By Kingsley Omonobi
The clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, otherwise known as Shi’ites, and security agencies in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, continued yesterday, as protesting Shi’ites set a Police patrol vehicle ablaze along Adetokunbo Ademola Way, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja.
The Shi’ites had on Monday, engaged soldiers at Nyanya, while on procession from Mararaba, Nasarawa State, and the confrontation led to several deaths on the part of the Shi’ites and injuries to at least four of the soldiers.
A Police patrol car set ablaze during the clash of IMN members with men of the security agencies in Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Olugbemiga Olamikan.
But a senior member of the IMN’s Media Forum, Dr. Shuaibu Musa, told Vanguard, yesterday, that no fewer than 17 of their members were killed in the Monday clash, while six were killed on Sunday. The military gave a casualty figure of three (3).
The clash with the Police yesterday came as the Nigerian Army, late Monday night, explained why soldiers used live bullets on the protesting Shi’ites.
Trouble started again, yesterday, as the IMN members, who were on a march along Adetokunbo Ademola Way, Wuse Zone 2, engaged policemen that were positioned to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
This paper gathered that as soon as the protesters sighted the policemen, they started throwing missiles, including stones, bottles and other dangerous objects at them.
An eyewitness told this reporter that a petrol bomb was thrown at one of the new patrol cars recently donated to the police by Dangote Group of Companies, which burnt it completely.
A senior Police officer, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said the policemen being attacked had to call for reinforcement, which led to arrest of no fewer than 400 of the IMN members.
The officer said those arrested had been detained at the Federal SARS facility in Abuja from where they will be arraigned in court.
FCT Commissioner of Police, CP Bala Ciroma, who also confirmed the clash, disclosed that 400 violent Shiite members, who perpetrated the mayhem, had been arrested and detained for investigation.
Speaking while parading some of the suspects, Ciroma said: “The FCT Police Command, in furtherance of its continuous effort to provide adequate security, protect lives and property and prevent any breakdown of law and order, intercepted and arrested some members of El-Zakzaky Islamic Movement of Nigeria with 31 bottles of petrol bombs and other dangerous weapons being ferried into FCT to cause mayhem and attack innocent citizens, including law enforcement agents deployed to protect lives and property.
“It is unfortunate to inform you that members of this group during a violent protest today (yesterday), without any provocation, went on rampage and burnt down a Police Rapid Response Squad patrol vehicle deployed at Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent.
“Some arrests have been made and investigation is in progress. Among those arrested is Mustapha Abdullahi, 20, at Ungwan Gwari Suleija, with 18 bottles of petrol bombs carefully concealed in a traveling bag.
“To smuggle himself and the petrol bombs into the city, he disguised as a passenger and boarded a taxi with other unsuspecting passengers.
“He ran out of luck when the vigilant policemen on duty at the point, upon reasonable suspicion, intercepted the cab and conducted a search on the bag in the car, which had in it, the improvised bombs.
“The suspect was immediately arrested. Other exhibits found on him are two lighters and one dagger. The suspect will be arraigned in court on completion of investigation.
“Similarly, on the same date, at about 11.30 am, police operatives on stop and search at Dokwa FCT-Niger boundary arrested one Abdulllahi Umar, 22, of Gadan Karte, Ilela LGA of Sokoto State with a bag containing 13 well-packaged bottles of petrol bombs.
“During interrogation, the suspect confessed that he arrived Suleija from Sokoto State on Sunday to join other members of their sect for the protest.
He also confessed that he was ferrying the petrol bombs to FCT to confront law enforcement agents.
“In conclusion, I want to bring to your knowledge that a total of 400 members of El-Zakzakky Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, who participated in the violent protest of Tuesday (yesterday) are currently being detained for discreet investigation. Dangerous weapons were also recovered from them.
Shi’ites Protest: Police beef up security around Aso Rock
Following the clash, the police immediately beefed up security around entrances to the State House.
Consequently, the Police stationed its officers opposite the Fire Service, the entrance to the State House, before the barricade mounted by a combined team of operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, the Police and the Army.
Occupants of vehicles going into the Villa were thoroughly screened before they were allowed to drive in.
From the Secretariat to the entrances to State House and the National Assembly, security was also beefed up with additional armed mobile police officers mounting surveillance.
Bank orders closure of branches
Also yesterday, a commercial bank asked its branches in Area 3, Garki, Abuja, to close business for the day at 3:00pm because of the tensed situation in the area.
When we visited the bank yesterday, customers were gathered outside the bank arguing with the security man, who was explaining to them that the bank had closed business for the day.
After a while, one of the officials of the branch explained to the customers that the order to close business for the day was purely for security reasons, adding that the order came from above.
He stated that the order was due to the prevailing security situation around Abuja, following the protests of the Shi’ite members who had invaded Abuja since Sunday.
Why soldiers opened fire on Shi’ite protesters — Nigerian Army
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has admitted its personnel fired live ammunition at Shi’ite protesters on the outskirts of Abuja on Monday afternoon, killing at least three protesters who allegedly tried to breach a security checkpoint.
The Army said its personnel conveying military equipment were waylaid by the Shi’ites in the Saturday encounter, during which some soldiers were brutalised with stones and sharp objects. No soldier was killed during the encounter.
In a Facebook post late Monday night, the Army said soldiers unleashed their firearms on the protesters after they became violent and started firing stones with catapults, wounding four soldiers in the process.
It said the protesters repeatedly lobbed Molotov cocktails at troops and police officers manning the security checkpoint near the overhead bridge in Karu.
“The sect, in massive numbers, forced their way into the troops checkpoint after over-running the Police Force. The Police withdrew back to own troops position to join efforts to repel them.
“They fired weapons at own troops, throwing bottle canisters with fuel, large stones, catapults with dangerous objects and other dangerous items at troops, causing bodily harm and stopping motorist movement, breaking their windscreens and causing heavy traffic.
“However, troops repelled the attack in conjunction with the Nigerian Police Force to stop the situation from further deteriorating.
“Unfortunately, during the encounter, three members of the sect were killed, while four soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries and are being treated at a military medical facility.
‘’Meanwhile, the situation has been brought under control and normalcy restored in the general area and there is free flow of traffic.
‘’Members of the public living within Abuja and environs are enjoined to go about their normal activities without fear of molestation.
“The Nigerian Army will not be deterred in carrying out its constitutional roles and also safeguarding law abiding citizens,” the Army explained.
Meanwhile, the IMN in a statement issued yesterday, titled, ‘’We reject the Army’s accusation after killing us at Nyanya’’, said: Yesterday (Monday), the Nigerian Army, after a brutal clampdown on a peaceful mourning procession of the Islamic Movement In Nigeria and killing at least 20 and injuring of several others, released a press statement claiming that some of its troops were attacked by members of the Movement.
‘’It shamelessly claimed that their troops were deployed on routine duty at Kugbo/Karu bridge checkpoint of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, when members of the Movement attacked them.
‘’Had it not been that it was similar to the one they released after they killed six members of the Islamic Movement at Zuba, Abuja, wherein they seek to justify the savagery they meted out on us, we wouldn’t have bothered to reply them.
‘’All the parameters surrounding the incident only proved that the entire incidences were deliberate and pre-planned, confirming information the movement had that they were deployed to kill Shia members who were coming to Abuja from Mararaba.
‘’Parts of the concocted lies contained in the Army statement that immediately followed the brutal clampdown to mischievously deceive the public reads: ‘The sect in massive numbers forced their way into the troops checkpoint after over running the Police Force.
‘’The Police withdrew back to own troops position to join efforts to repel them. They fired weapons at own troops, throwing bottle canisters with fuel, large stones, catapults with dangerous objects and other dangerous items at troops causing bodily harm and stopping motorist movement, breaking their windscreen and causing heavy traffic.
‘’However, troops repelled the attack in conjunction with the Nigerian Police Force to stop the situation from further deteriorating. Unfortunately, during the encounter, three members of the sect were killed, while four soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries and are being treated at a military medical facility.’
They killed without provocation — Shi’ites
‘’The above assertion by the Nigerian Army is an attempt by them to turn the victims into villains. There is no iota of truth in what they dished out to the public to justify their unjustifiable act of killing defenceless citizens who have trekked peacefully for over three hours without any incident from Mararaba Bus stop, only to find their path barricaded with armoured vehicles and fully armed troops that resumed killing without any provocation.
‘’It was the troops who blocked the highway to prevent members of the Islamic Movement from entering Abuja for the Arba’een commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husain AS. This is an act of provocation to deny people their right to peaceful assembly; hence there is no way it can be justified.
‘’In the first place, the Army is not supposed to be drafted to a scene of peaceful protest; this is the norm in civilized climes. We wonder why it is different here, a country that claims to be following democratic principles.
‘’Also, the claim by the Army that some of us carried arms and fired at them is a figment of their imagination. The Islamic Movement has never carried any arms, and for someone to come out in broad daylight to accuse us of carrying weapons is a blatant lie.
‘’However, we believe the hawks within the security networks of the country have been planning to plant some of their agents during our peaceful marches, so that they can avail them with an opportunity of accusing us of carrying arms and causing mayhem. We reject these in totality.
‘’We also view this act as a deliberate genocide perpetrated by the Nigerian regime. We, hereby call on Nigerians, the international community and rights groups to raise their voices against the extra-judicial and brutal bloodletting perpetrated by the Nigerian Army.
“We also call on the Federal Government to stop sending its security agents to kill us, while at the same time we see other citizens protesting without being killed in this country. This is clear deceit and double standards.
The fact that the business of the Army is the protection of the territorial integrity of the country is enough to show the illegality of sending heavily armed soldiers in combat mode to disperse peaceful procession of men, women and children.
‘’Once again, we will not relent in our effort to get our voices heard, hence we call for the immediate and unconditional release of our leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, his wife and other illegally detained members of the Movement.”