The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shi’ites, have called for an independent investigation into the killing of a Journalist, Alex Ogbu, during their last clash with the Nigerian Police.
Ogbu was shot by a stray bullet on 21st January, when the Nigerian Police engaged the Shi’ites during their (Shi’ites) protest demanding for the release of their leader Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
The Shi’ites, while protesting on Monday, urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the killing of the journalist.
In a statement signed and issued by Abdullahi Musa on behalf of the Academic Forum of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, also demanded an investigation into the killing of a police officer, DCP Usman Umar Belel and an internship journalist, Mr Precious Owolabi, who were killed during their protest last year.
The statement said “on receipt of the news of the passing away of the journalist Alex Ogbu, we became deeply sad and pensive. Mr Alex was found dead at the twilight hours of Tuesday, 21st January 2020 around the flyover at Berger, Wuse, Abuja after a brutal police crackdown on Free-Zakzaky protesters.
“The spokesman of the FCT Police Command, Anjuguri Manzah, has admitted the death of Mr Alex but insinuated that the Police killed him in response to attack from Free-Zakzaky protesters.
“He purportedly claimed that the protesters assaulted police operatives and innocent citizens and that the victim was killed during police reprisals. Such misguided statement will always do more harm than good because the protesters are citizens with inalienable right to demonstrate and voice their grievances.
“The entire situation was quite avoidable had the Police eschewed violence in favour of good conduct and professionalism. However, instead of shielding lives and properties of the citizens, the Police continue to gun them down recklessly.”
The statement further said the group were observing their daily protest for the unconditional release of their leader before the Nigerian police clashed with them at Berger Bridge, Abuja.
“The protest of that Tuesday was part of the daily Free-Zakzaky protests always stage in demand for the unconditional release of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife.
“It began from Utako Market and ended without any hitch at the underpass of Berger bridge. But, the police all-of-a-sudden arrival to the scene ushered in the brutality directed towards the clusters of innocent citizens through firing teargas canisters and live ammunition at random.”
The IMN, however, said “National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is fully aware that the Police have been, and are still, attacking the Free-Zakzaky protests. Often times, they use live bullets, not only on the protesters but also on journalists and passers-by.
“These reckless and unprofessional conducts on the side of the Police almost always result in the intentional cruel acts of assaulting, injuring and killing of protesters, passers-by, journalists and other innocent Nigerians. On the other hand, on the occasions the Police were absent, our protests always ended in the most peaceful manner.
“The unfortunate and sad demise of Usman Umar Belel, Deputy Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, and Mr Precious Owolabi of Channels TV on Monday, 22nd July 2019 was also as a result of the same foolhardiness in question. Although the Police are charging some innocent people on this matter, the charges are baseless and untenable.
“That clampdown led to scores of casualties and nine fatalities from Sheikh Zakzaky’s followers, the corpses of whom are yet to be retrieved from the Police. The names of the five identified corpses among them are as follows: (I) Muhammad Bakir Habibu, (II) Ja’afar Muhammad, (3) Askari Hassan, (4) Mahdi Musa, and (5) Sulaiman Shehu. These remains are still with the Police.
“We urge the NHRC to investigate the death of DCP Usman Umar Belel and Mr Precious Owolabi. For, while reporting on the death of the DCP in her statement after her official visit to Nigeria sometime in September, 2019, Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, stated that the police officer was reportedly facing the demonstrators and trying to pacify them when he was shot on the back of his head. The Police claim the officer was shot by the protestors. However, no forensic evidence has been made public up to date.
“Similarly, in November, 2019, a schoolgirl, who attends Government Secondary School, Wuse, Abuja was shot and injured by a police officer, whose name is Geoffrey A. Rafah, at Wuse Market. Even Mr Afolabi Shotunde of Reuters was arrested at the same scene as he was covering the Free-Zakzaky protest on that day.
“The death of Alex Ogbu, who was, until the tragic murder, working with the Abuja-based Regent Africa Time magazine, exposed the unprofessional conducts of the Police at handling protests. We vehemently condemn the murder of the trio of Mr Alex Ogbu, the DCP Usman Umar Belel and Mr Precious Owolabi. We also condemn the unending police attacks on protesters, journalists and other innocent citizens.
“It is indeed pertinent to state that the NHRC has statutory power to promote and protect human rights, and investigate any alleged violations of human rights in Nigeria. Therefore, we urge the Executive Secretary to investigate the murder of the DCP Usman Umar, Mr Precious Owolabi and Alex Ogbu. Again, we urge the NHRC to act quickly in promoting and protecting the rights of protesters, journalists and Nigerians on the whole.”