The Senate and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday came down hard on the Nigeria Police Force, condemning it for using force to disperse a group of protesters in Abuja campaigning against the medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Though the Senate in a statement by its Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi condemned the subject of the protest which is aimed at forcing President Buhari to either terminate his medical vacation or resign, the Upper Chamber of the Federal Legislature would not support any violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
Just as the NLC in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Comrade Peter Ezon, condemned the inhuman maltreatment of Nigeria who expresses their opinions through peaceful protest, stressing that they have every right to do so as Nigerians.
According to the Senates spokesman, “While we are opposed to the subject of the protest, the Senate acknowledges the fact that the protesters have the constitutional right to gather and express their views in a manner that will not breach public peace, order and tranquility.
Since the ‘Our-Mumu-Don-Do’ protesters did not conduct themselves in such a manner as to disturb public peace, it is not right for the police to brutalise the people as they reportedly did yesterday.
“The police should review their rules of engagement and ensure that they are in line with that of modern democratic societies. The rights of the people should not be violated by the police employed to protect these rights.
Where the Police suspect that hoodlums are trying to hijack the protest, it is the duty of the Police to apprehend the hoodlums and those who break the law rather than generalise and thus brutalise innocent protesters.
“We however urge the organisers of the protest to join other Nigerians in praying for the safe return of President Buhari. They should note that any mortal being can find himself in the situation where one needs medical attention and more time to fully recuperate.
More so, when in the present case, the President complied with the provisions of the Constitution and all organs of government are not impaired nor hindered by his medical vacation,” Abdullahi stated.
For the NLC, using water cannons, tear gas and other offensive means by the police to disperse peaceful protesting citizens against the absence of the President is condemnable.
“The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). This right has been affirmed by the courts of the land.
“What was expected of the police, who have relatively done well with regards to public protests in recent times, was to sit it out with these protesters.”
The statement said that the resort to violent dispersal is not only a violation of the rights of the protesters and norms of civilised behavior, but a smirch on the record of IGP Ibrahim Idris who during his oath of office had assured Nigerians that the Police Force under his watch would police in line with democratic culture.
It further stressed that the unnecessary violence by the police has unwittingly put the discourse of the protesters demands in the public domain.
“Beyond this, it is a throw-back to the dark era of Police Force when they trampled on the rights of the citizenry considered to be in opposition to the government of the day.
“Accordingly, we sincerely advise the police to respect this fundamental right of citizens to freely assemble and peacefully protest, irrespective of the subject matter of such actions.
“It is important they respect the rights of the citizenry and not abridge them at will. It is important to note that poor handling of a small situation could degenerate.
The police should do all that is necessary to avoid this in our national interest,” the statement read.
Olufemi Samuel, Chris Emetoh and Idu Jude, Abuja