Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police, has defended his men over Monday’s clash with members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), in Kano.
Trouble broke out after the police disrupted the ‘Arbaeen’ trek, an annual activity of the sect.
While Ibrahim Musa, spokesman of the group, said almost 100 IMN members died in the incident, the police put the casualty figure at eight, including one officer.
Addressing reporters at the end of the launch of the 2017 Armed Forces Remembrance Day emblem at the council chambers of the presidential villa in Abuja, Ibrahim admitted that citizens ought not to be killed during riots.
But he accused the group of violating the law. He said IMN members “armed to the teeth” were the ones to first attack the police, forcing the security personnel to respond.
“From time to time, we have been experiencing upheavals from this set of people. As police officers, we have responsibility to ensure there is law and order, and when you have people taking over the whole country, dominating streets and buildings, we have to come in to maintain sanity,” he said.
“As of early yesterday (Monday), we got information that they were trying to block Kano to Zaria road. They later assembled in large numbers and our officers were deployed to the place to ensure freedom of movement of ordinary Nigerians.
“They attacked our officers, killed one, and another sustained an arrow wound on his head, and obviously in such a situation, police have the responsibility to ensure free movement of people on the road. And that was what our officers did.”
Ibrahim said people ought to be sympathetic to the plight of policemen, who have been saddled with the responsibility of protecting citizens.
He also warned religious groups against “constituting themselves into a government”. The police boss also spoke against the obstruction of highways by some worshippers.
“You have a situation where Nigerians armed to the teeth, killed a police officer. I don’t think it happens anywhere,” he said.
“I think as Nigerians, we have to appreciate, and to also be sympathetic with the police that are being killed by some of these miscreants. No organisation or individual should constitute themselves into a government, block passages and buildings. When you worship, you go to mosques or churches. Blocking highways and passages doesn’t constitute part of worship.”
Asked if he realised that the situation could degenerate into a crisis worse than Boko Haram if not handled carefully, he said: “Obviously, it is. Whether now or whenever, as police officers we have a responsibility to ensure there is law and order in any part of this country.”