A human rights group, the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) has condemned the violence that led to the death of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Usman; and gun-shot injury on a reporter of Channels Television, during Monday’s violent protests by Shi’ite members pushing for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzakky.
The Channels Television reporter, Precious Owolabi, a National Youth Service Corps member, has also died. His death was reported Monday night on the television station.
An unspecified number of protesters were said to have died, while others sustained injuries. The Shiites say they lost eleven members and denied Police reports they were armed.
The Police have officially confirmed the death of DCP Usman Umar, adding that 54 suspects have been arrested.
Spokesman DCP Frank Mba said in a statement: “Another violent protest by members of the El-Zazakky group involving over three thousand (3000) of its followers took place today, 22ndJuly, 2019 at about 12:30pm within the Central Business District of Abuja.
“The heavily armed protesters defying all sense of decency violently attacked innocent citizens and Police personnel on duty. In the process, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, FCT Command, DCP Usman A.K Umar, was shot and fatally injured by the protesters.
“The officer who was immediately rushed to the hospital died moments later while receiving treatment.
“Also, two (2) Assistant Superintendents of Police and a Staff of Channels Television sustained serious injuries and are currently receiving treatment.
“The violent protesters also razed down a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Response Post close to the Federal Secretariat, Abuja and two (2) vehicles.
“Meanwhile, the Police have arrested fifty-four (54) suspects in connection with the incidents. The suspects are undergoing interrogation and will be arraigned in court as soon as possible.
“The IGP, while commiserating with the family of the late DCP, condemns the incident and warns that Enough-is-Enough as the Force and the nation at large will not continue to suffer losses on account of reckless and lawless persons and groups in the society”.
In a statement titled, ‘We never Carry Arms, Police Kill 11 Protesters’, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, through its spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said: “Abuja today yet again witnessed one of the worst cases of blatant trampling of the rights of citizens ever seen in the Federal Capital, when joint security forces consisting of both uniformed men and officers of the Nigerian Police Force and others in mufti, unleashed their fury on a Free Zakzaky protest by members of the Islamic Movement.
“The procession, attended by several thousands of persons, including very young children, the aged, women and the physically challenged, met with an extreme rage indicative of deep seated animosity the Nigerian authorities bear for the Movement.
“What actually happened was that the protesters started the procession from NITEL junction and on getting to federal secretariat the police cordoned off the road and started firing at them.
“A lot of people have been shot but for now we can only confirm 11 deaths, but several are injured, the figure for now stood at 30. Though we are aware of the fact that the security agents have been going around taking off those they killed from the streets.
“Even some seriously injured persons that were taken to Abuja University Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada; the police went there and took away about 11 people they shot during the protest.
“We strongly dispute the claim by the police that the protesters shot at them because throughout our processions we have not been carrying any arms right from 2015 to date. It was also the police who shot at the Reporter of Channels TV, another indication that many innocent people were shot at by the police, including some of their own.
“In this era (of) social media the brutality displayed by the police today has been captured with some pictures showing the police setting up the bonfires and there are videos that captured the police carting away their victims”.
But in a statement by its Executive Director, Barrister Frank Tietie, the group condoled with the Nigerian Police community, but calls on the Inspector General of Police to launch a thorough investigation to uncover those behind the heinous violence which occurred during the protest.
CASER observed that there was an urgent need to fully equip the Nigerian Police with proper gadgets and kits to enable them undertake the management of civil disturbances and riots with minimal casualties on all sides.
It adds: “Civil protests need not be violent. The goal of a protest march or peace rally is to draw attention to a cause and not to create civic disturbances or riots with tendencies of becoming violent leading to destruction of life and property.
“DCP Umar has been described by some of his colleagues as an excellent gentlemen who applied professional standards in his conduct and operations as a senior police officer. He was reported to have been hit by a bullet in the head, in the line of duty while attempting to pacify the protesters today in Abuja.
“The violence associated with today’s protest in Abuja is needless, unfortunate and highly condemnable”.