Last week Tuesday, the National Assembly (NASS) saw war. Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), tactically overpowered over 250 security agents stationed at the assembly and temporarily took charge.
In the process, two lives were allegedly lost. A policeman was allegedly shot by a member of the Islamist sect. He died hours later. Another policeman who got a dose of serious beating, is still reportedly fighting to stay alive.
One car was burnt, while four others were severely damaged. Protesters were not spared. A good number of them were injured and for over an hour, Nigeria’s safest haven, the Three Arms Zone, witnessed one of its fiercest uprisings.
The first gate of the expansive NASS building was pulled down by the protesters. The second gate, which leads to the main building was seriously damaged. The security house was petted with stones.
While this violence lasted, both chambers of the NASS were oblivious of the goings on outside their province. The crisis had already subsided when the House of Representatives adjourned for the day when news filtered that anarchy was looming in its backyard.
This is not the first time members of the movement will be staging a protest in the assembly. In fact, NASS has become the protests in recent times. Hardly a day passes without one aggrieved group or the other leading a protest there.
The July 9, 2019 protest was, however, the most violent witnessed within the precinct of the assembly. Although the sect members pulled down one of the gates in the assembly when it protested earlier in the year, there was no serious confrontation with security agents then. With this change in tactics on the part of the Shii’te members, it is unclear what will happen next.
The handling of the protest by security agents triggered reactions from the two chambers of the assembly. While the Senate condemned the protest outright, the House of Representatives urged President Muhammadu Buhari to release the leader of the sect, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky. The upper legislative chamber went ahead by calling on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Abubakar Mohammed Adamu, to beef up security around the complex.
Spokesman of the Senate, Adedayo Adeyeye, said NASS is a sacred institution of government and must be respected: “The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria condemn in its entirety, the desecration of the sacred National Legislative Institution of Nigeria on Tuesday by the members of the El-Zakzakky Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) with its forceful invasion into the premises.
“The unruly mob overpowered the security apparatus of the National Assembly through its main entrance known as MOPOL Gate. They forcefully seized one of the security operatives’ gun, shot two security personnel, unleashed terror on others, vandalised the gate, and burnt three vehicles of innocent individuals, while many other cars were equally vandalised.
“This unwarranted affront on the Federal Parliament led to abrupt adjournment of the House of Representatives plenary. Although, the Inspector-General of Police has ordered speedy and diligent investigation into this unfortunate and unwarranted desecration of the Federal Legislative house, the Senate hereby urge all law enforcement agencies to rise up to their hiding and urgently fish out the perpetrators of this dastardly act with the law taking its full course
“It should be drummed into the ears of perpetrators of this heinous act that the National Assembly is a place of serenity and sacred legislative and deliberative institution which should be respected and allowed to concentrate on her mandate of legislation for good governance, security and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.
“While the National Assembly is a public place for Nigerians, citizens must follow proper channels and protocols if they have causes to access its premises. Senate hereby calls for security beef up within the National Assembly and other institutions henceforth.”
Week before NASS invasion
IMN had a week before the NASS protest accused Buhari, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, of being influenced by the Saudi Arabian authorities to detain their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and wife.
In a telephone interview with Daily Sun, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Islamic group, Ibrahim Musa, wondered why the authorities continued to detain their leader despite the order of the court that he should be freed. He said they intensified their protests because of the doctors’ report on the deteriorating health condition of their leader.
He warned that if anything should happen to their leader, there would be a serious catastrophe in the country. He called on the authorities to respect the court order and release El-Zakzaky and wife:
“Of recent we are concerned about the medical report of our leader, Ibraheem El-zakzaky. From the medical report, examined about two months ago, there are some traces of lead poisoning in his blood because of the gunshots he received. This has caused his health to deteriorate.
“That is why we intensified our campaign, calling on the international community and the Federal Government to reconsider their stance. Our leader was set free by the Abuja High Court. So, the Federal Government should respect the court order. It is unjustifiable. We are calling on the authorities to quickly release our leaders. It will be catastrophic if our leader dies in their hands.
“We will continue with our protest. We have been in court. But I believe the protest will work because we are increasing in number. We are calling on the authorities to act fast.”