Our stance on El-Zakzaki, Shiites – Senate

Shiites Protesters
Protesters at berger area. Close to Utako market during Wednesday's IMN protest.

A member of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Betty Apiafi, said the demands of a Shiite group is beyond the National Assembly.

She made this statement when some members of the committee briefed journalists at the National Assembly on Wednesday. The delegation led by its chairman, Adedayo Adeyeye, was reacting to the invasion of the National Assembly by the protesting Shiites, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

Members of the group held a protest at the entrance of the National Assembly which turned violent as members forced their way through to the second gate of the complex.

Two people were allegedly killed while two police officers were shot. The police later said 40 of the protesters were arrested.

While condemning the attack, Mr Adeyeye said mob overpowered the security apparatus of the National Assembly through its main entrance known as MOPOL Gate.

He said they forcefully seized one of the security operatives’ gun, shot two security personnel, unleashed terror on others, vandalized the gate, and burnt three vehicles of innocent individuals, while many other cars were vandalised.

The lawmaker called on all relevant security agencies to fish out the perpetrators.

“While the National Assembly is a public place for Nigerians, citizens must follow proper channels and protocols if they have cause(s) to access its premises.

“Senate hereby calls for security beef up within the National Assembly and other institutions henceforth,” he said.

When asked about the petition written by the group to the National Assembly, he said the petition was written to the eight Senate.

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“Not to this one to the best of my knowledge. Moreover, if they want to come here in furtherance of their petition, there are better ways to do that. Maybe send one or two of their leaders, book appointment and they will be attended to,” he said.

The panel was then asked why the National Assembly has not done anything about the continuous protest and demand of the group.

Ms Apiafi said the National assembly has discussed this issue but not during plenary.

“We try to interface with the people involved and try to find out how the issue can be resolved. We have had several discussions in the House of Representatives with committee on national security and other relevant committees and I don’t think the way the group is handling the issue is the best.

“While discussions are going on, we are well respected and very important part of the country. They have a right to protest but they don’t really need to come in that large number because when they come that way, they kind of present themselves as a threat.

“They can always send delegations and they will get properly briefed as to how far. We do sympathise with them and their case. I know there have been one or two court judgements in that aspect. Its something that is beyond us, she said.

The protesters are demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

Mr El-Zakzaky was 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.

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.

Many members of the group 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.

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