By Kingsley Omonobi, Joseph Erunke & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA—ANOTHER attempt by members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as Shiites, to ground Abuja, yesterday, through protest over the continuous detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was foiled by the police.
The Shiites began a second day of protest at the Wuse market, Abuja yesterday afternoon, to challenge the continued detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, for whose release they had protested on Monday.
El-Zakzaky was arrested shortly after a clash between Shiite members and the Nigerian Army in December 2015 and has neither been released nor arraigned by the Nigerian government, despite court orders for his release.
Despite the stiff force employed by the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Command of the Nigeria Police in dispersing the protesters Monday, some members of the religious sect re-converged yesterday morning to continue their protest.
However, police and other security forces beat the sect members to their game as a large contingent of security operatives took over the Unity Fountain before ZakZaky’s supporters.
About 20 police vans, armoured trucks belonging to the police, the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps and the Guards Brigade made the Fountain a no-go area for the protesters.
Consequently, the sect members gathered at the Mabushi District from where they planned to march to the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission in Maitama.
The move was foiled as security agents barricaded access routes to the Commission as well as other spots they were likely to occupy.
Finding no safe haven for their usual mass protest, the group split into clusters to march across the city-centre in smaller groups. However, that move too was foiled by security operatives.
Some sect members out of frustration confronted security operatives around the popular Wuse Market leading to clashes.
Speaking on the renewed clash, Secretary of the Academic Forum of IMN, Malam Abdullahi Musa, said: “We convened early this morning (yesterday) at Mabushi area to continue our #FreeZakzaky protest to the National Human Rights Commission head office. Our plan was to occupy the commission daily until our rights become protected.
“But as expected, the police were already there to disrupt our protest. We sent some of our members to survey the situation at the Eagle Square, the Unity Fountain, the Federal Secretariat and other places we usually stage our protests. They came back with the same report of heavy security presence at those spots.
“So, we decided to split into smaller groups and march across the entire city before dispersing for the day. However, our female folks, who were to march through Wuse to Berger roundabout, were the first group to be attacked by the police.
“They were chased around and harassed which caused us to jettison our arrangements and quickly move towards the Wuse Market area. It was when the security agents harassing our women saw our members heading their direction in large numbers that they began to spray us with teargas. Even with the teargas, we weren’t deterred. Sensing our resolve to resist them, the security operatives called for reinforcement around 11:30 am.
”Those that came as reinforcement, were the ones who began to flog our members with whips and hit some of our leaders with wood. I sustained injuries around my wrists and knees,” he said showing the reporter his injuries.
As the scuffle at the Wuse Market area lasted, more members of the sect were arrested and taken to the headquarters of the FCT Police Command.
Speaking to Vanguard on what transpired during the melee, FCT Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Anjuguri Manza, said, “We received information this afternoon (yesterday) that members of the Shiites sect were marching towards Wuse Market with a view to shutting down the market and disrupting economic activities in the FCT.
“Police personnel were deployed to prevent breakdown of law and order and ensure that that no violence occurred.
“The Shiite members also blocked other access routes into Wuse Market which resulted in disruption of movement and traffic.
“On sighting the police operatives, the Shiites members resorted to pelting the police personnel with bottles, stones and other dangerous weapons.
“This led to the police dispersing the crowd and arresting scores of the recalcitrant members who refused to tow the line of non violence.
Vanguard gathered that at the end of the confrontation, about 30 Shiite members were arrested.
Asked if there was any death recorded, the Police spokesman said, there was no record of any death.