By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—MASS protest against alleged continued detention of Shiite Muslim leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, rocked the National Assembly yesterday.
The intimidating large number of the protesters, who started their protest match from the Unity Fountain, to the National Assembly forced the Nigerian Army not to leave anything to chances, as they drafted a large number of personnel, mainly from the Army Brigade Command, Abuja, to strategic positions.
In spite of the large number of personnel of the Nigerian Police Force who were earlier deployed to major parts of the city ahead of the protest, the Army Brigade Command, which is directly in charge of security of the Federal Capital Territory, deployed gun-wielding personnel not only to the National Assembly but also strategic locations around the Three Arms Zone, housing Aso Rock Villa, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court.
The protesters, who carried placards with such inscriptions as “Free El-Zakzaky”, “500 days of El-Zakzaky and his wife in illegal detention”, “Release El-Zakzaky and his wife now,” among others, continously chanted “free Zakzaky, obey court order.”
The development caused panic and fear among people around the area, with some of them running away from the area for fear of imminent danger.
Addressing the crowd at the National Assembly first entrance gate where security personnel had limited their entry point, convener of the protest who led a coalition of civil society groups, Prince Deji Adeyanju, said the long and continued “unwarranted incarceration of the leader” of Shi’a Muslim leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, even in the face of a Federal High Court, Abuja, order necessitated their protest.
The former Head of New Media for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said his group, Concerned Nigerians, convened the protest not only to demonstrate solidarity with the detained leader of Shiite Muslims but also draw the attention of the National Assembly to the continued violation of the rights of El-Zakzaky and and wife, Hajia Zainab.
Hear him: “Our organisation convened this protest due to the fact that today marks the 500 days that Sheik El-Zakzaky has been in custody of the Nigerian government without trial.
“ As a Nigerian and as a Christian from Kogi State, North Central Nigeria, today, I’m a Shiit because an injustice to one is an injustice to all and the greatest way to fight injustice is when you see that injustice is being done to one, you fight for him so that it doesn’t come to you.
“The greatest way to fight for peace is when you see that the peace of others are threatened. You do everything humanly possible to ensure that you restore their peace so that you can also have peace.
“ When somebody in Kogi sees trouble in Borno, he should do everything humanly possible to solve the problem in Borno because if he does not, it will get to Kogi and it will affect him. That is the main reason why we are here.
“Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife have been kept in prison custody for 500 days, that is 71 weeks without trial. Court has ruled that he should be granted bail, that he has not done anything wrong.