Nigeria Police keep mum on arrest of more Shiite protesters

Shiites protesters in Abuja
Shiites protesters in Abuja

The Nigeria Police Force have refused commenting on the number of Shiite members arrested after an initial confirmation of  the arrest of 115 members of the group in Abuja on Monday.

Members of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria began a rally on Monday, to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who was arrested shortly after a clash between Shiite members and the Nigerian Army in December, 2015.

A Federal High Court in Abuja had in December 2016 ordered the release of Mr. El-Zakzaky, but the Nigerian government appealed that judgement and has detained the IMN leader ever since. No charge has been filed against him or his wife, with whom he is detained.

The IMN members, who vowed to continue their protest till the federal government released their leader, had gathered at the Wuse Ultra-Modern Market on Tuesday and continued their protest around the National Universities Commission, Maitama on Wednesday afternoon.

According to a spokesperson for the IMN, Abdullahi Musa, ”three truck load of Shiite members were taken during Tuesday’s protest, while another car, loaded with arrested IMN members was driven away from the protest scene on Wednesday, by police officers.”

Despite repeated encounters between the police and members of the IMN, Tuesday and Wednesday in Abuja, spokesperson for the police declined making any further comment, when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.

After claiming ignorance of the development on Tuesday, the police spokesperson, Manzah Anjuguri, refused picking further calls by our reporter, even on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the IMN members converged near the National University Commission on Wednesday, while members of the police force arrived almost simultaneously on horses, armoured tanks and other vehicles.

The police immediately formed a cordon, preventing the IMN members from proceeding and almost succeeded in dispersing them, within five to ten minutes.

However after the police attempted to leave the scene, the IMN members immediately regrouped and started chanting: “Free Zakzaky”. They were soon dispersed by the police officers who returned with their guns ready to shoot, witnesses said.

“They followed us to the bus stops and arrested some of us,” Mr Musa later told PREMIUM TIMES, in a telephone conversation.

He added that although no harm was meted on the IMN members at the venue of the protest, he could not tell if any harm had come to the arrested members.

According to reports by Human Rights Watch and the Kaduna State government, Over 300 IMN members were killed in December 2015 when the army attacked IMN members who were accused of blocking a road.

Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife were later arrested and have been held by security operatives, till date.


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