The clash between members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and security personnel took a turn for the worse on Tuesday as sect members clashed with police.
The clashes which took place on Sunday and Monday on the outskirts of the federal capital city spread to the business districts in Central Business District and Wuse.
Sounds of sporadic gunfire were heard even as smoke from tear-gas canisters spread and enveloped the area.
Shop owners in Wuse Zone II, along Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, hurriedly locked up their shops as they scampered to safety.
The police fired tear-gas canisters at sect members who were hurling stones at police officers. By the time the dust cleared, a police patrol van was seen burning.
The vehicle was one of the vehicles donated to the police by billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote.
It was gathered that the Shiite protesters marched from Wuse II, through the Wuse Market road, to Zone 4 and 5 to the Berger Bridge.
Addressing journalists on Tuesday’s clash, the FCT Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, said the police had taken into custody 400 Shiite members including one Mustapha Abdullahi and Abdullahi Umar, who were arrested with 31 petrol bombs.
Also arrested was one Salahuddeen Ahmad, 23, of Illela Local Government Area of Sokoto State, who provided first aid to injured sect members.
Ciroma said, “At about 1230hrs, police operatives on stop-and-search duty along Tipper Garage, Katampe, intercepted and arrested one Mustapha Abdullahi, 20 years, of Ungwan Gwari Suleja with 18 bottles of petrol bombs carefully concealed in a travelling bag.
“To smuggle himself and the petrol bombs into the city, he disguised as a passenger and boarded a taxi with other unsuspecting passengers.”
Ciroma stated that Abdullahi ran out of luck when vigilant policemen on duty upon reasonable suspicion intercepted the cab and searched his bag where the improvised bombs were found.
“Other exhibits recovered from the suspect included two lighters and one dagger. The suspect will be arraigned in court upon the conclusion of investigation,” the police said.
The CP explained that Umar, who travelled from Sokoto to participate in the protest, was nabbed with 13 petrol bombs.
“During interrogation, the suspect confessed that he arrived at Suleja from Sokoto State on Sunday to join other members of their sect for the protest.
“He also confessed that he was ferrying the petrol bombs to FCT to confront law enforcement agents. One lighter was also recovered from the suspect. He will be arraigned in court upon the conclusion of investigation,” the CP said.
Umar told journalists that he planned to use the petrol-filled bottles to distract police operatives and prevent the arrest of his colleagues.
The IMN members, who were on what they described as ‘Arbaeen trek,’ were demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-ZakyZaky.
They had clashed with soldiers in Zuba on Saturday where three of their members died.
They similarly had a violent confrontation with soldiers along Nyanya-Abuja road on Monday where about 10 IMN members were gunned down. An eyewitness claimed that no fewer than 100 persons escaped with various degrees of injury.
It was the turn of the police on Tuesday when the sect members took them on. A resident of Wuse II, who identified himself as Ahmad Adamu, gave an eyewitness account of what transpired between the police and the sect members in his area.
He said, “The Shiites and police were battling each other on Ademola Adetokunbo Road. People were staying indoors to avoid being hit by flying stones or tear-gas fumes.
“The police were firing lots of tear gas. But the protesters were marching on with stones and sticks. The police operatives started shooting live bullets at them. It was horrible.”
One of our correspondents learnt that in the midst of the confusion, the Shiites set a police vehicle on fire on the street.
Children and women were not left out in the Shiites protest, and some of them were reportedly injured and feared dead on Tuesday in a fresh clash with the police operatives in the Central Area and Wuse.
In response to the growing threat to the seat of power, security was tightened across the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
One of our correspondents noticed that security was beefed up at the different gates leading into the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Federal Secretariat, the Court of Appeal Complex, the National Arcade and the National Assembly Complex – all located in the Three Arms Zone in the FCT.
Armed policemen, soldiers and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were seen around the aforementioned locations.
Armoured vehicles belonging to the military and the police were also deployed.
The situation was the same at the military checkpoint in Karu, one of the FCT satellite towns where a bloody confrontation took place between security agents and members of IMN on Monday evening.
PDP condemns alleged extrajudicial killings
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has expressed concern over mounting tension, escalating public restiveness, violence and rising cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.
The party said the frightening situation in the country was precipitated by a series of divisive and undemocratic actions and statements of the Buhari administration coupled with its alleged official high-handedness, blatant refusal to obey court orders and open disregard to constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens.
The PDP was reacting to the alleged killings of members of Shiites by security agents in Abuja on Monday.
PDP’s reaction was contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan.
The party added that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration should respect the life of every Nigerian.
He said, “The PDP thoroughly rejects the resort to maximum unleashing of state apparatus of power against citizens at the slightest provocation, resulting in bloodletting and extrajudicial killings of compatriots, preponderance of which are never investigated despite the usual lip service of bringing perpetrators to book.
“The PDP believes that the life of every Nigerian is sacred and deserves respect as provided for in the 1999 Constitution (as emended).”
He added, “The PDP, therefore, calls on the National Assembly and relevant international bodies to take a judicious look into the situation in our country today.
“Our legislators must, therefore, immediately open a system-wide investigation into all violations leading to loss of lives and property in our nation.”
Police to charge 400 Shiites with terrorism
The police authorities have said they would arraign the 400 Shiites in custody on terrorism charges.
The force spokesman, Moshood Jimoh, said in a statement that the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had directed that the detainees should be arraigned in court after investigation under Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
He said, “400 members of the group arrested for disturbance of public peace and law and order in the FCT and setting ablaze of police vehicle and those arrested with 31 bottles of petrol bombs and other dangerous weapons, now in police custody, will all be arraigned in court after investigation under Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act 2013.”
Jimoh said the IG had placed on red alert commissioners of police to deal with INM members and prevent them to from causing a breakdown of law and order.
He added, “The Force will not condone lawlessness and disturbance of public peace by any groups under any guise that runs contrary to the constitutional provisions and other enabling laws on preservation of law and order and protection of lives and property of all Nigerians.”