Suspected members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have taken their protests against the Nigerian government into the National Assembly where they have written several inscriptions in the toilets inside the complex.
Inscriptions like “Free Zakzaky” were seen on the door and wall of a female toilet on the second floor of the building where the offices of all the lawmakers are situated.
The toilet where the inscriptions were written, is situated right next to an admin office, believed to be in charge of the cleaning department.
Although the office was locked at the time that this reporter went for inquiries, two supervisors of the Cleaning Department who gave only their first names as Caleb and Mathias, said similar writings had been cleaned in the male toilets.
“It did not start today. It has been going on since last year, since the last time they protested here and destroyed the gate,” Mr Mathias told this reporter.
“We have cleaned off some of them in the male toilets. We don’t know the people who do these things but we are sure they are Shiites people. Some of them gain access to this place because they don’t dress like Shiites protesters.
“Some come like they want to see their senators and then go to use the toilets, that is when they write all those things on the walls. They write all manner of things – ‘criminals’, free Zakzaky’ and so on”
The supervisors said they do not know how to stop them from carrying out such activities as they cannot monitor everyone who goes to use the toilet.
They said “the Sergeant-at-Arms is aware and has on many occasions, called the attention of the cleaners to take off similar writings on the wall.”
A cleaner who gave her name as Blessing explained that the inscriptions on the wall was first noticed last year by a colleague who brought it to their attention.
It is difficult to tell who is behind such actions because of the number of people who visit the National Assembly daily and use the toilets, she said.
She added that as soon as they noticed a pattern, they reported the issue to their supervisor.
Three staff of the Sergeant-at-Arms who were approached for reactions declined to comment.
The Shiites have for the past four years protested the detention and continued incarceration of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. They have had a series of clashes with the police during their demonstration.
One of their recent confrontations with the police in Abuja led to the death of a journalist and a police officer.
One of their protests in July led to the death of a journalist, a police chief, and more than a dozen Shi’ites.
The federal government has since secured a court order to proscribe the group by categorising it as a terrorist group. And with this development, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has said any attempt at protest by the group would be scuttled and its members would be treated as terrorists – a move which was condemned by Amnesty International.
The government has, however, insisted it did not infringe on the rights of association of the Shiites but that it only clipped the excesses of alleged violent members of the IMN group.
The leader of the IMN has been held in custody since 2015, despite a court order to release him.
Dozens of Shiite members have been killed and injured during protests, by security officers, since December 2015 when Mr El-Zakzaky was arrested following a clampdown on the group by soldiers. Over 300 Shiites were killed in that clampdown.