The Police in Abuja has said that 22 of its men were injured and no lives were lost in the nearly two hours of “Maitama
madness” that its men were engaged with angry members of the El-Zakzaky Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) who went on rampage on Monday, after the Police employed tear-gas and water to disperse their protest march.
The engagement between the Police and the Shiite members, according to the Police, led to attacks on innocent citizens, disruption of business activities, obstruction of vehicular movement and smashing windscreen of innocent citizens’ vehicles, especially on the Transcorp Hilton axis.
Much of it was caught on camera, and easily went viral on the internet as many warned friends and family to avoid the centre of the violent protests by the Shiites who continue to push for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been held in government detention with his wife, despite court orders for his release.
Fears are now being expressed in Abuja that the group, which is known to give military training to its members, may escalate its actions soon, having started its demand for its leader’s release on a low scale, but upping the ante from holding rallies where they chant insulting songs against the country’s leaders to Monday’s violence that included its female members.
When members of a different sect, “The Tijjaniya” stormed Abuja’s city centre last Saturday for its event, chills went through the city and its environs as many thought the mammoth crowd were Shiite members. But other than the traffic logjam of that day, there was no violence even as members of that sect continued to troop out of Abuja until late on Saturday evening.
Panic messages and photos were posted and sent on social media, but it was a false alarm for many who learnt late that they were not Shiites.
Sunday went well. However, the Shiites who have been growing increasingly angry at being ignored by government on Monday reacted violently to the dispersal method of the Police bent on stopping their march.
A Police statement by its Abuja spokesman, DSP Anjuguri Mamzah, suggested that the unfortunate incident which resulted in the destruction of some government and Police operational vehicles, was executed with catapults, iron bars, stones, and ball bearings, which were the exhibits he said were recovered. Also recovered were pink head bands, a known part of the regalia of Shiites in Nigeria.
He adds: “One hundred and fifteen (115) 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 have commenced investigation into the incident.
“The arrested suspects will be charged to court upon the conclusion of investigation.
“The FCT Police Command hereby warn members of Shiites movement from further disrupting the peace, harmony and free flow of traffic in FCT.
“This is to also to urge the members of the public particularly parents not to allow their children or wards to be used as instrument of violence in any demonstration by any group that could jeopardise public peace and harmony.
“It is therefore imperative to state that anyone caught in the act of violent demonstration or any act capable of causing the breach of public peace will be made to face the wrath of the law.
“Meanwhile, the Command wishes to state that contrary to speculations from some sections of the media, no life was lost in the violent protest as the Police operatives deployed to quell the protest were professional in handling the situation.”