Monday, 23rd May 2022
Breaking News:

Shiites protest rages as Reps oppose El-Zakzaky’s release

By Juliet Akoje, Segun Olaniyi, Oludare Richards (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine, Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna), Eniola Daniel and Victor Gbonegun (Lagos)
24 July 2019   |   4:16 am
The House of Representatives yesterday rejected calls for the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaki, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites.The rejection followed the House decision to throw out an amendment proposed by Herman Hembe....

National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members carrying the remains of their colleague, Mr. Precious Owolabi, who was killed during a protest by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria also known as Shiites on Monday in Abuja …yesterday.

• Lawmakers raise committee to end attacks
• Group, others caution against IMN’s proscription
• Sect denies killing police chief, journalist

The House of Representatives yesterday rejected calls for the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shiites.The rejection followed the House decision to throw out an amendment proposed by Herman Hembe (APGA, Benue) that the Federal Government should obey court orders and release El-Zakzaky, and another amendment proposed by Linda Ipeazu (PDP, Abia) that the Kaduna State government should also obey the court order to release the Islamic cleric, while considering a motion calling for the proscription of the IMN.

An ad-hoc committee headed by the House Majority Leader, Alhassan Doguwa, was constituted to liaise with the executive on how to resolve the Shiites issue and end the incessant attacks.Mohammed Shamsudeen-Bello (APC, Kano), who sponsored the motion, in his debate, noted: “On the 22nd of July, 2019 and several other dates before then, members of the IMN had done and threatened to do an act preparatory to and or in furtherance of an act of terrorism, including destabilisation and destruction of public utilities, attack on security personnel such as the Nigerian police and the civil defence corps.

“This act seriously intimidates the population of Abuja as well as its environs and also damages or intends to damage corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such violent and unlawful assembly becomes sporadic and leads to the loss of life and property. The Nigeria Police Force appeared incapable of taming it as a result of colossal violence of the Shiites.

“Hence, the need to direct the Inspector General of Police to initiate the proscription of the IMN and or declare the assembly unlawful in Nigeria. The incident of 22nd day of July, 2019 is disheartening, especially as it led to the death of a deputy commissioner of police as reported by The Nigeria lawyer, an electronic media outfit,” he said.

Shamsudeen-Bello further noted that “ the House passed the ‘Terrorism (Prevention) Act and Penal Code Law as applicable to the FCT and the Northern region. In particular, Section 100 sub- (1) declared unlawful assembly of any persons whose common object is by means of criminal force or show of criminal force to enforce any right or supposed right.

“The members of IMN cannot under any guise of protest engage in bloodshed or violence as well as destruction of economic activities which seriously intimidate the population sovereignty of the nation. This activity
has been reported widely by both print and electronic media and is a cause of concern for both national and international community.

“The continuous violent protest by members of the IMN negates the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If urgent steps are not taken to proscribe the group or declare the assembly of its members unlawful in Nigeria, the IMN may likely arm itself and turn a deadly group like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Boko Haram.”

This happened as aggrieved members of the IMN again took to the streets of Abuja yesterday in continuation of their protest against the detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah. The protesters continued their action from the Bannex area of Wuse 2, Abuja, further into the city area, chanting ‘’Allahu Akbar’’.

Military presence has increased around the corridors of Abuja such as Gwagwalada/Airport, Nyanya and Zuba with careful checks on passengers being carried out.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has been cautioned against the rumoured declaration of the IMN as a terrorist organisation.
One of the groups opposed to the proscription, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), condemned the killing of a corps member, Precious Owolabi of Channels Television and a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Umar Usman, urging the government to pay a N100 million compensation to the families of those killed in the unfortunate violence.

In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, said that the right to the freedom of religion was guaranteed by the constitution and must never be abridged.The group recalled that Buhari appeared on national television and stated that he would not respect the court’s order to release on bail El-Zakzaky and the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki (rtd) because, in his words, the duo constituted threats to national security.

But months after, the Special Assistant on Media to Buhari, Malam Garba Shehu, issued another statement contradicting his boss by asserting that the Federal Government had nothing to do with the continuous detention of the IMN leader. Just recently, Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, introduced another contradictory dimension by saying the government would not release El-Zakzaky because there was an appeal filed against the bail orders granted him.

“We then wonder why the cacophony of illogical arguments from the same office of the president on this singular matter. We call on this president to act like a statesman and free all the political detainees and not just the IMN leader. Nigeria must truly practise constitutional democracy.”

The Kaduna State Chairman of the Nigeria Catholic Diocesan Priests Association (NCDPA), Rev. Father Williams Abba, said the labelling of the IMN as a terrorist group would be an action taken in bad faith. He urged the government to respect members’ fundamental human rights and allow the rule of law to prevail.

The cleric wondered why President Buhari has not proclaimed the Fulani herdsmen that have continued to unleash violence on innocent Nigerians as terrorists, saying proscribing the IMN would clearly show where government’s interest is predicated.

“Fulani herdsmen who carry AK 47 rifle and go about killing people in villages and towns are the real terrorists and should be so designated. That the government has not declared AK 47-wielding herdsmen terrorists simply confirms what we have been talking about. “Foreign Fulani militia have found their way into the country in connivance with bad local Fulani elements and have perpetrated so much evil and yet enjoy the cover and protection of government. We hear now that they have been given a specified period of time for e-capturing to be granted accelerated citizenship. Is this our priority as a country?”

The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, release all political detainees granted bail by any court of competent jurisdiction, especially, El-Zakzaky to avert a religious war.A leader of the group, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, in a statement in Abakaliki, stated that the violent protest of Shiites in Abuja had opened the eyes of other groups who might wish to follow the precedent.

The Amnesty International Nigeria and a pro-democracy group under the umbrella of Concerned Nigerians, berated the police over their role in the protest.The Programme Manager of Amnesty International Nigeria, Mr. Seun Bakare, alleged “reckless use of lethal force” by the police.

“This new crackdown is part of a shocking pattern in which security forces have used live ammunition to disperse IMN supporters who were simply exercising their freedom of expression. Images of IMN supporters being driven from the streets of Abuja with gunfire demonstrate once again the Nigerian authorities’ resolve to use lethal force rather than the rule of law in addressing the grievances against the IMN. The police must exercise restraint at all times and use force only when strictly necessary,” Bakare said.

Amnesty spoke yesterday as the IMN distanced itself from the murder of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Musa and Owolabi during protest in Abuja on Monday. The Shiites said the duo must have been victims of shooting by police.

In a statement, the group’s spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said members of the movement did not carry weapons, and as such, could not have been responsible for the killing of the police chief and the journalist.The statement reads in part: “A quick analysis of images and video clips showed that the free Zakzaky procession was peacefully progressing prior to the brutal crackdown. It also clearly showed that the protesters weren’t bearing arms as usual and traffic was moving smoothly without hindrance.”