By Iliya Kure
Police in Nigeria have confirmed the killing of one of its officers in Kaduna, following a clash with members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), aka, Shiites.
Police spokesman in Kaduna, ASP Aliyu Mukhtar who confirmed this, said the deceased was stabbed several times and stoned to death, around the central market area, between Kano road and Ibrahim Taiwo road.
“One of our officers was stoned, stabbed severally and killed” he said.
The deceased was one of the officers drafted to disperse the protesting Shi’ites members, who were protesting the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, by Nigerian government.
An Abuja court has ordered the release of the Shiite leader in 2016, but Nigerian government has kept him under custody since then. He was to appear before a Kaduna State High court on Thursday.
The Shiites marched through Kaduna city on Wednesday (a day ahead of fresh trial of their leader in Kaduna), clashing with the police and other law enforcement agents – several were injured including police officers – a number of the Shiite members were arrested and detained.
In the early hours of Thursday, the Shiites gathered at the city centre (Leventis Roundabout), for a procession to the court premises, but were barred by law enforcement agents.
The crowd grew, and the members started chanting, “Free our leader,” “Free Zakzaky.”
AFRICA PRIME NEWS gathered that the law enforcement agents at the scene could not contain the situation, because the Shiites members were undeterred – this resulted in several casualties, including a lady at the nearby Mangal Plaza, who was said to have been affected by a stray bullet.
The injured were taken to undisclosed hospitals, while several people suspected to be members of the group were arrested.
Nigerian Army was later drafted to continue the operation.
Elsewhere near the court, roads were blocked by the police, barring people from going close to the court, including journalists.
Several vehicles were forced to divert their routes off Bida road, which passed by the court, creating high vehicular traffic.
Several Kaduna residents were forced to trek long distances to get commercial vehicles as most vehicles stayed off the city centre.
Several roads in the city were also blocked including Yakubu Gowon Way, Muhammadu Buhari Way and Ahmadu Bello Way.
The Kaduna Central Market, alongside business premises in the city centre were shut down, crippling business activities in the city. Many of the business and shop owners had to close shop and run away.
At the Court Premises
The presiding judge did not appear at the court, no one could say whether or not it was related to the clashes experienced on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Prosecution Counsel was inaccessible, but addressing journalists outside the court premises, Lead Counsel to the Defendant, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), said they were informed by the Court Registrar that the Judge was indisposed.
According to him the prosecution and defence counsels agreed on adjournment on the case till 11th July. “We have filed our bail application and we will move it during the next hearing,” he said.
Mr. Falana however expressed dismay over militarization of the trial, saying it was a public trial and everybody should be part of it, wondering why the media was barred from entering the court.
“Ladies and gentleman you also have a duty to insist on being part of this trial because it is a public trial. It is your right to cover the proceedings,” he said.
Speaking on the charges against his clients, Sheikh Zakzakky and other Shiite members, Mr. Falana said, “we are prepared to charges, because as of today, our client, the Nigerian State have been ordered to release our client since 2nd December 2016 – they are still being held by the state.
“It is the height of contempt and to compound the contempt the govt has brought them to court for offences they know nothing about.
They are charging them with all manners of offences and since those charges have not been read in court, we don’t know whether they are going to change their mind, but as far as we are concerned, we are demanding for justice for our clients and other support for their release and provision of housing for them, all to be obeyed before any further step is taken, because the rule of law cannot be cowed as its been done.
“They are being detained incommunicado, but as their lawyers, we can see them” he said.
On the night of 14th December 2015, officers of the Nigerian Army raided the residence of Sheikh Zakzaky, and arrested him alongside his wife and other shiite members. This followed a face-off in Zaria, between the entourage of Chief of Army Staff, and members of the sect, who were on procession on same day.
Shortly after the military raid, Kaduna state government ordered the demolition of the sect leader’s residence and the IMN’s headquarters, all in Zaria.
Amnesty International, a rights group, reported an extra-judicial killing of members of the sect in the residence by the Nigerian army, that night, as well as mass burial of those killed.
In April 2016, the sect through one of its lawyers, Festus Okoye, demanded N2 billion for extra judicial killing of the leader’s three children by the armed soldiers, adding that the arrest of El-Zakzaky without warrant in his home at No. 1 Wali road, Gyallesu, Zaria by armed soldiers was a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights to privacy and private property, guaranteed by section 35 (1) (4) (6) of the constitution of Nigeria.
In October 2016, Kaduna state government declared the sect as illegal and banned all its activities in the state.