Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Bauchi State chapter, recently converged on the Kobi football field in the heart of Bauchi metropolis for the funeral of three of its members.
The group alleged that the three were killed by operatives of the Nigeria Police during the Ashura procession embarked upon by the group two days earlier.
Sadness enveloped the area, as members of the group mourned their loss. It was a solemn event for the group, with most of the members donning black attire.
The grief in the arena was palpable, as members of the IMN mourned the death of the three teenagers. They chanted songs and dirges as they marched, holding flags and pictures of the slain men.
While the youth of different ages conducted a march past holding banners that carried the picture of the deceased who they insisted were shot dead by police, elderly members stood in the scorching sun in an orderly and sober manner, as they awaited the remains of the fallen members.
Among them were Malam Ahmad Yusuf Yashi, the leader of IMN in Bauchi State, as well as Malam Abdullahi Bello, leader of the Martyr Foundation of the IMN, who conducted the funeral.
Shortly, the bodies of Husseini Hanna, 15, Huzeifa Adamu, 20, and Huziafa Sanusi were brought in and gently laid on the field for the Islamic rites, led by Bello and Yashi, among other prominent leaders of the group.
Bello was worried that the police threatened IMN members ahead of the Ashura procession and made good their threat. He regretted that the police authorities were going against the Constitution of the country that gives every individual and group the freedom to freely practise its religion. Bello said it was disheartening that the police would turn against defenceless citizens whom they were mandated to protect.
The father of one of the victims, Sanusi Abdullahi, said his son, Huziefa, was a tiler who had moved to Abuja after his secondary education in Bauchi.
“He moved to Abuja and learnt how to fix tiles. He was doing well. He came to Bauchi on Friday and was killed by the police during the Ashura procession. I called his number but his phone was ringing and there was no answer. Later the phone was switched off. I was looking for him after the commotion and later some brethren came to my house to inform me that my son was among those killed by the police,” he said.
Sanusi Abdullahi alleged that the police shot his son near a mosque in Bauchi.
“He was just a small child. He was unarmed. Why should the police open fire on innocent people?zzzzzz But I thank God that my son has become one of the martyrs. I have left everything to God,” he said.
Mallam Adamu, a 55-years-old businessman, said he received the news of the murder of his son with shock.
“He was shot by the police during the procession,” the bereaved father alleged. Adamu said that his slain son, Huziafa, born in 1999, was a student and apprentice mechanic.
Dahiru Umar, whose son Ahmed survived a bullet wound allegedly fired by the police, recalled that the procession started with no problem on Tuesday.
“We came down peacefully through Bauchi Local Government Secretariat, when, suddenly, the police stopped us and, before we knew what was happening, they started shooting.
“That was how my son and several others were shot and people ran helter-skelter. Police also fireed teargas canisters. They were using machetes, sticks to beat our members and many of our members were arrested.”
Speaking with journalists shortly after the funeral for the deceased Malam Ahmad Yusuf Yashi, represented by his disciple, Zilkallaini Aliyu, stated that the slain members were staging a peaceful rally when police attacked them, shooting and stabbing the demonstrators around Bauchi Central Market, which resulted in the death of four persons between the ages of 16 and 20.
Yashi lamented that, if other Muslim sects and followers of other religions could be allowed to practise their faith without hindrance, Shi’ites should also not be persecuted.
According to him, IMN members have been conducting rallies for over 20 years without violence. He said the attack on the members was uncalled for.
The Nigerian Police had earlier proscribed the sect and banned all street protests by them in recent times.
Efforts to get the official reaction of the police were not successful. Several calls to the police public relations officer, DSP Datti, were not answered.
A text message sent to the police spokesman’s number was also not replied.
However, a source who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the leadership of the Bauchi State Police Command has denied the involvement of its officers and men in the shooting or stabbing of IMN members in the state, which led to loss of lives.