Shiites, El-Zakzaky split House of Reps

House of Reps
House of Reps

The House of Representatives had a rowdy session on Tuesday over a motion on the activities of Shiite members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and the detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

The lawmakers, after an executive session, resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to meet with the Executive on a solution for the crisis surrounding the Shiite leader.

The IMN leader was taken into custody with his wife after soldiers massacred hundreds of his followers in Zaria, Kaduna State, between December 12 and 15, 2015.

Mr El-Zakzaky’s children were among those killed.

A judicial panel set up by Governor Nasir El-Rufai found the military culpable in the massacre, recommending a major-general for trial.

But the Nigerian Army denied culpability and President Muhammadu Buhari defended the soldiers during a media chat on December 30, 2015.

The heated debate at the House of Representatives on Mr El-Zakzaky lasted more than two hours.

Some lawmakers called for a tougher action on the Shiites while others asked the federal governemnt to release Mr El-Zakzaky for peace to reign.

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, after the lengthy debate, put the matter to a voice vote. But he could not clearly rule as members shouted in support and against the motion.

To clearly determine the vote, Mr Gbajabialmila asked lawmakers for and against the motion to seat in different parts of chamber.

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But while the members were still moving across the green chambers in a rowdy session, the speaker called for an executive session and journalists and guests were asked to go out.

The Motion

Moving the motion earlier, Shamsudeen Danbazau (APC-Kano) said that the actions of the Shiite group had threatened the peace and security of the nation’s capital and the corporate existence of Nigeria.

He said that the killing of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Precious Owolabi, and the vandalisation of private and public properties were “terrorising.”

Mr Dambazau, a son to the immediate past minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, called on the House to make recommendations that will outlaw the Shiite group as its activities contravene the 2011 Terrorism Act as passed by the National Assembly.

Contributing to the debate, Stanley Olajide (PDP-Oyo), said it was a critical situation that should be seriously dealt with.

Mr Olajide said that it is easy to call for more security personnel to be positioned at strategic points, but it is more important to engage in dialogue.

Also, Luke Onofiok (PDP-Akwa Ibom) said that heads of security agencies should be invited to explain their challenges with a view to finding a lasting solution to the security situation in the country.

Mr Onofiok, who is the immediate past speaker of the Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly, said that a lot of resources were invested in training the late DCP, the corps member and other victims killed in the clash.

He commiserated with the families of the victims and the Nigerian Police and prayed for the repose of the souls of all those who died.

Contributing to the debate, the Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa (APC-Kano), said that he had earlier engaged the Shiite group on behalf of the house.

The leader said that he promised the group to present their concerns to the leadership of the National Assembly and ensure they get results.

Mr Doguwa said he was disappointed that the group invaded the assembly the next day, injuring security agents, and vandalising public and private properties.

The lawmaker said that the National Assembly which is the symbol of democracy should always be respected as it plays its role in ensuring that the people’s voices are heard.

When the House reconvened after the executive session, members resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee led by Mr Doguwa to interface with the Executive with a view to resolving the matter.

Regular Protests

Members of the IMN have held regular protests to demand the release of their leader detained since December 2015.

Although he was granted bail by a federal court in Abuja, the government has refused to release him,

On Monday, a clash between the Shiite protesters and the police occurred close to the federal secretariat in the Nigerian capital during which a senior police officer was killed alongside a serving corps member.

A Shiite spokesperson said that 11 Shiites were killed during the Monday protest.

The Shiites, however, continued their protest on Tuesday in Abuja, leading to more violence.

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