By AbdulSalam Muhammad & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, has absolved the Police of blames in the killing of some Shi’íte members on procession in Kano, on Monday, saying the Police had to take measures to restore law and order.
A bloody clash between the police and some members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, also known as Shi’ites at Tamburawa village near Kano metropolis, claimed several lives, including that of a policeman, and left many others injured.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the 2017 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem launch held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, Idris said the Police battled with armed men, who blocked the highway, refusing to allow other Nigerians access to the road.
According to him, the officers had no alternative than to strive to bring back sanity in the area.
Though he agreed that there could be other non-lethal ways of stopping riots, the IGP said the presence of guns wielded by members of the sect made it impossible.
He said: “I agree with what you said, but when you have Nigerians armed to the teeth, killing police officers, I don’t think it happens anywhere. I think as Nigerians, we have to appreciate a dangerous situation and be sympathetic with the Police that are being killed by some of these miscreants.
“Obviously from time to time, we have been experiencing upheavals from this set of people. As Police officers, we have a responsibility to ensure there is law and order and when you have people taking over the whole country, dominating streets and buildings, we have to come in to maintain sanity in those areas.
“As of early yesterday (Monday), we got information that they were trying to block the Kano-Zaria Road. They later assembled in large numbers and our officers were deployed to the place to ensure freedom of movement of ordinary Nigerians.
“They attacked our officers, killed one of them and another sustained an arrow wound on his head and obviously in such a situation, the Police have a responsibility to ensure free movement of people on the road. And that was what our officers did.”
The IGP wouldn’t also succumb to the argument that the protesters have a right under the constitution to move around, countering that blocking the road didn’t amount to exercising freedom of movement.
His words: “What happened is that there is nothing like freedom there. When you worship, you go to mosques or churches. Blocking highways and passages doesn’t constitute part of worship. My message to Nigerians is that all of us should be our brothers’ keepers. We should appreciate the feeling of others, that where your right ends, another person’s right begins. Every Nigerian has a right that must be protected. We should ensure we protect the rights of every individual- right of freedom, right of association and right of movement.”
Reminded that the development could assume the status of Boko Haram, if left unchecked, the IGP said: “Obviously, it is. Whether now or whenever, as Police officers, we have a responsibility to ensure there is law and order in any part of this country and to ensure that no organization or individual should constitute itself into a government, blocking passages and buildings.”
Police strategy driving us to chaos – Shi’ite leader
Speaking on the issue, the IMN warned that Police highhandedness in dealing with Shi’ite matters could lead to chaos unless they revised their strategy.
Addressing journalists in Kano, Shi’ite local leader, Sanusi AbdulKadir Koki, said: “The idea of employing brute force to tackle our group could lead to chaos in the long term unless Police review their strategy.
“Poor Police strategy is gradually pushing us to the brink, and yet well meaning individuals are watching while Police action and inaction pointed to chaos.”
Giving an account of the group’s bloody encounter with the police, Koki said: “We came under attack without provocation, and a two-year old was among those shot in the skull. Our religious inclination is a matter of the heart, therefore, no amount of intimidation or blackmail can change our posture. It would be better to leave us with our faith.
“The Police decision to break our procession with maximum force was an orchestrated crime against a defenceless group, and must not go unpunished.
“We are going to court to seek redress and further seek to establish whether the Police, which is saddled with protection of life has compromised its fundamental mandate and become a killer squad.”
Koki accused the police of removing 40 corpses of its members deposited at government — owned morgue, adding that the “action signalled conscious efforts to obliterate facts.”
He, therefore, appealed to security agents to release corpses of Shi’ite members in their custody for proper burial, as he cautioned that “on no circumstances should they be given mass burial.”