For many residents of the Federal Capital Territory, the past one week has been a rough and trying period with everyone on tenterhooks .
The daily violent clashes between the security operatives and the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria , popularly known as Shi ’ ites , made living or working in the city a risky and dangerous affair .
The clash between the group and security operatives last Monday led to the death of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations , FCT Command, DCP Usman Umar , and Precious Owolabi , a youth corps member serving with
Channels TV .
Precious’ sibling, Ayodeji , who was devastated by the demise of his elder brother, said the incident had left a vacuum in his life which could not be filled.
The Agriculture and Bio – resources Engineering student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria , said he and the deceased had some plans for the future which had been aborted .
He said , “ I felt bad that he died so early .
I know bad things happen , but his death is devastating .
We were close , though we attended different schools , but growing up , we had great bonds . We worked on things together .
“ He was an introvert, had a small circle and was reliable .
He was quite intelligent .
He wasn’ t showing much interest in education but all of a sudden , he became intelligent , hardworking and responsible . ”
Trying not to blame anyone for the tragedy, the 18- year – old said Precious should not have been sent to cover the violent protest without necessary protective gears .
“ There are some things to question ; he wasn’ t wearing protective gear as a reporter in a violent environment .
I don’ t really know how they do it ; I don’ t know if he was supposed to be sent there (riot scene ) or not. I can ’ t really judge anyone , but it is painful that it ended like that.
I wouldn’ t blame anyone directly for his death , ” the undergraduate stated .
He regretted that Precious would not be able to fulfil his dreams of producing movies , adding that he planned to go movie – making after his national youth service corps programme .
Ayodeji stated , “ Precious studied Theatre and Performing Arts, and he had produced some movies even while in school .
As he came home in January, he was looking for some actors to execute the many concepts he had.
“ He was also interested in studio work , he wrote articles and scripts , but I think he was more interested in movie production .
He was intending to go into that fully but if
Channels TV retained him , fine . ’’
A bookseller at the Federal Secretariat, Mathew Sani , said the incident affected his business .
According to him , his customers have refused to come around since the clashes broke out.
He said , “Before the incidents , I used to make about N 10, 000 in sales every week , but now , my customers are afraid to come around .
Since last week , I have not made up to N 1 , 500 . I think the government should hold a dialogue with the protesters .
They are Nigerians too . ”
A stationery dealer, Ifeoma Njoku , also decried the confrontations, describing it as terrible .
She noted that she abandoned her wares and scampered for safety each time the police engaged the protesters .
She said , “It has affected our business around where the clashes took place . Customers no longer patronise us because they are afraid of being caught in the clashes .
I want the government to consider the demands of the El – Zakzaky group .
The agitation is getting out of hand and public safety is seriously under threat . ”
Also , a photographer , Abdulsalam Shehu , advised the government to do whatever it would take to stop the violent protests which he said made the streets unsafe and affected commercial and social activities across the FCT.
He said , “Before the clashes , I generate about N 5 , 000 daily . But now , I hardly make up to N 500 .
The government should take the necessary action to end the violence.
I believe the police have handled the incidents in a professional way, so far.
The government should negotiate with the protesters to avoid escalating the crisis. ”
While the police said the clashes claimed two lives , the sect said it lost 11 members . Apart from the lives lost , the National Emergency Management Agency ambulance bay, including a fire truck and ambulance, were burnt down by the rampaging protesters .
The police arrested 54 suspects expected to be arraigned on various criminal charges .
The collateral damage of the bloody confrontations had yet to be quantified .
But the obvious is that many lives had been lost to the mindless wave of violence unleashed on the public by the recalcitrant Shi ’ ites and the unrestrained use of force by the police and other security forces .
Many wondered if it was part of the police operating standards to fire live bullets on unarmed protesters .
Some had also argued that Umar and Owolabi’ s death could have been avoided if the operatives had not used live ammunition .
Pictures showed that Umar was felled by a bullet which hit the back of his head and exited at his side .
Hapless Owolabi sustained gunshot injuries to the stomach and subsequently died in the hospital .
Security experts said the deaths could have been prevented had the police deployed tear gas and water cannons which they said could adequately deter violent protesters .
They cited the police handling of the protests in Hong Kong in which no life was lost .
A security consultant , Ben Okezie, faulted the police handling of the riot , noting that they should not have fired live ammo on unarmed citizens.
According to him , the police should always deploy rubber bullets for such incidents .
He said their action did not meet the minimum international standards .
“ The police should not have used live bullets ; their action did not measure up to international standards .
In other countries , the police use rubber bullets or hot water to disperse violent protests.
“ The police did not do well in handling the riot and the Shi ’ ites also did not do well by engaging in violent protests.
The police should have cautioned their leaders first before engaging them , ” he stated .
Okezie asked the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force to learn from the civil manner in which the London Metropolitan Police Officers handled protesters who prevented the new United Kingdom Prime Minister , Boris Johnson , from going to his office 24 hours after his election , on Thursday .
Commenting on the casualties , Okezie said it was clear that the late DCP was not wearing a bulletproof vest.
He added , “ The late journalist was also not wearing a bulletproof vest , but the management of Channels TV
should have known that the youth corps member was going to a war zone and should have kitted him properly . ”
A security specialist , Kabir Adamu , dismissed claims that the police deployed minimum force against the sect members , arguing that minimum force “ is a range from persuasion to the use of tear gas and possibly water canons. ”
He called for a commission of inquiry to investigate the violent confrontations between the IMN and the police .
Adamu stated , “In the least , rubber bullets would be categorised as a minimum force. Anything above this is definitely not minimum force.
“ There is a need for a commission of inquiry to investigate the last two violent confrontations between IMN and the police to ensure that those who took actions against the law on both sides are penalised and corrective action is taken to prevent a recurrence . ”
On his part, an activist , Deji Adeyanju , criticised the police handling of the protests, calling on the United States of America to impose a visa ban on officers of the armed forces and the police “ who allowed the apparatus of the state to be used as tools of oppression against the people . ”
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