Chaos as Shiites invade NASS, nine Policemen injured, cars burnt
No fewer than nine security operatives were on Tuesday confirmed badly wounded when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as Shiites, allegedly overpowered security operatives at the main entrance of the National Assembly, known as MOPOL gate, and invaded the legislative chambers.
The National Assembly was on lockdown after shootings outside. Sources said Shiites engaged security operatives in exchange of fire. The incident created pandemonium within and around the Assembly complex.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, hurriedly adjourned sitting, saying lawmakers would have to adjourn “due to security concerns” while an executive session would be held to deliberate the incident later.
Security sources at the gate said some of the policemen were attacked and overpowered by the protesters numbering over a hundred, who seized their riffles and fired at them.
As at the time of filing this report, three of the wounded operatives were seen being lifted by ambulances to the hospital, while one special protection policeman badly hit on his jaws was sighted at the lobby to the chambers.
The Islamic sect members who have been protesting the arrest and detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, for over four years now, have since last week sustained their protest around the legislative quarters, demanding the release of their leader.
The protesters had occupied the MOPOL gate main entrance last week, paralysing movement but since Monday, they had vacated the gate and took over the major road around the Eagle Square and National Arcade, around the National Assembly.
They were sighted on Tuesday morning marching around the road, but while proceedings were going on in the chambers, report filtered in about 1.45p.m that the Shiite members had advanced to the second gate main premises of the National Assembly.
Consequently, sporadic gunshots were fired into the air by security operatives with teargas canisters also fired to disperse protesters.
Security reinforcement was called and a combined team of security forces made up of soldiers, the police, Civil Defence operatives, and the DSS were seen taking over the entire three arms zone, cordoning off the Villa and the National Assembly.
All movements became static around the area, with no one going out or coming in.
Security operatives soon took over the entire surrounding bushes, combing the area for escaping Shiites as the general area became very unsafe.
The windscreen and glasses of a jeep said to belong to an honourable member was seen badly shattered by bullets.
Also, several cars within the National Assembly’s car park and those along the road were badly damaged and others completely burnt.
Blood spills were sighted on the adjoining roads as some of the protesters were also reportedly killed. Daily Independent could not immediately confirm casualty figures.
The protesters also pulled down security barricades and billboards, and put the inscription ‘Buhari is a criminal’ all over the walls, billboards, and cars around the complex.
Empty bullet shells were also sighted all over the ground around the National Assembly.
However, calm returned at about 3pm when the gates were opened for ease of movement.
El-Zakzaky was arrested after the Shiites clashed with a convoy of the chief of army staff in Kaduna State in 2015.
There have been court orders granting him bail but the Federal Government insists on detaining him thereby stirring his followers.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command has revealed that its officers on Tuesday foiled an attempt by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to take over the National Assembly, adding that in the process nine of the officers sustained injuries, while 40 members of the movement were arrested.
Anjuguri Manzah, the Police Public Relations Officer, made this known in Abuja in a statement issued following the violent clash between the Shiites and the police.
He said that the group started its activity, feigning a peaceful procession, but suddenly became violent as they tried to force their way into the National Assembly.
He noted, however, that police operatives on ground acted proactively, professionally and used minimum force to disperse the unruly protesters.
According to the statement, “Members of the sect during the violent protest shot two police personnel in the leg, while clubs and stones were used to inflict injuries on six other policemen.
“The injured policemen have been taken to the hospital for prompt medical attention.
“Meanwhile, 40 members of the sect have been arrested in connection with the violent protest. Investigation is in progress.”
The statement added that “in view of the foregoing, the command wishes to state unequivocally that while it recognizes and respects the right of citizens to peaceful procession, an attempt by any individual or group of persons to cause the breakdown of law and order will not be tolerated.
“Those arrested in the process will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate law of the land.”
Manzah, therefore, urged members of the public to go about their lawful activities, adding that normalcy has been restored, and that adequate security measures have been put in place by the command to forestall any security breach.
Following the violent protest, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered a 24-hour police surveillance in the FCT and its environs.
In a statement, DCP Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, said that the Commissioners of Police and their supervisory Assistant Inspectors General of Police in states contiguous to the FCT were also placed on the alert to ensure maximum security in their respective areas of responsibility to avert any possible breach of public safety and security.
While noting that the Force is not against citizens expressing their grouse against the state, the IGP stressed that such ventilations must be done through legitimate and acceptable processes and not by taking the laws into their own hands. He, therefore, warned that citizens should not test the collective will of the people and the state by engaging in lawless acts likely to cause the breach of the peace.
The IGP has also ordered a speedy and diligent investigation into the incident as well as prompt prosecution of all the persons arrested and now in police custody in connection with the incident.