• Sunday, April 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Shiites and FG: War without end?

Shiites

Members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as Shiites, again clashed with men of the Nigerian Police Force, who  who were said to have dispersed the Shiites, following a simultaneous protest march organised by the group in parts of the country and the nation’s capital on Friday.

The march was planned to be a prelude to a bigger one nicknamed ‘Araben march’ slated for yesterday (Saturday). Spokesman of the sect, Ibrahim Musa, hinted that the essence was to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zak Zaky held by the Department of Security Service (DSS).

Musa claimed that the march was largely peaceful in Kano, Kaduna states and in other places but that in Abuja, the police fired canisters of teargas at the IMN members at Custom Jumàat Mosque zone 3, Abuja as they were marching and chanting free El-ZakZaky slogans.

The group has remained undaunted in its request for the freedom of their spiritual leader, who has been incarcerated since 2015 by the Federal Government. There have been violent protests by the group as well as peaceful ones. A good number of members have lost their lives in the struggle. Some judicial pronouncements had since mandated government to allow the man to go home, on bail. These have not been heeded, a situation people say may have aggravated the impasse. A court in Abuja had declared the group a terrorist organisation and proscribed its activities, while the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had warned that the group would be treated like terrorists should they disturb the peace of the nation.

The sect has clashed severally with the security agencies while demanding the release of their detained leader, leading to casualties. In the last Ashura procession they held nationwide, to commemorate the revered Shia Imam Ali, about 12 members of the sect were said to have died when the security agents tried to quell the procession in September.

In July, the clash between the police and the sect in Abuja led to the death of a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), DCP Usman Umar and a cub reporter with ChannelsTV serving out his NYSC with the television station.

Recently, a court in Kaduna granted El-ZakZaky bail to seek medication in India but controversy over his choice of doctors in the Indian hospital soon led to his sudden return to the country and he has since been held by the DSS.

Although the Federal Government has established reasons to prosecute the religious leader, many influential Nigerians have, however, asked government to allow the rule of law take its course to avoid being accused of trampling upon the grundnorm that confers legitimacy on the government in the first place. Government has stuck to its guns, believing that the man’s freedom at this moment may not serve the country well. But El-ZakZaky’s followers think otherwise, hence the repeated standoff. It does not appear that there is any sign of rapprochement soon. It does appear that the members of the IMN are not in a haste to back down, and the Federal Government does not also seem to be perturbed by the man’s lingering stay in custody.

Efforts made to contact Anjuguri Manza, the Force Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Police FCT Command, to react to the current protest and claim of arrest by the IMN did not yield fruit as he did pick his calls neither did he respond to a text message sent to him.

Unconfirmed reports said that 15 of the sect members were arrested by the police. The question on the lips of many Nigerians is, ‘when will this war end?’

 

Innocent Odoh, Abuja