Nigeria’s numerous security challenges worsened yesterday as angry members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) stormed the National Assembly Complex in Abuja and shot a policeman and a civil defence officer. Multiple eyewitness accounts allege the members of the IMN (Shi’ites) disarmed one of the security officers before shooting the two security operatives.
The National Assembly Complex is located on the Three Arms Zone, a stone throw from the Presidential Villa and the Supreme Court in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital. The Shi’ites are protesting the continued detention of their leader by the Federal Government. The Nigerian authorities have detained the Shi’ite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife since 2015 in defiance of court orders that they be granted bail.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with almost 200 million people, is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. Muslims in the north are overwhelmingly Sunni, but there are an estimated 3 million Shi’ites.
Eyewitnesses say in an attempt to disperse the crowd, the protesters were teargassed by security agents, leading to pandemonium as some visitors and staff were caught in the crossfire.
Angered by the resistance, the protesters launched a reprisal attack and reportedly snatched a gun from one of the security agents. One of the policemen, whose identity is yet to be known, was reportedly shot in the head. He was rushed to the National Assembly Clinic and was still unconscious as at the time of filing this report. However, more reinforcements were made and the protesters were repelled.
When our correspondent visited the scene, about five cars parked beside the second gate were either burnt or destroyed beyond recognition. While one was completely burnt, the other four were destroyed, including a police van stationed there.
The violent protest forced the House of Representatives to abruptly adjourn plenary. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House, adjourned plenary on the grounds of insecurity.
Consequently, the items slated on the order paper were put on hold, including presentation of 20 bills for first reading and three motions on fuel tanker explosion at Ahumbe Community in Gwer-East Local Government Area of Benue State that claimed over 50 lives, need to address gridlock in Apapa and urgent need to incorporate June 12 struggle in history curriculum of schools in Nigeria.
Reacting to the development, Dayo Adeyeye, chairman, Senate Adhoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, urged the Shi’ites not to take laws into their hands, while also assuring that the Senate would look at the issue and take a position on the matter.
“National Assembly is a public place. They can go through the right channel and come for a discussion. But they have to do it the right way. This is a matter we will look at,” he said.
Before adjourning, the House of Representatives had also resolved to set up a committee to investigate the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, following a motion of urgent public importance moved by Julius Ihonvbere (APC, Edo), Peter Akpatason (APC, Edo) and Johnson Oghuma (APC, Edo).
The lawmakers prayed that, the National Assembly in line with the provisions of Section 11 (4) of the Constitution take over the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly and ensure the proper inauguration of the House, with the Inspector General of Police and the Director General, State Security Services providing the necessary security for the 24 members-elect to be sworn-in as expected and required by Law.
But after several debates, mostly in favour of the motion, the House unanimously amended the prayers of the Edo legislators and resolved to investigate the matter first before taking further legislative action.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE & James Kwen, Abuja