A secondary school pupil was feared killed yesterday in Abuja during a clash between members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, also known as Shiites, and the Police.
The clash occurred in Maitama during the Shiites protest of the continuous incarceration of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, however, claimed that 22 of its men were injured in the clash.
The command added that 115 Shiites were arrested and catapults, iron bars, stones and pink head bands recovered from them.
According to a member of the group, Mohammed Gamawa, the police swooped on them during a peaceful protest to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), firing tear gas, water cannons and life bullets.
He explained that the movement was going to the NHRC to report the treatment the police allegedly meted out to them last Friday.
His words: “It was not a riot but a peaceful demonstration. We were as usual trying to make the government obey the court orders releasing Sheik El-Zakzaky and also build a house for him anywhere he wants in the country.
“We were barred from the Unity Fountain, where we were holding our peaceful demonstrations, on Friday. We were teargassed by over 300 policemen, many of our people were critically injured and many more were arrested.
“We were simply marching to the National Human Rights Commission today to lay our complaints on the treatment meted out on us by the police on Friday and demand for the release of our leader when the policemen attacked us.
“More than 15 people were critically injured and most of them were taken away by the police. One of our members, a secondary school student, was killed.”
But contrary to claims that the protest led to death of some members of the group, a statement by the command’s spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, said no life was lost.
The statement reads: “The FCT Police Command restored normalcy at parts of Maitama following a violent protest by members of the El-Zakzaky Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), who went on rampage and were attacking innocent citizens, disrupting business activities, obstructing traffic movement and smashing windscreen of innocent citizens’ vehicles in the affected areas.
“Following the unfortunate incident, which also resulted in the destruction of some government and police operational vehicles, the members of the Shiite group also injured 22 police personnel during the protest.”
On those arrested, Manzah said: “One hundred and fifteen members of the sect were arrested at the scene by police operatives.
“Joint Team of detectives from the command in conjunction with operatives from the IGP Monitoring Unit has commenced investigation into the incident.”
The police also said those arrested would be charged to court upon the conclusion of investigation.
Free Zakzaky Committee Chairman Abdurahman Yola insisted that a member of the movement was killed in the clash.
His words: “From the first-hand information that I have from our members, one of us was killed by police bullets. They used tear gas, water cannons and life ammunitions on us. I am presently at the FCT Police Command. I do not know the name of the deceased for now. We are trying to collect all the necessary information and we will be releasing a comprehensive information of what actually happened in the next one or two hours.”
Activist lawyer, Femi Falana, condemned the attack “unleashed on the Shiites this afternoon (yesterday) by a combined team of armed soldiers, police and state security service (SSS) personnel” as “totally unacceptable in a democratic society”.
He said: “It is highly condemnable as it was uncalled for. In order to press for the release of their detained leader, Sheik ibraheem El-zakzaky and his wife, the Shiites have staged peaceful protests in Abuja since last week.
“This morning, security forces attacked the peaceful rally, killed some of the protesters and injured others in a barbaric attack in a desperate bid to stop the Shiites from further exposing the lawlessness of the Federal Government.
“In the process, the security forces breached the fundamental rights of the protesters to life, freedom from torture, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
“Meanwhile, the Federal Government has not adduced any justifiable reason why it has continued to incarcerate the El-zakzakys in utter contempt of the Federal High Court. If the Federal Government is genuinely desirous to stop the protests, it has to comply with the valid and subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court forthwith.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) demanded for an immediate inquest into the violent clash between security forces and members of the Shiite movement.
The party expressed grave worry over the handling of security in the nation’s capital and the near breakdown of law and order, which resulted in stampede and disruption of public and private businesses in the city center.
In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP noted that the clash was as a result of protests by the Shiites over the continued detention of their leader.
“The PDP sues for calm while demanding for an immediate inquest into the cause of this clash.
“We also urge security high commands to ensure that this matter is nipped in the bud with the highest level of professionalism,” the statement added.
A coalition, Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), in a statement, condemned the Federal Government for allegedly “using police operatives to inflict brute force against the peaceful protest organised by members of the Shi’ites movement”.
Its Deputy Director General, Mallam Nasser Kura, said: “We find the killings of defenceless citizens by the police during a peaceful protest as inhuman and mindless.