Addressing the Shia��ites lock-down of streets in Abuja

April 23rd, 2018

Last week witnessed turbulent protests carried out by the members of the Shia��ite Islamic Sect, otherwise known as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). During the protests, the entire Unity Fountin axis, which is adjacent to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, became a no-go area. The INM supporters, who have been holding court at the spot since February, had vowed to continue to sit-in at the Fountain and carry out occasional protests to the National Assembly and the Presidential Villa, until their leader, Mallam Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is released from detention.

The Federal Government had on December 14th, 2015 arrested and detained El-Zakzaky. The arrest followed the confrontation of members of the INM who blocked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, while heading to Zaria on an official assignment. That confrontation led to the death of several members of the Shia��ite sect.

Since then, members of the sect had carried out one form of protest of the other in Zaria, Kaduna and Abuja. In fact, their Abuja protests have assumed greater magnitude in that they not only blocked entrances to court premises each time the El-Zakzaky matter comes up for hearing, but they disallow staff and other people who have businesses to transact at the Federal High Court premises, from entering the court premises until they are done with their protests. Shifting away from the lock-down of the court premises, they have recently resorted to making their Abuja street protests an almost daily affair.

Since last week, and inspite of the arrest of several members of the IMN by security agents, the sect members have not failed, even for a single day, to protest on the streets of Abuja. They barricade the streets in their numbers, chanting unprintable slogan and each time they are confronted by security agents, they resort to violence, damaging anything and everything on sight.

For the greater part of last week up till Monday, this week, the dual carriage way from the Transcorp Hilton Hotel to the Federal Secretariat, as well as from Transcorp to the National Universities Commission (NUC), and then through the Adetokumbo Ademola Crescent, up to the Lobito Crescent Junction in Wuse 11, have turned to mini battle ground between the police and the IMN followers. The harrowing experiences of motorists and other Nigerians, as well as visitors who ply their businesses around those axis, or those who reside around that axis, are better imagined than experienced. These people are daily exposed to doses of tear gas expended by security agencies to disperse the INM protesters.

But, that is beside the point. With the protests gradually turning violence with consequential collateral damage suffered by innocent Nigerians and passerby, there is the need for security agencies to bring these ugly scenarios to a halt before they snowballs into something of unimaginable proportion. It is instructive to recall that what today turned the entire North East zone to the highest bloodbath in the West African Sub-Region, were due to the uncalled for delay in the handling of the threats posed by the Mohammed Yusuf (Boko Haram) Islamic religious sect. These group of people had back then in Maiduguri, started to spread Islamic ideology considered as infra dignitatem, but the security agencies failed to properly analyse the intelligence and today, we all witness the bloody consequences.

With the apparent lack of capacity to pick and process intelligence which have unfortunately been exhibited by the nationa��s security agencies over the years, leading to incalculable carnage, especially in the North East and Middle Belt zones, Nigerians are already at apprehension that the protests by the IMN could snowball into violence of even greater magnitude, if not nipped almost immediately.

There is also the urgent need for the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF) to meet with the top echelons of the nationa��s security and find urgent solutions to the growing protests, before it turns to another source of blood bath and carnage. While the AGF fast-tracks the resolution of the legal issues, the security chiefs should step up their intelligence apparatus and avoid situations where they would come and announce regrets over a pending cataclysm, which unfortunately have become their refrain since the orgy of violence broke out in parts of the country almost on a daily basis.

Nigerians are tired of hearing its leaders issue statements condemning extra-judicial killings and attacks on hapless citizens. They demand a halt to such senseless killings. On the international scene, these violent attacks denigrate our international stature as a nation capable of protecting its citizens. That is the more reason why the consequential outcomes of the Shia��ite protests should be stopped now. There is no need turning around to express regrets and condemnations, when we have ample opportunity to stop the madness now. Allowing such protests to prolong is dangerous and we are The AUTHORITY appeal to the relevant authorities to act fact while the sun shines.

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