Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) held a demonstration in the capital city of Abuja on Monday, April 16, to demand the release of the group’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. IMN supporters reportedly gathered at the Wuse II and marched through the Ademola Adetokunbo neighborhood towards the National Assembly. Police officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Calm reportedly returned to the city as of Monday early afternoon (local time).
Further demonstrations are likely in Abuja in the coming days and clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
IMN protests occur on a regular basis, especially in Abuja, as well as in Kaduna and Kano states, despite a ban on the group’s activities. Such protests have occasionally led to violent clashes between protesters and police forces as well as arrests. On April 13, security forces dispersed a similar protest in Abuja.
Zakzaky, a prominent Shi'ite cleric, was arrested in December 2015 when army forces raided his home in Zaria (Kaduna state), killing a number of IMN followers in the process. The Nigerian Federal High Court ordered Zakzaky’s release in December 2016 but he has nevertheless remained in detention. He was reportedly in poor health as of early January 2018 and IMN protesters have demanded his release for medical treatment.
Individuals in Abuja are advised to avoid this and all protests due to the risk of associated violence and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
In general, the security environment in Nigeria is complex and is particularly concerning in the northeast and extreme south of the country due to the presence of armed groups, high crime rates, and the risk of kidnapping. Some Western governments consequently advise against travel to certain areas of the northeast (e.g. states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Jigawa as well as parts of Kano and Adamawa states) and the southern Niger Delta region (e.g. states of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers). Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel to these areas.