Thousands of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, also known as Shiites, blocked the roads around the National Mosque, Abuja, on Friday demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, who had been in detention since 2015.
President Muhammadu Buhari had come to the mosque to observe the Juma’at prayer, as part of activities lined up for the May 29 inauguration, when the Shiites and some youths marched around the mosque.
Our correspondent observed that the protest started around 1pm and continued till 2pm when the two rakat Juma’at prayers were called.
Policemen and soldiers from the Guards Brigade, however, prevented the Shiites from entering the mosque.
While inside the mosque, some worshippers, believed to be IMN members, chanted Allahu Akbar as prayers were being offered for the President and the country.
Caught in the Shiites’ chants were also the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and a few traditional rulers from Niger State and Abuja.
The President later left around 3pm under heavy guard by military men armed to the teeth.
Buhari usually observed his prayers at the Presidential Villa Mosque, but came to the National Mosque as part of the Wednesday inauguration activities.
Speaking with journalists in front of the mosque, a spokesman for the Academic Forum of the IMN, Abdullahi Musa, said the protests would not stop until President Buhari release El-Zakzaky from detention.
He said, “We are still here and if you like, you can come and kill us, we are ready to die. We have been killed, we have been oppressed and we have every right to challenge the oppressors.’’