•Journalist, three police officers in critical condition
•Nobody can stop our protest in Lagos — IMN
•Buhari summons IGP, orders him to protect Nigerians
•Clash forces Lawan to postpone meeting with SSANU
By Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Monsuru Olowoopejo, Joseph Erunke, Omeiza Ajayi & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA — Clashes between the police and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, (a.k.a Shi’ites) yesterday, assumed a dangerous dimension, claiming the lives of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, and no fewer than six members of the group. Three police officers are said to be in critical condition following a bloody clash between the Islamic sect and security forces, yesterday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The disaster, which took place within the precincts of the Federal Secretariat Complex, also left a journalist with a popular TV station battling for his life after he was hit by a stray bullet.
This happened as the IMN , (a.k.a Shi’ites) said its members could protest in any part of the country and dared any one to stop them.
The latest clash, aside from compelling President Muhammadu Buhari to summon Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to the Presidential Villa to get an update on the clash, also forced the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, to postpone a scheduled meeting with the leadership of of non-academic staff unions of universities over the strike notice issued by them on earned allowances the Federal Government has refused to settle.
Shi’ites gather for protest
Vanguard gathered that members of the IMN, otherwise known as Shi’ites, had gathered at NITEL Junction in Wuse II district for a march to the Federal Secretariat complex in protest against the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, by the government.
However, their street demonstration was interrupted around the Zone hosting the three organs of the Federal Government by armed security personnel, who cordoned off the area, preventing the protesters from continuing their planned protest.
In the ensuing melee, sporadic gunshots were fired to disperse the protesters, while several vehicles belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, in the vicinity were set ablaze.
Speaking with Vanguard, Abdullahi Musa, Secretary of IMN’s Academic Forum, claimed:
“The police opened fire on our members, killed a lot of them, and injured many others. As we speak, we have lifted six corpses of our members.
“The police took away some dead bodies too. Several others who came out to protest today are yet to be accounted for. So, we are expecting the number of those killed to rise by nightfall.”
DCP Ops shot dead
The latest IMN protest claimed its highest profile victim yet, as Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations at FCT Command was shot dead.
Sources disclosed that DCP Usman Umar, who is in charge of operations in Federal Capital Territory, FCT Command, was killed by the protesters while trying to stop the protest.
Consequently, security was beefed up at Force Headquarters to prevent reprisal attacks over the arrest of scores of the protesters, who are demanding the release of their spiritual sect leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Armoured tanks, Police dogs and Mobile policemen were also deployed all around the Force Headquarters, while visitors were not allowed into the premises except those on appointment.
The entire force Headquarters was in a mourning mood yesterday, following the killing of the DCP, who was a former Principal Staff Officer to former IGP, Ibrahim Kpotum Idris.
We didn’t confront police — Shi’ites
Musa, however, denied that members of the sect confronted the police before the shootings began.
“We began our protest from NITEL junction. On arrival at the Federal Secretariat, we were preparing to say our prayers there and disperse peacefully when the police fired live bullets towards our members to forcibly disperse us,” he said.
He also blamed the police for the destruction of public properties in the course of the pandemonium that broke out after the shootings, saying “we didn’t set any vehicle or the outpost of NEMA ablaze as alleged.
“For goodness sake, we were unarmed. But we know the authorities have been attempting to blackmail us and curry the sympathy of the masses against IMN and Sheikh El-Zakzaky.
“We are also aware the police have been deploying mercenaries in mufti to infiltrate our gatherings and cause mayhem in our name. But the Nigerian people are already feeling oppressed by government forces.
“The government can’t get the public sympathy they are hoping to get with these antics because agents of these administration are committing crimes against humanity.
“Any act of civil violence witnessed today (yesterday) was an afterthought committed by the police through paid mercenaries to justify the shooting of innocent and unarmed citizens.”
The Muslim sect had last week clashed with the Police which resulted in several deaths, injuries and destruction of vehicles in the National Assembly.
Against that background, Police restricted all street protests to the Unity Fountain in Abuja.
But IMN, (a.k.a Shi’ites) in defying the police order, vowed to continue their street demonstrations in the FCT until the government obeyed a 2016 order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, for the unconditional release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky, as well as the payment of compensation to the tune of N50 million for his illegal detention.
Nobody can stop our protest in Lagos, elsewhere — IMN
Meanwhile, the IMN , (a.k.a Shi’ites) has warned anyone planning to restrict them from embarking on further protests to shelve the idea.
IMN added that no one can stop them from embarking on procession in any part of the country, including Lagos and other South-West states, saying, the only condition to stop their protests was the release of their leader and his wife.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, IMN’s , (a.k.a Shi’ites) South-West Coordinator, Muftau Zakariya, argued that they had the right to embark on protest like other citizens of the country since procession was not outlawed by the 1999 constitution.
He noted that they had suffered the most brutish treatment from law enforcement agencies, adding that no government agencies could do more than that.
“What will happen if we embark on it? Anyone can say anything anywhere in the country. Nigeria has a constitution. We have rights and privileges. This is our country and no one can stop us from embarking on our religious procession. The only way anyone can stop us is when we act against the stipulated laws of the country.
“What do you think anyone can do that has not been done during our procession to the National Assembly? We have been killed, burnt alive in the country of our birth. Please tell us what anyone can do to scare us?
“There is no one that can tell us for now not to engage in another procession. Anyone that aims to stop us from further procession to seek the release of our leader should come out. We will come out whenever we wish and we dare anyone that wishes to stop us from embarking on our religious procession to do so.”
Buhari orders IGP to protect all Nigerians
Following the protest, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, met behind closed doors, yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari at the meeting directed the IGP to take steps to protect all Nigerians wherever they might be.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the IGP said: “We came this morning (yesterday) to brief Mr. President on the security situation in the country, especially the activities of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, and to give him an update on what is happening in the country vis-a-vis their activities.
“Specifically we briefed him on the incessant acts of lawlessness coming out of this group of people, protesting here and there. We briefed him on the fact that we have been able to curtail their excesses and to let him understand that everything is under control.”
On the President’s reaction, the IGP said: “The President asked us to make sure we provide security for every citizen of this country and not to leave any space that some group of people will cause a breakdown of law and order. So, the charge by Mr. President is that we must provide security for every Nigerian.”
Lawan shelves meeting with SSANU
The protest forced the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to postpone a scheduled meeting with the leadership of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, over threat by non-academic staff unions in universities to embark on strike.
The Senate President, through the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, had sent invitation to the President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke for a parley yesterday at 12 noon prompt but the meeting could not hold as the IMN blocked the entire Federal Secretariat.
The meeting was expected to avert the looming crisis in the universities, as the non-teaching staff of the universities, under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, comprising SSANU and Non Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions, NASU, had on Friday, July 12, resolved to withdraw their services, if the Federal Government failed to address their grievances.
However, the National Public Relations Officer, NPRO, of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, told Vanguard that the Senate President’s office called to postpone the meeting as a result of the Shi’ites protest.
The two non-academic staff unions in the universities had threatened to commence series of actions to draw the attention of government to the alleged discrepancies in the disbursement of Earned Allowances in favour of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
A resolution by the JAC of NASU and SSANU signed by Chairman of JAC and National President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke and the General Secretary of NASU, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, had alleged that only 20 per cent of N25 billion released was given to three unions, while ASUU alone took 80 per cent. Members of the two unions resolved that their national leadership must make a demand of N30 billion, being part- payment of arrears of Earned Allowances owed members of NASU and SSANU between 2009 and 2016.
NEMA laments attack on Ambulance Bay
The National Emergency Management Agency NEMA has lamented the loss of its Emergency Response and Ambulance Bay, ERAB, during yesterday’s clash between security personnel and protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria IMN, a Shi’ite group.
Head of Media and Public Relations of NEMA, Sani Datti, who made this known in a statement in Abuja, accused the protesters of burning the bay which had two vehicles and other equipment.
“This is to confirm that ERAB of NEMA located on Ahmadu Bello Way, beside the federal secretariat was attacked today (yesterday) with two vehicles burnt down.
“The attack was carried out by members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, commonly known as Shiites,” he said.
According to him, the burnt vehicles are a life support ambulance known as the Mobile Intensive Care Unit MICU, and a multi-purpose Response Intervention Van, which were permanently stationed at the location for timely response to emergencies and disasters within the axis.
The statement added that the Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja who has inspected the level of damage, lamented that the burnt equipment were very expensive and would cost taxpayers a lot of money to replace.