El-Zakzaky's Detention: Shiite Protest & Preventing Conflicts
Last week, the Shiite Muslim group again protested at the National Assembly in Abuja, demanding the release of their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. Forty members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were arrested as they attempted to scale the fence into the National Assembly. This protest is not the first, neither is it the second as there have been multiple protests to demand the release of Zakzaky.
Nigeria Info FM’s National Assembly correspondent, Fidel Osagheve narrated what happened during the protest.
“I was at the national Assembly last Tuesday and the way they protested was peaceful. They were in a single file in their hundreds. They have organized protests at the National Assembly several times. I had passed inside but I was shocked to hear that they had broken the front gate and were marching inside. Suddenly, a policeman was rushed into the complex all bloodied. One of those who led him into the complex said that he was attacked by some of the protesters, and that he was actually shot by one of the Shiite protesters.
What happened was that the police were trying to disperse them by shooting into the air. Then one of the protesters picked the gun and shot the policeman on the head. That was what we heard. Later that evening, we heard that he had died. I saw another person being rushed into the clinic as well. Everyone in the complex was scared of going outside.
What quelled the situation was that the back gate of the National Assembly leads directly to the villa so the police reinforced from the villa and civil defense team had to come into the National Assembly and arrest many of the protesters. That was how the situation was brought under control.”
Two cars were burned and another had its screens shattered. Because they had sent in so many petitions seeking the release of their leader, that Tuesday, as they were told to wait outside while only a few representatives from the Shiite Group come inside the complex, they refused to comply and that led to the violence.
Timelines of clashes between Shiite Groups and police
In 2014, the Zaria court-day massacre took place, leaving about 35 people dead
2015: the Zaria massacre during which 348 Shiite Muslims were killed
2018: Clashes broke out and the Nigerian police fired teargas on Shiite protesters who were demanding the release of their leader. One protester died and several others injured.
Rotimi Sankore’s response to the issue is a response to what he knew have been happening and he said that he can confirm that Nigerian presidents are often selective in what court orders they choose to obey.
“I wasn’t in Abuja during the last protest,” Rotimi says, “so I don’t know precisely what happened. What I know that has been happening is that all the presidents are selective about court orders to obey. It is true as to what Prof. Soyinka said. He remarked about presidents selecting court orders they obey and that it is an invitation to anarchy because people will say since their requests can be disregarded, it is an invitation to self-help. And when that eventually happens, the presidency will have himself to blame.
“A key part of leadership is conflict management. You cannot lead a country and then take actions that any intelligent secondary child is able to foresee can lead to problem. What does it cost to release the man? If the presidency thinks that this is just going extra-judicial there are universal templates where you put people under surveillance.
What is police doing to manage the on-going protests for El-Zakzaky?
What are the views of Nigerians regarding the continuous holding of Zakzaky in detention when the court had ordered his release?
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Resource Persons: Dave Ajetomobi- Former chairman of the NBA & @RotimiSankore - Journalism, Policy and Development Expert
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