We Are Saddened By This Violence
We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are deeply saddened by the destruction of both private and public property, injuries and deaths that resulted from the confrontation between the police and members of the Shi’ite during the protest by the latter to press for the release of their leader from detention.
These are highly regrettable and even avoidable.
The bloody conflict would not be the first or second or even third that would be resulting from protests by members of the sect on the same matter that ended up in a stand-off with security forces. Neither would it be the last.
However, it represented a determination of the members of the Shi’ite sect to press on with their demand and the sickening escalation of violence.
It is also a painful manifestation of the fact that in the continued confrontation between the Shi’ite sect and security forces, either party is susceptible to casualty.
The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the 1999 constitution (as amended) and that right cannot be abridged by any body. The exercise of this right which the organized labour has routinely exercised in spite of occasional objections has helped in strengthening our democracy in no small way. In fact, at the risk of sounding immodest, we at Labour have become the symbol of popular street protest in Nigeria.
Congress, from years of peaceful protests has covered some mileage for its members and generality of Nigerians. In the years of those protests, it was guided by discipline (even in the face of provocation) and principles of peaceful engagement.
We therefore urge the leadership and members of the Shi’ite sect to not only eschew violence but be guided at all times by those fundamental principles/rules and practices of peaceful protest.
We similarly urge the security forces to be guided by the rules of engagement. It is reprehensible and completely objectionable to turn against peacefully- protesting people offensive weapons. Rights are available to all citizens, nay, humanity, in equal measure.
Thus, the Shi’ite members should not be prejudiced or profiled for vindictive treatment.
We call upon the government with every sense of responsibility and concern for our national security, to deal imaginatively with the issue of El-Zak-Zaky whom it has kept in detention in defiance of a court order to release him from detention.
We expect the Government to be firm but flexible, use the stick and carrot approach. It is no sign of weakness.
Nigeria is bigger than any organization and no one can hold it to ransom. While we support Government’s right and duty to maintain law and order, we equally urge it to do so with the benefit of its previous experiences in dealing with sects.
Once again, our condolences go to the victims of this violence and families of those who lost their lives.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.