President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday warned that the protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ites, were testing the patience of the Federal Government with their violent protests in Abuja.
He said the FG might be forced to act with maximum force to defend the interest of the majority of Nigerians.
Reacting to the killing of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, and National Youth Service Corps member, Precious Owolabi, during Monday’s protest by the sect, Buhari called on any group carrying out violent protests to stop now, else the government would take decisive actions against them.
“Let nobody or group doubt or test our will to act in the higher interest of the majority of our citizens,” a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying on Tuesday.
The President said he was deeply touched by the death of Umar and Owolabi as he condoled with their families and the management of Channels TV, where the corps member was attached to.
He described the two as “law-abiding, hard-working and vibrant Nigerians with a promising future.”
Meanwhile, Police launched tear gas canisters and fired gunshots to disperse members of the IMN who filled the streets of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Tuesday in continuation of their protest against the continued detention of their leader their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
El-Zakzaky has been detained by the Federal Government since December 2015.
The IMN, popularly known as Shi’ites, on Monday, began their protest to press home their demand.
But the protest turned violent, leading to the death of Umar and Owolabi who was reporting for Channels TV. Two Shi’ites were allegedly killed while two Assistant Superintendent of Police and others got injured.
However, the IMN claimed 11 of their members were killed by security forces with 30 injured.
However, Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, who said they arrested 54 protesters, claimed the Shi’ites shot dead Umar.
Tuesday’s protest by the sect, which started from Banex Plaza in the Wuse 2 area of the FCT, again halted economic activities in the capital as many residents scampered to safety to avoid being caught in the crossfire between security forces and the protesters.
The FCT Police Command said it had arrested 12 Shi’ites who were on the rampage in the Banex area of Abuja on Tuesday.
Spokesman for the command, Anjuguri Manzah, said in a statement they acted professionally by using minimum force to restore calm to the FCT.
He said, “The police moved swiftly to the scene and arrested 12 members of the sect. The suspects were arrested while attacking innocent people, blocking roads and disrupting activities in the Banex area.”
The NYSC on Tuesday mourned Owolabi’s death.
The NYSC Director-General, Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, led other officials to the National Hospital, Garki, on Tuesday morning to retrieve Owolabi’s corpse which was later conveyed to his parents in Zaria, Kaduna State, via an ambulance.
The NYSC said this in a statement on its Facebook page.
The statement said, “Until his death Owolabi, a graduate of Performing Arts from the University of Ilorin, was a serving corps member with Channels TV.”
Spokesman for the National Hospital, Dr Tayo Haastrup, confirmed to newsmen on the telephone that Owolabi’s body had been removed from the hospital by the NYSC.
An eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Owolabi would not have died if a surgeon had quickly attended to him at Garki Hospital where he was initially rushed to.
The source said, “When the incident happened, the first point of call was the staff hospital because we were thinking he only suffered bruises. But were told to take him to the nearest hospital.
“When we got to Garki Hospital, he (Owolabi) was still walking. The hospital said the surgeon that should do the operation to remove the bullet was not around. They tried his line and could not reach him. Eventually when they did, he said he was far from the hospital and he is the only surgeon there.
“We took him to the National Hospital, but it was too late as he had suffered much internal bleeding. He was from Oyo State.”
However, Garki Hospital Clinical Director, Dr Aker Ityo, said the hospital did not abandon the deceased as alleged.
Ityo said, “He was brought in with gunshot wounds in the abdomen. He was already in shock. We gave him two units of blood and other appropriate treatments. We helped him to maintain his breathing and we put him in our ambulance with our officials to the National Hospital.
“Our surgeon was carrying out another operation on another patient and they were already in the theatre. If the surgeon was busy, do you now wait until he comes out or do you refer him to another place where he can get the same treatment? So the standard thing is to get him out fast to where he can get another surgery which was what we did.”
Apart from Owolabi, another corps member, a journalist serving with Leadership, Suleiman Aliu, who was hit by a stray bullet on Monday, had been receiving treatment at the National Trauma Centre, National Hospital, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Newsmen, who was at the hospital on Tuesday, could not speak with him.
Spokesman for the hospital, Tayo Haastrup said, “He is one of the three injured persons brought for emergency treatment because of the injuries they sustained during the crisis on Monday. He will be examined at the laboratory today (Tuesday) as part of his treatment.”
Umar was buried on Monday evening after a prayer at the National Mosque, Abuja.
The DCP, described as a kind man, was pacifying the Shi’ite protesters when he was felled by a bullet. He died before he could be taken to hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, police have tightened security around the Federal Secretariat, Eagle Square and other public facilities in Abuja apparently to protect them from being destroyed by the Shi’ite protesters, who reportedly burnt an ambulance and fire truck belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency on Monday.
But the Shi’ites insisted on Tuesday they didn’t kill DCP Usman Umar and the Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi.
In a statement by its spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, the IMN said the deceased might have been “a victim of friendly fire.”
Musa, who said the police lied against them to tarnish their image, insisted the force killed Umar and Owolabi.
He said, “The security agencies strategically killed the journalist to turn the media against us.
“They also killed the police officer to incite the security community against us and to stigmatise us.
“It is a known fact among the intelligence community that you don’t retreat from a mob with your back turned against them. This is one of the tenets of crowd control for law enforcement agencies. As if to hide this fact, the policeman (Umar) was hurriedly buried without any form of post-mortem examination, which would have revealed the source of the bullet.
“They are the ones with guns and they are the ones doing the shootings and also doing the killing, then fraudulently lied to Nigerians that their victims are the violent ones.
“They are working hard to portray the IMN as a terrorist organisation; that is why they have started killing people in our name including our supporters. We decry such shameless play with people’s lives with reckless abandon.”
A civil rights organisation, Nigerians Unite Against Terror, on Tuesday, expressed concern over the casualties recorded during the clash between the Shit’tes and security agencies.
The NUAT, in a statement by its convener, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, called on the Federal Government to release the IMN leader.
She said, “The NUAT received with rude shock the tragedy that occurred in Abuja as Shi’ites protest continued as a result of the detention of their leader, El-Zakzaky from detention.
“Our polity is already overheated; adding the Shi’ites’ violent protests to this, the outcome can best be imagined than experienced. The government must do everything within its power to restore law and order in the land.”