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Anti-Impunity Group Threatens to Sue Nigeria Police over Attack on Protesters

Nigeria's Police Boss MD Abubakar

Nigeria's Police Boss MD Abubakar

By Eric Ojo, Pretoria

Organizers of the botched peaceful protest against impunity in Nigeria, Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N.) Campaign has threatened to sue the Nigeria Police Force and claim damages resulting from the crude and unprofessional manner the police disrupted the peaceful rally.

Nigeria's Police Boss MD Abubakar

Nigeria’s Police Boss MD Abubakar

The protesters who had planned to stage a demonstration against what they perceived as impunity in public finance management came under heavy tear gas in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Thursday as police attempted to stop the protest from taking place.

The protesters, under the aegis of Stop Impunity Nigeria Campaign, had converged popular Millennium Park in Abuja to commence their rally before submitting letters to Senate President, David Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal at the Nationla Assembly complex. However, combat-ready police officers stormed the Millennium Park with about six Hilux vehicles and pumped tear gas at the protesters in a bid to disperse them.

Consequently, many of the protesters were choked while, one Madam Tule Tatiana sustained serious injuries which led to her being hospitalized after the attack. The protesters boarded the vehicles which they hired to convey them to the National Assembly, and while in the buses ready to leave, the policemen continued to pump tear gas into the vehicles, some of which are high-capacity buses.

The leader of the protesters, Eze Onyekpere, who gave the hint, said the group will sue the police and claim damages for general and specific costs as the organisation incurred a lot of costs in organising the botched rally.

Onyekpere noted that the protest was supposed to be peaceful with a motive by the protesters to walk down to the National Assembly to submit a petition and lamented the action by the policemen who threw heavy canisters at the demonstrators which according to him resulted in choking up many of the protesters while some women fainted.

He added that most of the protesters were defenceless women who were not armed and expressed regret that the planned protest was stopped from taking place by the police, adding that the group was, at the last minute, mandated by the police to obtain approval for the rally.

He however argued that the Court of Appeal, in upholding the judgment of a Federal High Court, had quashed the Public Order Act (Cap 382) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, which required Nigerians to obtain police permit before holding public rallies.

“The Public Order Act made it mandatory for individuals or groups to apply for and obtain police permit or approval to hold rallies and peaceful assemblies but in its judgment, the appellate court, presided over by Justice Danladi Mohammad, held that such police approval infringed on the fundamental human rights of individuals and groups provided for in the 1999 Constitution”, he said

The leader of the protesters who is also the Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), further explained that the group wants the National Assembly, in approving the 2014 budget, to reduce its own budget to a maximum of N50 billion, publish the details of all statutory transfers in the Appropriation Act and allocate a maximum of 40 per cent of the budget to capital expenditure.

He also disclosed that the organisation wants President Gooduck Jonathan to take urgent steps to stop crude oil theft, ensure diligent prosecution of all persons involved in oil subsidy, pension, ghost workers and oil theft scams and ban the use of public funds for foreign medical trips by public officers.

Others, according to him, are that the president should implement the White Paper on Oronsaye Committee report, ensure that no public officer has more than two official cars and take other steps to reduce recurrent expenditure.

Onyekpere further noted that Stop Impunity Nigeria Campaign is a collaborative effort by a multi-stakeholder group of civil society organisations, religious bodies and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) aimed at re-orienting the citizens and promoting new ethical values to free the country from the debilitating effects of impunity.

Also condemning the action of the police, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), in statement signed by its Programme Manager, Ayode Longe, lamented that a walk against fiscal impunity has been met with aggravated physical impunity that threatens the lives and limb of innocent citizens who have been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

The MRA noted that a Police that turns its guns and arsenals on its employers is not a Police fit for a civilised nation, while an administration that fails to allow peaceful display of banners and placards cannot be described as democratic.

“The Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N.) Campaign notes with regret the descent into lawlessness and anarchy that has become an art of governance in recent times. We recall that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 guarantees the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of movement to all Nigerians.

“We further recall that these rights are guaranteed in a multiplicity of domestic and international instruments binding on Nigeria. Nigerians demand to see the difference between the Jonathan Administration and that of the late dictator, General Sani Abacha.

“The other day, it was the ASUU demonstration and the Dino Melaye workshop that were dispersed and today, S.I.N. tastes its share of the impunity dose being prescribed by the Jonathan Administration. S.I.N. therefore demands an unequivocal public apology, compensation and guarantees of non repetition. This is the minimum that reasonable men and women expect”, the statement further admonished.


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