Concerned Nigerians, a Nigerian pro-democracy civil society organization, has announced that it will stage daily sit-out demonstrations at the Unity Fountain in Abuja beginning on Wednesday, January 17, and continuing indefinitely. The group is organizing the demonstrations to protest the alleged killings of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and demand the release of IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, detained since 2015.
The demonstrations are scheduled to take place at 09:00-11:00 (local time) daily; Concerned Nigerians has reportedly invited other notable human rights activists and organizations to participate in the ongoing protests. A heightened security presence and associated transportation disruptions are expected in the vicinity of the ongoing protests in Abuja, and clashes with security forces are possible in the coming days.
Related protests took place in Abuja on January 8, and led to violent clashes between protesters and police forces as well as multiple arrests. On January 7, similar protests broke out in several towns in northern Nigeria, including in Kaduna, where violent clashes took place between police officers and demonstrators.
Zakzaky, a prominent Nigerian Shi'a cleric, was arrested in December 2015 when Nigerian army forces raided his home in Zaria (Kaduna state) and killed many IMN followers. The Nigerian Federal High Court ordered his immediate release in December 2016, but he has remained under state detention. He was reportedly in poor health as of early January 2018, and IMN protesters have demanded his release for medical treatment.
Zakzaky founded the IMN - a Shi'a missionary and political organization - in 1979 after witnessing the Iranian Revolution. IMN has reportedly received significant material and financial support from Iran since its founding, and is known for regularly holding pro-Palestinian and other protests in Kiduna state.
Individuals in Abuja are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations 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.