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One dead, 115 arrested as Shi’ites, security operatives clash

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22 policemen injured

 

PDP calls for inquest

 

One person was feared dead and several others wounded as members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), also known as the Shi’ites, yesterday, engaged a team of antiriot policemen in a bloody street combat in Abuja. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command arrested 115 protesting members of IMN. It, however, noted that the protesters injured 22 policemen, who were deployed within the Unity Fountain. The clash occurred as the religious group intensified its campaign for the release of Sheik El-Zakzaky, their spiritual leader who has been in detention without trial since 2015.

 

The clash, which began at about 12 noon, followed the insistence of the Shi’ites to hold their daily protests at the Unity Fountain, a public garden that has been cordoned off by the police since last week. The Nigeria Police, FCT Command had, last Friday, sealed off the Unity Fountain, a mustering point for most protests in Abuja, to prevent aggrieved groups from staging their protests there.

 

However, as hundreds of Shi’ites poured out on the streets yesterday marching towards the usual protest ground near the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, they were confronted by a team of anti-riot policemen who shot several canisters of tear gas and hot water to disperse the crowd. The angry protesters retaliated by hauling stones and sticks at the policemen and their armoured personnel carrier.

 

Some motorists, who were caught in the crossfire, had the windscreens of their vehicles smashed, while others made desperate moves to turn back from the troubled spot, thereby creating a heavy gridlock. It took a reinforcement from the Brigade of Guards, the elite force of the Nigeria Army, to disperse the crowd. An eye witness, a taxi driver, who ran into the crossfire, said he escaped death by a whisker.

 

According to him, the protesters were not dissuaded by the tear gas and the hot water that the police were using against them, but rather took on the police, hauling stones and sticks at them. “I didn’t know what was happening, but before I could realise it, I was already in the midst of the protesters with the passengers I was carrying in my car. I hurriedly reversed my car and escaped from hurt.

 

“The Shiites faced the police with stones and sticks. In fact, it was when the soldiers came that they disappeared, and some of them fled with injuries and blood on their bodies,” he noted. When New Telegraph arrived the scene, the protesters had been dispersed, but there was heavy presence of soldiers, Civil Defence Corps, the Police and other plain cloths security agents, right from the Federal High Court Junction, to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) office in Maitaima.

 

But, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, Police Public Relations Officer, FCT Command, alleged that the IMN’s protest was violent. A statement by the Command read thus: “The FCT Police Command restored normalcy at parts of Maitama following a violent protest by members of the El-Zakzaky’s IMN who went on rampage on Monday, 16th April, 2018 and were attacking innocent citizens, disrupting business activities, obstruct-ing traffic movement and smashing windscreen of innocent citizens’ vehicles in the affected areas.

 

“Following the unfortunate incident which also resulted in the destruction of some government and Police operational vehicles, the members of the Shiite group also injured 22 police personnel during the protest.

 

“One hundred and fifteen members of the sect were arrested at the scene by Police operatives. Joint Team of detectives from the Command, in conjunction with operatives from the IGP Monitoring Unit, have commenced investigation into the incident.

 

The arrested suspects will be charged to court upon the conclusion of investigation.” The police, however, said no life was lost in the attack. “The Command wishes to state that contrary to speculations from some sections of the media, no life was lost in the violent protest as the Police operatives deployed to quell the protest were professional in handling the situation,” it said. The following were alleged to have been recovered during the protest: catapults, iron bars, stones, ball bearings, and ink head bands.

 

The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR),  Brig-Gen. Texas Chukwu, denied the involvement of the military in the clash. Human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has condemned the attack.

 

Falana said: “The violent attack unleashed on the Shiites by a combined team of armed soldiers, police and state security service personnel is totally unacceptable in a democratic society. It is highly condemnable as it was uncalled for.

 

“In the process, the security forces breached the fundamental rights of the protesters to life, freedom from torture, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. “Accordingly, the violent disruption of the peaceful rally of the Shiites was carried out by security forces outside the ambit of the law. Those who carried out the violent disruption of the peaceful rally ought to be prosecuted for culpable homicide.”

 

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) demanded an inquest into the violent clash. The party, in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed worry over the handling of security situation, which it noted, resulted into near breakdown of law in the nation’s capital and disruption of public and private businesses.

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Killings: Nigeria is a failed state – Dickson 

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Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson said the wanton killings in the country by Fulani herdsmen is symptomatic of a failed state. 

Dickson who spoke yesterday at a National Prayer Conference in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, stated that Nigeria is seriously bleeding and divided more than ever. 

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Francis Agbo, the Bayelsa State governor said Nigerians must unite in prayers and resolve to work together to ensure fairness, justice, equity and equal citizenship.                                       

“In this country,  God’s children, human beings irrespective of the God they worship are being slaughtered mercilessly, remorselessly in many parts of the country. 

“Our nation is bleeding, we must unite in prayers and resolve to do what is right and fair. Our nation should be a nation of fairness, justice, equity, equal citizenship and united by common ideals of being the greatest black nation,” Dickson added. 

He called on the nation’s leaders to take the responsibility to stop the bloodletting, adding that this is the time Nigerians have to intensify prayers for the nation to overcome its challenges. 

The governor said:‎ “We are united by our common shared humanity and nationality, so injustice and unfairness anywhere should be a concern to anyone and everyone in our nation. 

“I join you in praying that the bloodletting, unnecessary killings in our nation under any shape or guise ends in Jesus name. 

“God should intervene so that people will feel the need to do the right thing, be fair and just to one another.”

Chairman and convener of Nigeria Prays, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), stressed the importance of prayers, which he said, could help to solve Nigeria’s problems better and faster than military generals and soldiers could do with physical weapons of war. 

Gowon assured Nigerians that God would honour the collective prayers and intercession for the nation, while also advising people to shun violence and retaliation.

Also, the National Director of Nigeria Prays,  Reverend Moses Aransiola said the organisation believes in the efficacy of prayer, and argued that it is the patriotic responsibility of all Christians to pray for their leaders. 

President,  Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Revd. Felix Provide, in a message, assured of God’s intervention to the nation’s problems. 

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N21.5bn SUKUK bond: Lawmaker lambasts Niger Governor

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The Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Barrister David Umaru, has lambasted the Niger state Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello over the N21.5 billion SUKUK loan facility applied for, saying it will plunge the state into bankruptcy.

Barrister Umaru who is also the chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights at a press briefing on Sunday in Minna said the capacity of governor Sani Bello to put to judicious use the funds from SUKUK bonds if access is not only doubtful but nonexistent.

According to him “it is obvious that this administration is badly obsessed with accessing bond facilities in the presence of infrastructural development while it has consistently failed to account for the billions of naira accrued from statutory allocation to the State including other huge financial interventions from the government.

“Governor Bello should be aware that the well-informed people of the state including my humble self cannot be deceived by the needles lies being canvassed as benefits derivable from the huge burden-laden bonds meant to impoverish the state.

While calling on the state house of Assembly not to approve the loan, he said “this administration when compared to previous administration of former Governor Babangida Aliyu is more financially reckless.

“While the former administration had left a total sum of N44 billion as external debts and close to N30 billion as internal debts, the present administration appears ready to break such record with heavier debt burden despite huge resources that had accrued to the state in the past three years.”

He added that between 2015 and 2017, governor Bello administration had accessed over N114 billion as net FAAC. Though the State budget keeps increasing (36.3 % and 9.4% for the periods 2016-2017 and 2017-2018), the government is increasingly becoming incapable of delivering the democratic dividends as it is enmeshed in growing external and internal debts.

Accordingly, he said “the state’s external debt is put at N17.13 billion and, N31.98 billion as internal debt. We are asking governor Bello to tell us how the Bail-out funds from the federal government and the disbursements from the Paris Club refunds allegedly amounting to about N250 billion were utilized.”

Furthermore, he said the loans taken by the state which include $226 million bond from the Islamic Development Bank and $330 million from Kuwait find for Arab Development, are meant to further impoverish the state which is yet to recover from the comatose condition imposed by the huge debt bonds borrowed from the capital market by the previous administration.

He, however, called on members of the State House of Assembly to withhold approval on the loan request adding that this would save the state from further impoverishment, “history will not be kind to our House members if they do otherwise. Future generations of Nigerlites and indeed the present generation will hold our lawmakers responsible for mortgaging their future.”

He then called on the people of the state to stand up and vehemently resist and oppose the clueless misadventure of the Governor in seeking the N21.5 billion Sukuk bond.

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Naka military invasion: Benue PDP guber aspirant blasts army, threatens court action

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A Peoples Democratic Party governorship aspirant in Benue State Prof. Eugene Aliegba has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently end the on-going killings by Fulani herders\military rascality of innocent citizens in the state.

Prof. Aliegba made this call in Makurdi while reacting on the attacks by the military on the peace-loving people of Gwer West local government on the allegation of a killing of an army officer where two lives and over 300 houses were burnt down.

He described the reprisal by the military as lawless, uncivilized, brutal and a calculated attempt to provoke the law abiding citizens of Gwer West.

Professor Aliegba who was visibly angry over the military’s action said he is not comfortable with the present level of insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in Benue.

He added that as it stands now, the people of Agatu, Guma, Logo, Okpokwu, Gwer West, Kwande and Ukum Local Government areas are under siege and appealed to the federal, state governments and relevant security operatives including, Army, Police Department of State Services (DSS) and others to stop the senseless killings in Benue State.

Prof. Aliegba further called on the state government to set up internally displaced camps in Gwer West where presently inhabitants in nine out of fifteen council wards are moving helter-skelter in Naka town without shelter.

The former commissioner in Benue State, who also called for a thorough investigation into the incident that led to the loss of lives, called on Non-Governmental Organizations, public-spirited individuals and the international community to come to the aid of IDPs as well as ensure rehabilitation and resettlement of the areas devastated by the herders crisis in the state.

He advised army never to deviate from their primary responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of the country Nigeria as failure to do so will force the citizens to heed to the statement credited to General Theophilus Danjuma of self-defense.

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