(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A peaceful annual demonstration commemorating the murder of civilians by Nigerian security forces has been violently broken up by armed police in Zaria, northern Nigeria.
Security operatives comprising anti-riot, regular police and soldiers on Tuesday disrupted the annual procession of members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, in remembrance of the killing of three of Sheikh Zakzaky’s sons and 31 other members in Zaria on July 25, 2014.
The event which held at the Darurahama, Jos Road, Zaria, was besieged by security operatives who were in the venue with over 18 trucks filled with personnel.
It was gathered that on their way to the venue, IMN members were seen in procession along the Zaria-Jos highway leaving the venue.
On getting to the area, when reporters sought what attracted heavy deployment of security personnel, the Police Area Commander in charge of Zaria, ACP Ibrahim Abdullahi, told newsmen to leave the area that there was problem.
When contacted, one of the organizers of the procession, Sheikh Abdulhamid Bello, said that a reporter covering the event, had his camera seized by the police.
“We were holding our annual remembrance anniversary held every year in memory of 34 of our members killed on July 25, 2014, including three sons of Sheikh Zakzaky.
“After we started the program by 8am, around 10am, the security personnel mobilized themselves and met us there. The Army came first and surrounded the place. They didn’t say anything, so we continued.
“When the Police came led by the ACP, they came and interrupted. There were tents, chairs and we were well organized. They tried to provoke us, but failed. The ACP told his personnel to take position, then they came and told the person preaching that: ‘No problem, no trouble, conclude and go away’. Some of our members recording were stopped and a journalist’s camera was seized.
“They wanted to seize all the cameras but we questioned them because their people were recording, so they decided that even their people should stop recording,” he narrated.
The Sheikh informed that as at the time they were disrupted, they had about 10,000 members in attendance, with several others prevented from entering the venue.
“About 10,000 of us were there, had it been we were not peaceful, they wouldn’t have been able to disperse us,” he added.
One of those prevented from entering the venue, Sheikh Adamu Tsoho who traveled from his base in Jos to attend, described the situation as unfortunate.
“We arrived around 9:30am. We heard they had blocked the entrance but they didn’t allow us to enter. A lot of people were trapped outside,” he explained.
An IHRC report into the 2014 massacre found that the peaceful demonstration had been attacked by Nigerian soldiers without warning and without provocation. Some of the fatalities died in custody after being savagely beaten and bore signs of torture on their bodies. At least two more civilians were killed the next day in a similar attack on the funeral preparations.
Among those killed were three sons of the IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, a fierce critic of political corruption as well as the so-called Boko Haram movement.
The massacre marked the beginning of a violent turn by Nigerian authorities against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) which would result in the slaughter in December 2015 of over 1000 IMN supporters at the hands of the Nigerian military.
The violent turn has included attacks on demonstrations, demolition and confiscation of IMN properties, arrests of its supporters and repressive legislative measures designed to weaken the group.
Last Thursday 20 July, the federal government was accused of starting operations to confiscate the site of the Husaiyniyyah Baqiyatullah centre belonging to the IMN in Zaria. Labourers protected by the Nigerian military were seen fencing off the property and carrying out building works in what IMN supporters believe is the first step to seize the land.
The centre was razed by the authorities following the 2015 attack on the IMN. Hundreds of people were killed defending the site.
Along with his wife Zeenah, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has been held without charge following their arrest during the later 2015 massacre of IMN supporters. Both were shot during the attack in Zaria in which at least 1000 IMN supporters, including a further three sons of the couple, were killed.
The couple remain in the custody of the State Security Service which is stubbornly refusing to implement a release order issued by a federal high court judge on 2 December 2016 on the basis that their detention is illegal and unconstitutional. The judge gave Nigerian authorities 45 days to unconditionally release the pair.