Shiites Continued Protest: Matters Arising

In Morning Crossfire 2019-07-23 10:46:43
Shiites Continued Protest: Matters Arising
Shiites Continued Protest: Matters Arising

As Wemimo Adewuni points out on this edition of Morning Crossfire, the Shiites protests continues in the northern parts of Nigeria and there are other protests as well of that nature outside the country. Sheriff Quadri joins Wemimo Adewuni to talk about the Shiites protest in Abuja, together with Journalist, Policy and Development Expert, Rotimi Sankore and Nigeria Info Correspondent, Abuja, Philip Nwelih, who witnessed the protest that cost the lives of one police DCP, an intern attached to Channels TV Abuja, and several others.


Commenting about the Shiites protest that became violent on Monday, Wemimo remarks, “this is another round of protests that totally went bad with multiple loss of lives including that of DCP and also a journalist.”


Philip explains further on 99.3 Nigeria Info live how the protest took a bad turn on Monday.


“Well you know the protest has been on for quite some time now. It all started in December 2015. Several court judgments have ruled that their leader El-Zakzaky be released but the federal government has refused.


“Yesterday had large numbers of Shiites come out again and they filed out in the same way onto the streets, where they moved towards the National Assembly. They also moved to Federal Secretariat, the Supreme Court areas, and the Eagle Square. When they got to the Foreign Affairs Commission, police tried to disperse them with teargas. I don’t know what really happened, but we heard gunshots close to the office. There was teargas and all. Light bullets were fired and some of them must have been hit. The reporters were caught between the gunshots. People were hurt as they tried to escape, vehicles were destroyed.”


Usman Umar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of Operations, FCT Command, was killed in the violence while trying to pacify the Shiites members, leading to questions on how that happened, and if some the protesters were armed. Philip says he didn’t see any of them use guns or any other weapons except seeing one with a catapult. But the police were armed when they should have had rubber bullets, he claims.


He also talks about the safety of journalists covering violent events such as the type of protest that erupted on Monday. “In many situations we are told to stay alive. Even when there is war, we are always told to stay at a safe distance. The fear of many in Abuja now is that the Federal Government may proscribe the sect and that may make them more violent.”


Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu has also in a number of tweets made his thoughts known and has released presidential statements to the public regarding the protests, statements which urged them to halt the protest and let the due course take place regarding the release of their leader as the presidency will not get involved with it. He also said that it will not be a positive thing for any Nigerian to insult the presidency.


On his part, Rotimi Sankore claims that insulting the Presidency is not a crime. “Insulting the president is not an offence. It may not be polite or desirable, or it may not be recommended behavior for anybody. But in a country where legitimate criticism could be tagged as an insult, all that is needed is clarification. Public officials respond as if government is their private property where they take it personal when they are criticized as if people are insulting them. With due respect to the presidency, the judiciary has already decided on the matter and granted El-Zakzaky bail so it’s not clear when they say Nigerians should allow the judiciary to do their work.”


South-West Coordinator of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Mr. Ustad Muftau Zakariyah, who called in on the phone said that the Federal Government has been telling lies that the Shiites protesters are violent. “Now they are saying that we set NEMA on fire. I don’t know what setting NEMA on fire has to do with the release of our leader. In fact, we have it on video where we saw policemen setting fire on NEMA headquarters. I’m saying that they should take us to court so we can present our evidence in the court of law.”


He also claimed that he is sure that people who died of gunshots yesterday were killed by Nigerian policemen or soldiers. “If we had guns and had fired at anybody or killed anybody,” says Muftar, "then the government should take us to court and prove it that we are terrorists killing people with guns. It is very difficult to believe that the police will set NEMA on fire but we have it on video.”


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Written by Jude Chukwuemeka