WASHINGTON has warned Americans living in Nigeria to avoid large crowds and particularly steer clear of demonstrations organised by the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) as the tension between it and the government escalates.
Over the last week, the IMN has intensified its protests in Abuja, demanding the release of its leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015. Over the last few days, the IMN has protested in Abuja and as usual, these demonstrations have involved bitter clashes with the security forces.
Last week one particularly violent clash culminated in the burning of police vehicles, injuries to persons on both sides and the arrest of over 40 suspects. Worried at the growing violence of the situation, the US Mission in Abuja has urged its citizens in Nigeria to review their personal security plans.
A mission spokesman said: “The US Mission in Nigeria advises US citizens that large demonstrations by protesters affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria are expected in the coming days throughout the country, including Abuja and Lagos. Protests by this group in the Nigerian capital on July 9 became violent, including exchanges of gunfire between protestors and Nigerian police, resulting in a couple of deaths, so we advice our citizens to avoid these demonstrations and remain in safe areas during these periods.”
In addition, the US urged its citizens to avoid demonstrations and large crowds, be aware of their surroundings, monitor local media for updates and carry proper identification, including a US passport with a current Nigerian visa. There are fears that the trouble may escalate over the coming weeks as the IMN has vowed to sacrifice 21m of its members if the federal government fails to release Sheikh El-Zakzaky.
Both at home and abroad, the IMN has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to respect court orders and release Sheikh El-Zakzaky. In London, Shiite protesters have camped outside the Nigerian high co9mmission to the UK, demanding Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s release.
Alhaji Muftau Zakariya the southwest coordinator of IMN, has also called on the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to prevail on President Buhari to release Sheikh El-Zakzaky. He added that the group would not desist from protesting until President Buhari releases their leader.
Alhaji Zakariya said: “We are ready to die if our leader is not released. If they are ready to kill us, we have 21m lives to offer.
“I know that Nigerian soldiers do not have 21m bullets to shoot at us. It’s true that there are 21m Shiites in Nigeria and if they kill our leader, which country will they have to rule by 2023?”
“Buhari got to the office because the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, assisted him, as it was Tinubu that started the movement and spent his money to ensure that the party assumed power. We’re calling on Tinubu, to talk to the president, who is a member of his party to free our leader because if he allows the president to continue to kill our members, there will not be Nigeria in 2023.”