencies.
PDP Condemns Scuffle, Calls For Probe
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded for an immediate inquest into yesterday’s violent clash between security forces and members of the Shiite movement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
National publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the party is gravely worried over the handling of security in the nation’s capital and the near breakdown of law and order, which resulted in stampede and disruption of public and private businesses in the city center.
The PDP noted that the development is linked with protests over the continued refusal of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to release the leader of the group, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, despite being granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction.
It stated: “The party further notes the continued show of force and infringements on the rights of citizens by the APC administration.
“Furthermore, the PDP and indeed all lovers of democracy across the country are deeply concerned by the continued erosion of democratic tenets by the APC administration, resulting in avoidable crisis in various parts of the country. The PDP sues for calm while demanding for an immediate inquest into the cause of this clash.
“We also urge security high commands to ensure that this matter is nipped in the bud with the highest level of professionalism”.
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