Po­lice, Shi­ites clash over de­tained leader in Abuja

• Is­lamic group vows more protest • Stake­hold­ers seek re­lease of Adeyanju

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Igho Ak­eregha, Olu­dare Richards, Tina Abeku (Abuja) and Ab­dul­ganiyu Alabi (Kaduna)

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 Mo- hammed Musa, in­formed The­guardian 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 The­guardian.

Fol­low­ing nearly two years of de­ten­tion of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim ElZa­kzaky, 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 The­guardian 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.”

Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, La­farge, Michel Pucher­cos (left); Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Nige­rian Stock Ex­change, Os­car Onyeama; Chair­man, United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu; Chair­man, Se­plat, Dr. ABC Or­ji­akor; Chair­man, Ac­cess Bank, Mrs. Mo­sun Belo-olu­soga;...

Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional (ACI) Africa Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Ali Tounsi (left); ACI World Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, An­gela Git­tens; Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, FAAN/ Pres­i­dent ACI Africa Ex­ec­u­tive Board, Saleh Dunoma at the ACL Africa Con­fer­ence in La­gos...yes­ter­day.

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