Security agents were forced to use tear gas to disperse members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, who gathered at the Complex of the National Assembly as well as the Federal Government Secretariat in Abuja.
The protesters were calling for the release of the leader of the Movement, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and other members of the Shiite sect being held in government custody.
El-Zakzaky has remained in what security officials described as “protective custody” since after a clash between the Shiite group and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State, in December 2015.
The clash led to the death of hundreds of members of the IMN, while some of the leaders of the sect, including El-Zakzaky, were arrested and are believed to be held in the headquarters of the Department of State Services, DSS.
The Shiite leader, through his counsel, Femi Falana, had sued the federal government asking for N2 billion in damages for “violations of his fundamental human rights.”
Falana argued that the Islamic cleric was not allowed access to anyone, including his family members, lawyers and doctors.
But when the case came up in court, the FG explained that El-Zakzaky was being held “for his own safety”, adding that there were intelligence reports that some people were planning to kill him.
Ayodeji Ibitoye, an operative in the legal services department of the DSS, said in affidavit deposed on behalf of the federal government that Zakzaky’s detention was a proactive measure to forestall a similar incident that made the Boko Haram sect turn violent in 2009.
He stated that the FG believes that if the Zakzaky – who is the leader of one of the largest Islamic groups in the country – was allowed to be killed as contained in the intelligence report, the country may again be plunged into another Boko Haram-like crisis.
“Zakzaky was evacuated to the medical facility of the service where he is being attended to by the best doctors and his treatment has gulped millions of naira at the expense of the state,” the affidavit read.
Recall that the Kaduna State government, last month, proscribed the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, describing it as an unlawful group.