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Police, El-Zakzaky faithfuls clash in Abuja

Police, El-Zakzaky faithfuls clash in Abuja

The Nigeria Police yesterday clashed with members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) as the group marched into Abuja. The protesters, who are members of the Shiite sect, were demanding the release of their spiritual leader, Sheik Ibrahim El- Zakzaky who has been in detention since December 2015.

The protesters, numbering over 500 men and women, were marching on the busy Shehu Shagari Way en-route the Federal Secretariat and Eagle Square, when armed policemen stationed at the road intersection by the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Justice, stopped the seemingly peaceful march. The protesters, who brandished placards and photographs of their detained leader, chanted songs in Hausa, demanding his immediate release.

They were, however, forced to flee in different directions as policemen shot several canisters of tear gas to disperse them. Some of them who defied the warning shots were promptly arrested and taken away in police patrol vans. President, Media Forum of the IMN, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, described the action of the police as an illegal attack by security.

Musa stressed that the Free Zakzaky march was to protest the continued illegal detention of their leader. Zakzaky’s incarceration, he said, was unjustifiable because he was being held without charges and access to appropriate medical care.

He urged the international community to mount pressure on the Federal Government to speedily release Zakzaky for urgent medical attention. In a statement sent to journalists after the protest, Musa expressed disappointment that security men stopped what he described as a peaceful protest even after the assurance given by the police hierarchy some weeks ago that the constitutional rights of Nigerians to peaceful protest would be guaranteed at all times. He lamented that the protesters had difficulties entering Abuja for the protest because the Nigerian Army had mounted roadblocks on the way to prevent people from entering the capital city for the protest march.

“About a hundred arrests were made, including women and children and taken to military barracks. The thousands, who had managed to enter Abuja for the peaceful march, were crudely attacked by the Nigerian Police, who physically attempted to prevent the march for no just cause. They fired tear gas and live bullets as well to disrupt the peaceful march. Consequently, scores were injured and many more were arrested and are being detained. “Our rights to freely move is inalienable and we wish to remind the Nigerian security agents of the fundamental rights of people to assemble peacefully and demonstrate without any official harassment.

If at all they are in doubt or have forgotten, they should consult their lawyers since Nigerian courts have upheld this position. “Certainly, in a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended and any law that attempts to curtail such rights is null and void and of no consequence,” he said.

The group urged the Federal Government to restrain the police and other security agencies from further harassing or intimidating Free Zakzaky protests, adding that democracy allows alternative views, dissent, protest, marches, rallies and demonstrations.

A bloody confrontation had, on December 12, 2015, ensued between the military and members of the Shiite movement, resulting in the deaths of some members of the sect, while hundreds got injured in the process.

According to the sect, the group’s leader, El-Zakzaky, who dresses like an ayatollah, suffered four bullet wounds, and is among scores detained

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