Police, Shiites clash over detained leader in Abuja
• Islamic group vows more protest
• Stakeholders seek release of Adeyanju
It was violence yesterday as members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites, clashed with the police in Abuja. A senior member of the group, Abdullahi Mohammed Musa, informed The Guardian on phone after the clash that one of their ‘brothers’, Rufai Abubakar, was fatally shot by the police.He said Abubakar might not survive his injury as his condition was very critical. Musa alleged that more than 90 members of the group were also arrested and were being detained by the police in Abuja, even as he vowed that they would be back on the streets today.
It was learnt that trouble started yesterday when the police barricaded thousands of the Shiites who were on their way to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to lodge a complaint against the police who had warned them against embarking on any form of protest in the city.
“The police told us to stop protesting in Abuja last Friday at the Unity Fountain but we said that was a violation of our rights to peaceful protest and we went to the NHRC to lodge a complaint against them,” Musa said.While they were in the vicinity of the NHRC, Musa alleged that the police surrounded them and started firing tear gas canisters into their midst. “We had to pick the tear gas and throw it at the police,” Musa said.
He alleged that the police opened fire on them, injuring many of the protesters. “Many of the wounded were taken away by the police who called for military reinforcements,” Musa told The Guardian.
Following nearly two years of detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, Shiite adherents have been mounting protests for his release, leading to clashes with the police and other security agencies.Courts have ordered El-Zakzaky’s release but the Nigerian authorities claim he is being held in protective custody. The claim has been rejected by his followers who insist that their leader be freed while all those who allegedly massacred their members must be brought to justice.
The Shiite members had last Friday, April 13, 2018, stormed the Unity Fountain from all the states in the north in a surprise move that overwhelmed the police.
Many of the protesters yesterday were mostly young men and women who said they would not back down until their leader is set free and perpetrators of crime against them prosecuted.
When The Guardian visited the scene of the clash, thick dry blood was still visible on the ground while fierce-looking soldiers had taken over the area.Furious members of the group resorted to pelting the police with stones while others took over the entire stretch of the busy highway as workers hid in their offices while motorists made hurried detour to avoid being caught in the melee.
A police truck and a number of police cars blaring sirens unsuccessfully attempted to break the rank of the protesters who threw more stones while the police sprayed them with water.Apparently frustrated by the resilience of the protesters, the police allegedly deployed more force which led to the casualties.
The Public Relations Officer of the FCT Police Command, Manza Anjuguri, could not be reached to react to the latest clash as he neither picked his calls nor responded to text messages sent to his phone.
Meanwhile, the Concerned Nigerians Group has called for the release of their Convener, Deji Adeyanju. The group condemned the police clampdown on protesters and the detention of Adeyanju.
According to Theophilus Abu Agada, the National Publicity Secretary of the group, Adeyanju honoured an invitation from the office of the IGP around 10:00 a.m. yesterday, and was still in the office of the IGP when the protesting Shiites and the police began the fracas.
The group also called for justice for the IMN member that was brutally murdered yesterday and that the officers responsible for his unfortunate death be brought to justice.He said in the statement: “We are greatly displeased that our group and that of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, would in a space of one week be gruesomely attacked by the Nigerian police for exercising our fundamental right to peacefully assemble as enshrined in our constitution.”
Adeyanju, who has been a strong supporter of the Shiites’ protests, was arrested by the FCT Command of Nigerian Police at the Unity Fountain last Thursday on charges of inciting civil unrest.He was released about four hours later following the intervention of the leader of OurMumuDonDo Movement, Charles Oputa who stormed the command and met with the Commissioner of Police, Sadiq Abubakar Bello, to secure his release.
In a reaction, the Centrum Initiative for Development and Fundamental Rights Advocacy (CEDRA) described the act of using force to stop Shiites from peaceful protest as criminal.
Dr. John Danfulani, the chairman of CEDRA, in a statement in Kaduna, said “the right to protest is constitutional as well as natural, and therefore, using force to stop Shiites from protesting against the detention of their leader by police and other security agencies is unlawful.”
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