By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2019 general elections and the recent clash between some members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, popular, the Shiites , and the Army at Zuba , an outskirt of Abuja, fear appear to have gripped Nigerians, particular, residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, over the safety of their lives. The people fear that the Shiites or any other religious sect, could strike at any part of the country at any time if they could find their way to Abuja which is well fortefied to strike. through any of the major roads to the City for religious procession.
Over the last couple of years, the Shiites, appear to have been testing their Spiritual might with security operatives by embarking on religious processions in different parts of Kaduna state against a standing government order banning religious procession in the state. The sect may have decided to extend their religious procession to Abuja, to attract President Muhammadu Buhari Attention to accede to their request to release their leader, Al-zakzaky. Their plan may have misfired as Turkur uratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, CAS, and Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector general of Police, IGP, release their Combat officers to swoop on them.
Many believe that if security operatives were alert to their duties, the sect members could not have entered Abuja to hold procession because of its security implication to the nation. The sect religious procession was said to have disrupted vehicular movements in Abuja between Monday, October 29, 2018 and Tuesday, October 30, 2018.
The sect procession may have come at a time when an Armyescort team from the Defense Headquarters , DHQ, Abuja, has a mandate to escort some Communication equipment and missiles to the Army Central Depot , Kaduna. The soldiers were said to have met a stiff resistance from the sect members who had mounted a road block around Zuba Bridge. In a military fashion the soldiers had stopped to dismanle the illegal road block.
John Agim, a Major General confirmed that the sect members took offence over the soldiers action and attempted to overrun them with a view of ”carting away the Communication equipment and missiles”. Their plot may have provoked the soldiers to resort to the use of their weapons based on the United Nations , UN, Rules of Engagements, to defend themselves from the attackers. The shootout may have attracted troops of the 102 Battalion in the area to the scene to help force the protesting Shiites to flee .Eyewitness account disclosed that the sect members would never forget their experience in a hurry what they passed through in the hand of the Soldiers in Zuba and in the hand of the police at Wuse, Zone 2.
A resident of Nyanya, an ouskirt of Abuja, disclosed that the soldiers dealt with them as if they were fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in the north eastern part of the country . In a Statement, the DHQ, confirmed that three members of the sect were killed in the shootout ,while two soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries. But the sect claimed that the Army killed 27 of its members.
Giving a breakdown, the Shiites claimed that six of their members were killed on Sunday. October 28, 2018 and an additional 21 killed on Monday, October 29, 2018. Ibrahim Musa, the IMN, Spokesman , disclosed that the sect members were not violent in their organised procession, when the Army opened fire on them. An aggrieved Musa , said their procession , coincided with the yearly protes ,calling for the release of Ibrahim Al- Zakzaky, their leader , who had been in prison custody since 2015.
Al-zakzaky was arrested and jailed in 2015, after the sect deadly clash with the motorcade of Buratai, the CAS, in Zaria, Kaduna state. The sect had confronted the soldiers in a gun battle in Zaria for daring to stop their procession. The Army was said to have killed over 300
members of the sect in that confrontation which was condemmed both within and outside the country . The Amnesty International had lent its voice condeming the killing.
Many had expected the Shiites to have learnt their lesson from the Zaria incident to avoid any further confrontation with the Buratai controlled Army because of its implication. This is because Buratai, the current CAS is a no nonsense officer who would not want the Army to be challenged by any religious sect under any guise.
His experience in Borno state , speaks volume. It is not surprising why the Army are not taking chances with religious sects involved in religious procession in the country because it could degenerate to crisis.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that barely two weeks after the IMN members deadly confrontation with the Army , security had been tightened at Abuja and other major Cities in the country to restore Confidence in the mind of Nigerians.
It was learnt that Buhari, and who incidentally is the Commander -In-Chief of the Armed Forces, C-In -C, has given a matching order to the Service Chiefs and the IGP, to ensure adequate security in all nooks and crannies of the country ahead of the 2019 general elections. He may have given the Presidential Order to the Service Chiefs and the IGP to ensure a free and fair elections in the country because the International Community are watching .
The Presidential order may have forced Idris, the IGP, to read the riot Act to the Commissioners of police and their officers . At a recent Conference with the Commissioners and other senior police officers at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, the IGP urged them to be” ready to deal with any security challenges that may erupt ahead of the 2019 general elections in the country”.
The GP , who was worried over the recent clash between the Army and the IMN members at Zuba area, an outskirts of Abuja and the police at Wuse, Zone 2, warned that he would” no longer tolerate laxity from the Commissioners who fail to be proactive in dealing with emerging crisis and other violent crimes in their area of responsibility”.
the tough talking IGP, insists that the” police must live up to its responsibilities of ensuring adequate security in the country from now until the end of the 2019 general elections and beyond”. He was said to have frowned at a situation where the police Commissioners have abandoned the use of intelligence to detect crisis before they happen” , stressing that if the police had applied their intelligence gathering techniques, the IMN members, could not have had any opportunity of entering Abuja to embark on a religious procession that would disturb public peace.
The IGP riot Act may have forced Bala Ciroma, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Commissioner of Police and his men to move into action to fish out the sect members involved in the Tuesday, October 30, 2018, clash with the police at Wuse, Wuse Zone 2.
At the last count, about 400 of the sect members were said to have been arrested and detained. The FCT , police Commissioner disclosed that the suspects were detained for ”discreet investigation”. He confirmed that petrol bombs, illicit drugs and other dangerous weapons were recovered from the arrested sect members.
Hopes for the release of the detained sect members look slim, an indication that the suspects may be charged to Court for prosecution. The Army Brigade Commanders may have have also taken a cue from the action of the Commissioners of police in their respective areas of jurisdictions to look out for flash point areas and suspected Military training Camps to put a close watch on them .
Only recently, Sani Adamu, a Lt. Colonel and Commanding Officer of the 20 Model Battalion of the Nigeria Army in Serti, Taraba state said it has discovered an illegal training Camp in the area. Adamu disclosed that that Agyo Wapan. a Colonel, rtd, and the state governor’s Special security Adviser, had been invited as part of their investigation into the training Camp discovery in Serti.
But Wapan said there was nothing to worry about the alleged training Camp in Serti, because the military, police and the Department of State Security, DSS, personnel, were at the state security meeting where the issues of the training of the Marshalls, their uniform and knitting were discussed and agreed upon without a dissenting voice.
The information volunteered by the taraba state governor, Special Security Adviser may not have stopped the officers of the 20 Model Battalion in the state from looking out for other training Camps . Adamu , the Battalion Commander, fears that the trained Marshalls may be used for political purposes in 2019, and therefore not ready to allow the training Camp to continue with the exercise.
Darius Ishaku. the All Progressive Congress, APC, governor of the state, appears to have kept a closed lips to the Serti training Campfor Marshalls. Insiders told the Magazine that the governor is waiting for the issue to be tabled, at the National Security Council, NSC, meeting to give his response. For now, he has refused to join issues with Adamu, the 20 Model Battalion Commander in Serti.