By Luminous Jannamike & Monsuru Olowoopejo
Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, also known as Shi’ites, yesterday, clashed with the police at the federal secretariat, Abuja, with one of the leaders in the South-West saying there would be no Nigeria in 2023 if security agents continue to kill them.
The clash occurred barely 48 hours after they clashed with the police at the National Assembly, injuring some policemen and destroying vehicles.
Wielding placards and chanting anti-government songs, the protesters demanded the immediate release of Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, their leader.
They had converged on the federal secretariat and were marching towards Eagle Square when they were intercepted by armed anti-riot policemen.
According to an eyewitness, trouble started when the police demanded to speak with leaders of the protesters and two men, Nura Marafa and Mujaid Mohammed, who came forward were arrested.
In annoyance, it was learned that the Shi’ites attacked the policemen who opened fire and also used teargas on them.
Workers at the secretariat reportedly fled in different directions to avoid being caught in the incident.
Speaking on the latest round of hostilities between the Shi’ites and the police, Chairman Free El-Zakzaky Campaign Committee, Sheikh Abdulrahman Abubakar, accused security agencies of infiltrating their ranks with miscreants and hoodlums.
He alleged that the move was carried out to give the sect a bad name and distract the public from their allegation that El-Zakzaky had been poisoned in detention.
He said: “We have been protesting peacefully for the past four years. The Federal Government must allow us to express our feelings without intimidation and molestation.
“The law says even when a person is caught committing a crime, arrest and arraign the individual before the court. Why the forcible attempt to disperse citizens preparing to embark on a peaceful protest to express our grievances against the state?
“What we believe is responsible for the confrontation is the plot by some political leaders to confuse the public and create a state of anarchy in the country using the name of IMN.”
The IMN spokesman, however, could not confirm how many casualties were recorded among the members of his group at press time.
Meanwhile, the FCT police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, said members of the IMN arrested by security operatives on Tuesday and yesterday had been arraigned at several courts within the nation’s capital.
The Lagos protest
In Lagos, the Shi’ites took their protest to Maryland intersection, Ikeja, chanting solidarity songs and demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration respect the court that ruled that the IMN leader be released
The protesters, who were armed with different placards bearing the pictures of their leader, lamented that his continued incarceration further indicated that the president was not a respecter of the rule of law.
The procession embarked upon by the IMN members, Vanguard observed, led to a massive gridlock at Maryland junction, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Ikorodu Road and other adjoining roads within the axis.
In an interview with Vanguard, Muftau Zakariya, South West Coordinator of IMN, warned that they would not desist from the protest until President Buhari releases their leader.
He said: “We are ready to die if our leader is not released. If they are ready to kill us, we have 21 million lives to offer. I know that they do not have 21 million bullets to shoot at us.”
Faults IGP claim on clash
According to him, we will continue our protest all over the country if our leader is not released. We have always engaged in peaceful protest. If you can see, none of our members is holding any weapon or stick at this rally today (yesterday).
“Is it possible for those that are not armed to attack the police? I was surprised when the IGP claimed that our members attacked the police. We know where to get guns if we want to get them.
‘’When 21 million of our members contribute fund, I can tell you that we will raise N21 billion. And we all know what that can do if we decide to buy arms with such funds.
“We are not violent. What the IGP said is the height of irresponsibility from any public office holder in Nigeria. If you are appointed by the president to serve the country, please serve the country first before attending to the need of the man that appointed you.”