ABUJA — Pandemonium, tension, confusion and fear, yesterday, enveloped the National Assembly as members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, the El- Zakzaky group, also known as Shi’ites forcibly took over the complex.
The Shi’ites, who stormed the National Assembly at 11a.m., arrived in trickles until their number became large enough to overpower Policemen at the gate.
They were at the National Assembly to protest the continued incarceration of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and call for his immediate release by President Muhammadu Buhari.
After over-powering the Police, they also overran the security men at the first gate to enter the National Assembly.
In the complex, the protesters overpowered the security men at the popular Mopol (Mobile Policemen) gate, and entered the second gate.
Soon after they entered, the Shi’ites started vandalizing vehicles that were either coming or going out of the National Assembly as workers and visitors started running for their dear lives.
There was confusion in the offices when news broke that the Shi’ites had forcibly invaded the National Assembly.
Following the mayhem, about three vehicles were burnt and others were badly damaged. There were traces of bullet holes in the body of the vehicles.
The Police mobilised to disperse them from the scene, which met stiff resistance from the Shi’ites.
At the Mopol gate, there were blood stains on the walls and vehicles as the protesters wrote anti- Buhari inscriptions on the wall, chanting ‘’kill us! kill us!”
There was throwing of tear gas and firing of guns to disperse the protesters and in the process, two policemen were injured.
The injured Policemen were later carried by their colleagues to the National Assembly clinic for treatment.
The storming of the National Assembly by the group took place when both the Senate and House of Representatives members were in their chambers, holding the day’s plenary.
9 Policemen Injured, 40 sect members arrested – Police
Clarifying what happened, the FCT Police Command said its officers foiled a violent move by members of the El-Zakzakky Islamic Movement of Nigeria to forcibly invade the National Assembly.
Consequently, the Police arrested 40 members of the Shi’ites Islamic sect for violent conduct, attack on security officers performing lawful duties and destruction of property.
A statement by DSP Anjuguri Manzah, Police Public Relations Officer, FCT Command, said: ‘The group which started its activity camouflaged in a peaceful procession, became violent and were trying to force their way into the National Assembly.
“Police operatives on the ground, however, acted proactively, professionally and used minimum force to disperse the unruly protesters.
“Members of the sect during the violent protest shot two police personnel on the leg, while clubs and stones were used to inflict injuries on six other policemen. The injured policemen have been taken to hospital for prompt medical attention.
“Meanwhile, 40 members of the sect have been arrested in connection with the violent protest. Investigation is in progress.
“In view of the foregoing, the Command wishes to state unequivocally that while it recognizes and respects the right of citizens to peaceful procession, any attempt by any individual or group of persons to cause the breakdown of law and order will not be tolerated. Those arrested in the process will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate laws of the land.
“Members of the public are enjoined to go on with their lawful activities as normalcy has been restored, and adequate security measures have been put in place by the command to forestall any security breach.”
Protests must follow proper channel – Senate
Reacting to the development, Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Dayo Adeyeye (APC, Ekiti South), noted that the Senate and the Federal Government recognize the fact that every Nigerian has the right to protest. However, he said proper channels must be followed.
His words: “One of the issues we have discussed is the security within the National Assembly premises. It is a matter that is being looked at because parliaments across the world are not this porous. Be that as it may, we also recognize the fact that the National Assembly is a public place for all Nigerians.
“All Nigerians have the right if they follow proper channels and procedures to come in here and meet with their representatives.
“Where there are breaches in terms of procedure and regulations guiding such matter, the matter will be looked at inside the chambers.”
Your cause is just — Rep Doguwa
Last week when the El- Zakzaky group stormed the National Assembly to protest the continued incarceration of their leader and called for his release, House of Representatives Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, had told them: “What you are fighting for is a just cause and what you have come here for is your entitlement constitutionally.
“I see around me respected gentlemen and my Ulamas, women, youths and another creed of people coming together peacefully to demand exactly what is granted in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“For the sole reason that you decided to play by the rules, that is why we also responded by coming here to receive all the issues you have raised. I can also tell you that we are receiving your issues with our right hand and I can assure you we would also ensure it gets to the right hand.
“The National Assembly is an institution that believes in law and order. The House of Representatives is the house of the people and this is your house, so if you cry out through us, you must be heard. This is a new leadership, led by the chairman, Senator Ahmad Lawan and co-chaired by Femi Gbajabiamila.
“Coincidentally, these two gentlemen are Muslims like you and have concerns for Muslims and equally Christians.
“These issues you have raised are issues that we must look into seriously. I want to also remind you that the issues raised here today are different from what you raised when you came here last year because it was me that the House sent to receive you.
“The issues currently raised are fundamental and significant and El-Zakzaky’s health is very fundamental to us and that of other Nigerians.
“I, personally and my colleagues collectively, respect El-Zakzaky and I would like to tell you that on the strength of medical grounds that you brought about, Mallam, which I believe is one of the new things you have raised, he is automatically entitled to our favourable attention.
“You have come through the right channel. I want to give you two commitments — one, I as the representative of the people, I would pass your message to our leaders, the Senate President and his counterpart, Femi Gbajabiamila, and these are people who have concerns for the plight of the common man.
“I would also carry along our colleagues so that we can sit down and look at these issues and respond to them.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has ordered a 24hr Police surveillance in the FCT and its environs.
Similarly, the Commissioners of Police and their supervisory Assistant Inspectors General of Police in states contiguous to the FCT were also placed on the alert to ensure maximum security in their respective areas of responsibility to avert any possible breach of public safety and security.
While noting that the Force was not against citizens expressing their grouse against the state, the IGP stressed that such ventilation must be done through legitimate and acceptable processes and not by taking the laws into their own hands.
According to a statement signed by DCP Frank Mba, FPRO, the IGP, therefore, warned that citizens should not test the collective will of the people and the state by engaging in lawless acts likely to cause the breach of the peace.
“Meanwhile, the IGP has ordered a speedy and diligent investigation into the incident as well as prompt prosecution of all the persons arrested and now in Police custody in connection with the incident.
“The IGP reiterated his displeasure with the unwarranted and unjustifiable attack on, and injury to nine (9) Police Officers by members of the El-Zakzaky Group and commended the restraint, maturity and professionalism displayed by Police personnel in containing the protest,’’ the statement read.
The IGP also directed the AIG in charge of Police Medical Department to ensure that proper and prompt medical attention was given to the injured officers and wished the victims quick recovery.