John Alechenu, Olalekan Adetayo and Olaleye Aluko, Abuja
There are strong indications of another clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on Thursday (today).
This followed a vow by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to end the protests even as members of the sect declared that they would continue with their protests at the expense of their lives and until their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, was released from detention.
The IGP made the declaration to crush Shiite protest on Wednesday.
Idris made the declaration in an interview with State House correspondents shortly after joining others to witness the inauguration of the 2019 Armed Forces Day Emblem at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“We have made some major deployments and all l can say is that we want to appeal to everybody to cooperate with us to end these crises and by the Grace of God, we will bring the protests to an end,” the police boss said.
Asked why security agents resorted to the use of maximum force against the protests, Idris said, “The agents were responding to the threats against security of lives and property within the FCT. It is our responsibilities to take care of security.”
The IGP had earlier in the day given an indication that about 400 members of the group who were arrested on Tuesday would appear in court on Wednesday (today).
“You know that when we make arrests, the next thing is to take them before the law courts.
“We are going to take them before the law court today (Wednesday). This could be the Magistrates’ Court or Federal High Court,” he said.
Idris also said the Federal Government was not ruling out dialogue with stakeholders as one of the ways of ending the protests.
“We are liaising with major stakeholders, major religious groups in this country.
“I think we need to do something to end these crises as soon as possible and by the grace of God, we will end the crises soon,” he added.
The police boss also said other security challenges being experienced in parts of the FCT were being tackled head-on.
He said black spots in Abuja were being monitored by his men with a view to flushing out criminals from their hideouts.
He said the police would work hard to ensure that the 2019 General Elections were conducted peacefully.
He appealed to Nigerians to cooperate with security agencies to achieve the feat.
But in restating their resolve to continue with the protest, members of the sect said as long as it would take to release their leader, Shiekh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, their protest would continue.
The spokesman for the group, Mallam Abdullahi Musa, made the position of the group known in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Musa spoke after the sect released the corpses of 24 of their slain colleagues to members of their families.
The ceremony was held in Ruga neighbourhood in the Mararaba area of Nasarawa State on Wednesday.
One of our correspondents who was at the event observed the 24 corpses of the slain sect members wrapped with white clothes and laid beside one another horizontally while family members were allowed to identify their relations before they were taken for burial.
Spokesperson for the IMN, Mallam Abdullahi Musa, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the corpses were recovered from the scene of the clash with the military at the Kugbo/Karu checkpoint on Monday, alleging that the corpses of 12 other deceased were still with the army.
Musa, who confirmed that the sect held another protest in the Wuse area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on Wednesday, said the protests to demand the release of the sect’s leader, Shiehk Ibraheem Elzakzaky, would continue until the military “kills all of us.”
He said, “Now, we have finished our findings. We have 24 dead bodies here with us. As I speak to you, there are 21 bodies before me. We are going to bury them. And we found that the army dumped three corpses at the University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada to make 24 corpses. They also dumped nine corpses in the Asokoro and Maitama areas of Abuja.
“This was from the Monday clash. On Tuesday, the army and the police also killed six persons. We have two corpses with us and they went away with four corpses. Between Saturday and Tuesday, more than 40 persons have been killed by the Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army. And this brigade is answerable only to the President of Nigeria.
“We have information that the brigade has received orders to shoot at us any time we come out. The President cannot claim ignorance of this killing; we are killed just because we are protesting the illegal detention of our leader. We are carrying out our religious obligations.”
He added, “There is no amount of killings that will stop us. This is our belief. One thing about these killings is that the President is aware of them.
“I heard that the police said they arrested 400 of us. But from Tuesday, about 1000 of us are actually missing. Since they said they had only 400 with them, where are the remaining 600 people? Some of the corpses have their family members here already who are here to carry them home.”
“One of the corpses was a 22-year-old Suleiman Abubakar from Sokoto State, who was shot dead on Monday during the clash.”
His elder sister, Hibbat, told our correspondent that Abubakar just concluded his secondary school education in Kaduna State and was processing his admission to the university.
She said, “He was killed on Monday. We are about to collect his body for burial. We need justice and we are fighting for justice. See what Nigerian Army has done to us. He just finished his secondary school and he was trying to further his studies to a university. We are from Sokoto but we live in Kaduna State.”
When contacted, the spokesman for the Guards Brigade, Abuja, Captain Haruna Tagwai, said he was anchoring an event and would respond to the allegations later.
“Send the release of the movement to me and I will respond to it later. I am anchoring an event.”
Also, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen Texas Chukwu, said, “I will not comment on anything because I am in Maiduguri (Borno State) presently.”
The spokesman for the Army Headquarters Garrison, Salisu Mustapha, was not available for comments as his line rang out two times.
The Nigerian Army had claimed on Tuesday that troops shot dead only three protesters in the clash on Monday, making a total of six persons, confirmed by the military between Saturday and Monday.
The army had said the troops at the checkpoint in Kugbo close to Nyanya fired at the Shiites after the protesters attacked the military personnel, injuring four soldiers.
“Troops, deployed in a routine duty at Kugbo/ Karu bridge checkpoint, were attacked by the Islamic movement on Monday around 3pm. The sect in massive numbers forced their way into the troops’ checkpoint after overrunning the police.
“They fired weapons at our troops, throwing bottle canisters with fuel, large stones, catapults with dangerous objects at troops causing bodily harm and stopping motorists movement, breaking their windscreen and causing heavy traffic.
“Unfortunately, during the encounter, three members of the sect were killed while four soldiers sustained various degrees of injury and are being treated at a military medical facility. Meanwhile, the situation has been brought under control and normalcy restored to the general area and there is free flow of traffic,” the Army said on its official Facebook page.
Ex-APC spokesman demands justice for slain sect members
Immediate past Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, in an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, urged the UN to urgently set up an international judicial commission of inquiry into the killings of sect members by security forces.
In the open letter with copies sent to the Embassy of the United States of America, British High Commission, Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, France and Germany, Frank said the killings could not be justified.
In the letter which was also made available to reporters, the former APC spokesperson noted that the killings were a signpost of the current administration’s total disregard for the rule of law and the sanctity of human lives.
Frank wrote, “Reports say over 400 were arrested and are being detained by the police. While the exact casualty figures are unavailable at this time, I believe that a high-powered inquiry into the incident by the UN would reveal the true extent of the extrajudicial murders committed by the military against free citizens.
“Therefore, I call on you to use your good offices to ensure that the incidents are investigated and the army and by extension the Buhari administration held to account for the gruesome violation of its citizens’ rights to life and peaceful assembly.
“The extrajudicial killing of the Shiite members negates all known UN statues, protocols and resolutions. I urge you to ensure that these violations are not wished away by the Nigerian government over claims by the military authorities that they only responded to undue provocation by the sect.”
He noted that the use of live ammunition against innocent protesters constituted a crime against humanity which the UN must not gloss over.
Frank further said, “The UN can stop this ongoing madness by invoking its relevant protocols that punish crimes against humanity and genocide. It is lamentable to note that the Nigerian government under the present dispensation has since abdicated their primary responsibility which is the security and welfare of the citizens.”
He said a situation where security forces willfully shoot and kill unarmed Nigerians on a peaceful demonstration showed that state agents were being illegally used to unleash unimaginable terror against Nigerians should not be allowed to continue.
FEC asks FCT minister to take charge
The Federal Executive Council has directed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, to oversee response to the protests by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
The minister was asked to take up the issue of the bloody protests with the FCT administration’s security committee.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House correspondents at the end of the council’s meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the issue of the protests which had claimed lives and left properties destroyed was discussed extensively at the meeting.
He said the President directed Bello to address the issue by deploying security measures at his discretion.
“Yes the matter came up for discussion in FEC, the Minister of FCT was asked to take up the matter with his own security committee,” he said.