A Monday ‘Free El-Zakzaky’ protest by members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria resulted in the deaths of eight persons including six IMN members, a journalist and a deputy police commissioner (DCP).
No going back: The protests are increasingly becoming violent. Prior to this latest protest that left eight people dead, a policeman was reportedly killed with some of his colleagues injured. This was in the bid to prevent the protesters from gaining access to the National Assembly complex.
Not withstanding the loss of lives of its members the IMN insists that there would be no surrender in its demand for the release of its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Health scare: The conspiracy fueling the aggravated protests is around the El-Zakzaky’s health situation. The IMN spokesperson, Abdullahi Musa has alleged that the Federal Government was deliberately “poisoning” their incarcerated leader.
“We are not going back on the demand for the release of our leaders. If you don’t know, Sheikh El-Zakzaky has become very infirm. They are poisoning him and have refused to release him after the court granted him bail.”
Another report also revealed that the IMN leader suffered a second stroke in the previous week. Meanwhile, our analysts are of the opinion that the intensity of the protests within a week to the upcoming court ruling on El-Zakzaky’s medical release might be a strategic decision taken by the IMN to “force the hands of the court and the government in their favour”.
Who killed the policeman?
The Nigerian police has accused IMN members of responsibility for the deaths of the DCP and the razing of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) building. However, the group has maintained that it has a non-violent posture and has made a counter accusation against the police that its officers in “plain clothes” are behind the attacks in a bid to frame the group.
- While it is hard to determine the veracity of the claim, reporters covering the incident spotted protesters among the IMN group with liters of petrol bombs before the building was razed. Likewise, an analysis of the photo of the dead DCP pointed more towards police culpability as the shot was to the rear of the deceased’s head.
“We are not armed. If we were armed, these people cannot face us.”Abdullahi Musa, IMN spokesperson
Terrorist designation: The Federal Government on Friday obtained a court judgement proscribing the existence of the IMN and designating it as a “terrorist group”. The court declared that the activities of the IMN “in any part of Nigeria amounts to acts of terrorism and illegality.” This order will grant the government some sort of leeway to engage the group with full force.
Bottomline: The government seems to be out of options in its bid to curtail the protests by the Shia IMN. Unlike standard protests in Nigeria, the Shiites have been consistent and unwavering in their demands. Current government tactics have resulted in costly deaths. Likewise, the latest move to proscribe the group might in turn radicalize its members, leading them to resort to self defense and more desperate methods for survival.