A planned protest by Shiites in Borno State was shelved following a threat by the police.
Due to the relatively low popularity of the Shiite IMN in Borno State, the news of their proposed procession came as a surprise to most of the residents in Maiduguri, the state capital.
PREMIUM TIMES had on Friday exclusively reported, quoting a source and a police document, how the police received a special intelligence report that the protest would kick-start shortly after the Friday Jumat prayer.
The Borno State police command later confirmed the report on Friday, warning the Shiite group to “drop the idea of the planned procession.”
The police commissioner, Damian Chukwu, also said that embarking on the procession was illegal because the Borno State government had issued a statement banning all kinds of procession in the state.
The police claim of a ban could not be independently verified by PREMIUM TIMES.
Officials of the Borno State government, who preferred to be anonymous in this report, said they were not aware of the ban on religious processions in the Boko Haram troubled state.
The police chief warned the Shiites to adopt “lawful means of championing their cause”, and not through road processions.
“We just got information that the Shiite group is trying to embark on public procession in Maiduguri and the state government had already issued a statement banning that procession,” he said.
“I want to say that we are in support of the ban because the law banning public procession without permission is still in force.
“We know the group will always want to carry on with the procession without even trying to seek permission. We hereby advise them to please shelve the procession in the interest of peace,” he added.
Mr. Chukwu warned that the police would do everything within its constitutional powers to maintain peace in the state.
On Friday, the atmosphere was somewhat tense as police deployed its officers to all the strategic locations within Maiduguri. Anti-riot vehicles and armoured personnel carriers were moved to locations where it was suspected that the planned Shiite procession would take place.
Heavy security presence was seen at the MaiSaje Mosque, where the police intelligence indicated the IMN might kick start their protest. The same situation was noticed at the Fodiya Centre, near a spot called Yan Nono in Bulumkutu along the Kano-Maiduguri highway.
After the Jumat prayers at the MaiSaje Friday mosque, some group of young men waited to see if the protest by the Shia group would take place.
One of them, who sought anonymity for security reasons, said “we just want to see if truly they would begin the procession; we would have dispersed them by tagging them as Boko Haram members”.
The deployed police officers maintained their vigilance till evening hours when they were cork sure the planned procession would no longer hold.
Efforts to contact the leader of the IMN in Borno State, identified as Malami Goroma, was unsuccessful.
The Borno State government had on August 11 inaugurated a board to censor Islamic teachings in the state, as a means of curbing the radicalization of young people into extreme groups like Boko Haram.
It is not clear if the censorship also covers public procession by religious groups.
The police have foiled similar Shiite protests in Abuja and Kano. Monday’s incident in Kano led to the death of at least nine people, the police said.
The Shiites are demanding the release of their leader held without trial since December by the federal government.