Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The protest for the freedom of Shi’ite Islamic leader El-Zakzaky took a disorderly turn Thursday when members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) occupied the entrance gate to the Abuja National Stadium.
Supporters had stormed the stadium in the early hours of Thursday with cooking utensils and large quantities of foodstuff, and made frantic efforts to gain entrance into the main bowl but were resisted by private security guards.
When attempts to force themselves into the stadium failed, supporters settled at the entrance, preparing food and serving members arriving on buses, with even more foodstuffs and cooking utensils.
Although not violent in their protest and demonstration for the release of their leader, who has been detained by the Department of the State Services (DSS) for few years, they however continued to put pressure on the security manning the gate, demanding they be allowed entrance into the stadium.
Expressing anger at the situation, a staff of the private security outfit guarding the stadium told Daily Sun that members of the group constituted a nuisance.
“We have been pleading with them to leave the gate because they are becoming a public nuisance. They have continued to put pressure on us to open the gate for them to enter the stadium and the more we resist them the more they press harder,” the guard explained.
“As you can see, what could be uglier than the discomforting sight of cooking in front of the stadium. This is the entry point into the FCT. They came here with large volume of foodstuff and cooking utensils as you can see. They have been preparing one form of good after another.
“We have informed the police to come to our aid because we are not armed and we can’t confront them with bare hands. We cannot handle their disturbances if the situation degenerates more than this. We want to take permission from the relevant authority to close the gate permanently before they pull it down and enter forcefully,” he said.
Members of the Shi’ite group protesting the continued detention of the El-Zakzaky had clashed with the police at the National Assembly Complex on Monday, before they took their protest to the U.S. Embassy.
The security personnel manning the main gate, who had prevented them from gaining access to the premises, fired tear gas into the air while dispersing them. Some of the the protesters were subsequently arrested.