Two people were allegedly killed while two police officers were shot on Tuesday during a protest by Shiite members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
The protest was held at the entrance of the National Assembly in Abuja.
The police said the two officers, who were on guard duty, were shot in the leg by the protesters. An IMN official, however, denied the allegation, telling Sahara Reporters that two of the group’s members were killed by the police during the protest.
The incident created pandemonium within and around the assembly complex.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter watched as one of the police officers was rushed to the National Assembly clinic around 1.55 p.m.
The police later said 40 of the protesters were arrested.
How It Occurred
Several witnesses, who recounted the face-off, said the incident occurred when the protesters tried to force their way into the assembly complex.
Glasses at the security room of National Assembly were also shattered.
About eight cars were damaged by the protesters. One of them, a private car, was burnt completely.
A National Assembly staff who escaped the mayhem also recounted his experience.
“I thank God for saving my life o,” the staff who does not want to be named said. “We didn’t know what was happening. I saw many people at the gate but I thought it was a normal protest.
“Just as I entered I saw them attacking one police officer. Everywhere scatter. That was when one man guided us to enter one place. We had to wait there till things settle small.”
Coming out of the hiding, the staff said he was surprised to see that the protesters had set cars ablaze.
“If you see the number of cars they destroyed. I was part of those that fetched water to quench fire when they set one car ablaze.
“The one that annoyed me most; see this fire people, they have been calling them since to come and attend to the burning vehicle but they didn’t respond until it burned completely.”
After receiving first aid treatment from the National Assembly, two police officers badly injured in the mayhem were transferred in separate ambulances to the National Hospital.
A leader of the Shiite group, Abdullahi Musa, did not immediately reply PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on the violent protest.
But Mr Musa, the Secretary of the Academic Forum of the IMN, told SaharaReporters that two of the group’s members were killed by the police.
He said his members did not shoot the police officers.
“They used live ammunition and killed two of us and during the shooting, they shot some of their officers,” he said.
Mr Musa said his group would continue with their protest until their demand was met.
The protesters are demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Mr El-Zakzaky has been arrested since December 2015 after soldiers clamped down on his supporters and killed at least 347 of them. The soldiers accused the Shiite group of blocking a major road that was to be used by army chief Tukur Buratai.
That massacre of the Shiites has been condemned by local and international rights groups.
Since the December 2015 incident, Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah have been in detention; first without trial for about a year. They were eventually charged with murder for the death of a soldier during the December 2015 incident.
Dozens of other Shiite members have been killed in different protests mainly in Abuja and Kaduna since the December 2015 incident.
The security agencies often accuse the Shiites of instigating the violence by using various weapons including petrol bombs; allegations the Shiites have denied.
The police on Tuesday said two of its officers were shot by the IMN protesters.
On Tuesday, Anjuguri Manzah, the Abuja police spokesperson, said 40 Shiite protesters were arrested.
“The FCT Police Command has foiled a violent move by members of the El-Zakzakky Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to forcefully invade the National Assembly on Tuesday, 10th July 2019,” the spokesperson said.
Read Mr Manzah’s full statement below.
Police Nab Shiite Members over Attempted Invasion of National Assembly
The FCT Police Command has foiled a violent move by members of the El-Zakzakky Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to forcefully invade the National Assembly on Tuesday, 10th July, 2019.
The group which started its activity, camouflaged in a peaceful procession became violent and were trying to force their way into the National Assembly. Police operatives on the ground, however, acted proactively, professionally and used minimum force to disperse the unruly protesters.
Members of the sect during the violent protest shot two (2) police personnel on the leg, while clubs and stones were used to inflict injuries on six other policemen. The injured policemen have been taken to the hospital for prompt medical attention.
Meanwhile, forty (40) members of the sect have been arrested in connection with the violent protest. Investigation is in progress.
In view of the foregoing, the Command wishes to state unequivocally that while it recognizes and respects the right of citizens to peaceful procession, an attempt by any individual or group of persons to cause the breakdown of law and order will not be tolerated. Those arrested in the process will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate law of the land.
Members of the public are enjoined to go on with their lawful activities as normalcy has been restored, and adequate security measures have been emplaced by the Command to forestall any security breach.