The police in Borno State are mobilizing for a planned rally by Shiites, sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
A source said the police received a special intelligence report that the protest would kick-start shortly after the Friday Jumat prayer.
The protest is expected to start at two main mosques – the Mai Saje Mosque, a popular Friday mosque, centrally located in the heart of Maiduguri, and Fodiya Centre, near a spot called Yan Nono in Bulumkutu along the Kano-Maiduguri highway.
“The aim of the protest is to show their anger over the detention of their national leader and the recent clash with the police in Kano,” a police intelligence report reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES showed.
It is not clear if the police plan to forcefully stop the protest as was done to similar Shiite marches in Abuja and Kano, but the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Damian Chukwu, according to a source, directed several units including the police mobile force and the counter terrorist unit to deploy their men to various Friday mosques within Maiduguri and other liberated communities across the state for “decisive actions to any untoward development”.
PREMIUM TIMES further learnt that the police is not taking any chance in ensuring that the proposed Shia protest does not escalate the already tense situation in the state. Mr. Chukwu had to cancel the weekly briefing with his officers as the police prepared for the Shiite protest.
Officials at the police headquarters have reported that canisters of tear gas were released at about 10.30 a.m. on Friday to be possibly used against the protesters.
Unlike several states in the northern Nigeria, Shia processions have been very rare in Borno.
The Shiites are demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been held without trial since last December after over 300 of his followers were killed by soldiers. The army accused the Shiites of blocking a major road and plotting to kill the army chief, Tukur Buratai, an allegation the Shiites denied.
Another rally by the Shiites on Monday in Kano led to the death of at least 9 people including a police official as the police tried to stop the protesters.
Local and international rights groups and foreign countries have called on the Nigerian government to exercise caution in dealing with the Shiites.
The U.S. government on Friday issued a statement calling for “greater communication between Shia citizens and government authorities.”