House in Rowdy Session over Calls to Ban Shi’ites, Free El-Zakzaky

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•Channels TV reporter for burial in Zaria
•Police disperse Shi’ite procession in Abuja

Omololu Ogunmade, Kingsley Nwezeh, Shola Oyeyipo and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The House of Representatives was thrown into a rowdy session yesterday as lawmakers were engaged in altercations over the call on the federal government to release the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as Shi’ite, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and to ban the sect.

Following the disagreement on whether or not the House should adopt a motion to that effect, the House quickly adopted a motion to withdraw into an executive session to resolve the matter.

The disagreement over freedom for el-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015, despite a court order granting him bail, came just as the body of the late Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi, who was killed by a stray bullet during Monday’s clash between the Shi’ite and police, has been taken to Zaria for burial.

The altercations began in the House during a debate on a motion of urgent national importance moved by Hon. Mohammed Shamsudeen Bello representing Takai/ Sumaila Federal Constituency in Kano State.

Bello, who likened the activities of the Shi’ite to terrorism within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), expressed concern that the actions of the protesting supporters of the cleric had destabilised political, constitutional, economic and social structures of the country.

He prayed that the House should constitute an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter, make recommendations and report back to the House within one week for further legislative actions.
But trouble started when Hon. Haman Hembe representing Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency, Benue State, in his amendment, asked the federal government to obey the various court orders and release el-Zakzaky.

While his prayer was voted out by members, further amendment to the motion by Hon. Linda Ikpeazu representing Onitsha North and South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, asking instead that the Kaduna State government should honour court orders and release el-Zakzaky could not be resolved by voice vote.

This prompted the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to opt for head count by asking the lawmakers to stand aside based on their positions on the debate.

Gbajabiamila later called for an executive session to resolve the matter after the gallery became rowdy.
On resumption from the session, Hon. Wole Oke representing Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency, Osun State, eventually moved a motion that the House should set up a committee to liaise with the executive and the security agencies to resolve the matter.

Oke’s motion was adopted and the Majority Leader, Hon. Ado Alhassan Doguwa representing Tudun-Wada/Doguwa Federal Constituency, Kano State, was named as the chairman of the ad-hoc committee.

The lawmakers also adopted a motion to invite security and service chiefs to shed more light on the sustained violent protests by Shi’ite members in Abuja.

Earlier, while arguing his motion, Bello had expressed concerns over how the Shi’ite protests had degenerated into violence.

He said: “This act seriously intimidates the population of Abuja as well as its environs and also damages or intends to damage corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such violent and unlawful assembly becomes sporadic and leads to the loss of lives and properties.

“The Nigeria Police Force appeared incapable to tame it as a result of colossal violence of the members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shi’ite), hence the need to direct the Inspector General of Police of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to initiate the proscription of the IMN and or declare the assembly unlawful in Nigeria.

“Members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria cannot under any guise of protest engage in bloodshed or violence as well as destruction of economic activities which seriously intimidate the population, sovereignty of the nation.

“If urgent steps are not taken to proscribe Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shi’ite) or declare their assembly unlawful in Nigeria, the group may likely arm itself and turn to a deadly group like Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Boko Haram.”

Channels TV Reporter for Burial

Meanwhile, the body of the late Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi, who was killed by a stray bullet during the Shiite protest on Monday, has been taken to Zaria, Kaduna State for burial.

The violent clashes between the Shi’ite and the police left seven people dead, including a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar.
His corpse, which left the morgue yesterday, was taken by Channels Television management to his parents in Zaria.

The Controller, Programmes, Channels Television, Ambrose Okoh, described Owolabi’s death as a sad and low moment for the company.

He described the victim as a bright, young man with lot of hopes and expectations but which have sadly been shattered.
Okoh also said the company had during a visit to the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, Adamu Ciroma, demanded a thorough investigation to determine who fired the fatal bullet.

Ciroma also yesterday described the late Umar as a gallant officer.
He attributed the relative peace in the FCT to the efficiency of the late senior police officer.
He spoke when the FCTA Permanent Secretary, Chinyeaka Ohaa, paid a condolence visit to the command.
Ohaa, who described the incident that claimed Umar’s life as unfortunate, said it must not be allowed to repeat itself, adding that those who break the laws must face the consequences.

Police Disperse Shi’ite Procession in Abuja

Meanwhile, there was tension in Abuja yesterday as the sect regrouped for another round of protest.
However, security operatives disrupted the procession.

Policemen chased after the Shi’ite who fled in different directions.
Police also fired shots into the air to disperse the members who gathered around a shopping mall, Banex Plaza, to continue their protest against the prolonged incarceration of their leader.

Following the development, the police have resumed a 24-hour surveillance of the FCT as police patrol vehicles were mounted in strategic parts of the nation’s capital while intensive search of the locations of the protesters in Abuja in order to contain further violent demonstrations had commenced.

Members of the group fled into shops in Banex Plaza where computer accessories and other electronic gadgets are sold, disrupting business activities for hours while some traders locked their shops to avoid being hit by stray bullets.
Sources said police surveillance units had been activated to avert a repeat of Monday’s violent clashes that led to the death of many people.

Buhari Mourns Channels TV Reporter, DCP

In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday commiserated with the families of Owolabi and Umar.
One of the president’s spokesmen, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president also condoled with the management and staff of the television station and the police leadership over the loss, urging them to remain steadfast and committed to their professional callings.

According to the statement, Buhari described Owolabi and Umar as “law-abiding, hardworking and vibrant Nigerians with a promising future,” saying their untimely death was “sad, regrettable and worrisome.”
The president assured Nigerians that perpetrators of the mayhem would not go unpunished.