Thousands of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Shiites, stormed the Kubwa Expressway in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Sunday, to demand the release of the group’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and to protest the killing of Shiites by the Nigerian Army.
The Shiites blocked the Dutse and Galadima ends of the expressway, obstructing traffic for about two hours as they chanted solidarity songs and carried flags containing a deceased member and El-Zakzaky.
The military, through the Army Headquarters Garrison on Sunday, confirmed that its soldiers shot dead three of the protesting Shiites in the Zuba area of Abuja on Saturday, after the protesters allegedly attacked the military convoy and pelted personnel with stones.
The army said the Shiites “smashed both military and civilian vehicles’ windscreens and windows and they also attempted to overrun the escorts to cart away the ammunition and missiles the troops were escorting.”
The army, in a release by the Garrison Commander, Maj Gen James Myam, said the troops opened fire to rescue the situation and three of the protesters were killed.
The Islamic Movement, in a release by its Spokesperson, Abdullahi Musa, on Sunday, said its protest on the Abuja Expressway, was to report the atrocities of the army and to demand the release of Zakzaky and his wife.
Musa said, “Residents of Abuja and some parts of Niger and Nasarawa states should please be informed that the followers of Sheikh Zakzaky are in Abuja to conduct Arbaeen symbolic trek. It commenced on Sunday and the followers would march en mass to Abuja. The public should recall the grave atrocities committed by the Nigerian Army during December 2015 Zaria massacre where hundreds of children were orphaned; many husbands and wives widowed and scores of Zakzaky’s disciples are still languishing in prisons.
“Likewise, Zakzaky has been in detention for more than 1,000 days in spite of his deteriorating health conditions without proper medical treatment and despite the fact that a Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered his immediate and unconditional release since December 2, 2016. We use this opportunity to inform President Buhari and the government that our demand is the release of Zakzaky and his wife and this demand is not negotiable.”
Meanwhile, the army said the Shiites were violent in the protests, which started on Saturday and vandalised military vehicles which warranted the killing of three of its members.
Maj Gen Myam said, “Troops of Army Headquarters Garrison escorting ammunition and missiles from Abuja to the Army Central Ammunition Depot in Kaduna State were attacked by some members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria sect in Zuba. The sect, which was supposedly in a procession, established an illegal roadblock denying motorists a free passage.
“When the troops’ convoy attempted to clear the roadblock, they met stiff opposition from the sect. Members of the sect used various objects to barricade the road and also pelted the troops with stones and other dangerous items. They smashed both military and civilian vehicles’ windscreens and windows.
“They also attempted to overrun the escorts to cart away the ammunition and missiles the troops were escorting. This led to the troops opening fire to extricate themselves.
“Unfortunately, during the encounter, three members of the sect were killed while two soldiers sustained injuries and are being treated at a military medical facility. Meanwhile, normalcy has been restored to the general area and members of the public especially those plying the Abuja – Zuba Road are requested to go about their normal activities with the assurance from the army that no individual or persons will be allowed to disturb public peace with unprovoked attacks against military convoys.”
But a civil society organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, has condemned the killing of the three Shiites by the military, saying such action was “atrocious and reprehensible.”
HURIWA, speaking through its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the violation of court orders to release on bail the leader of the movement and his wife.
Onwubiko said, “The right to a peaceful protest and assembly is constitutionally guaranteed. The killing of members of the sect were completely avoidable if the armed security forces had deployed non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets, water cannons or teargas to disperse the members of the sect.” – Punch