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Reps reject motion demanding Independence Day protesters’ release ll

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Members of the House of Representatives during plenary

The House of Representatives unanimously, on Wednesday, voted against the call for the release of some protesters arrested and detained by Nigeria Police during the country’s 61st Independence Anniversary on October 1.

Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, had moved a motion to pray the House to “mandate the Committee on Police Affairs to investigate the allegations and interface with the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force for the immediate release of the four arrested innocent Nigerians and report back within four weeks.”

Protesters had in the early hours of Friday stormed the Dantata Bridge on the popular Airport Road in Abuja, demanding the resignation of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The protesters, wielding large banners, had made bonfires on the highway.

The protesters had just converged at the venue to begin their demonstration when men of the Nigeria Police Force stormed the area, fired tear gas canisters, dispersed the crowd and gave them a hot chase.

Moving the motion titled ‘Illegal Arrest, Detention and Brutalisation of Peaceful Protesters,’ Elumelu had partly said, “On October 1, 2021, some Nigerian youths assembled peacefully as guaranteed by Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, at Dantata Bridge, Airport Road, Abuja, to demand good governance, transparency and end the menace of insecurity in the country.

“Peaceful protests represent a policy feedback mechanism by which citizens express their discontent with governments inhuman or degrading policies that subtract from their rights as national stakeholders.

“The House is worried that a detachment of armed anti-riot policemen led by ASP Altine Daniel arrived at Dantata Bridge and violently opened fire on the peaceful protesters to disperse them. The House is concerned that some of the protesters were arrested by the officers of the Nigeria Police Force and beaten to stupor while others chased into the bush, in violation of section 34(a) of the Constitution.

“The House is also worried that four of the protesters were arrested and allegedly taken to Galadimawa Police Station, later moved to the FCT Police Command (headquarters) and to date denied access to either their families or their lawyers.”

The Minority Leader added, “The House is further worried that such illegal detention of citizens, held incommunicado, brought to mind the draconian military decrees and speak of barbaric conducts of past years under the current democracy.

“The House is disturbed that the Nigerian policemen who are supposed to be protecting the lives and properties of innocent Nigerians as well as enforcing the laws of the land as guaranteed by the Constitution are now in the habit of violating the rights and privileges of citizens.

“The House is also disturbed that there have been a series of allegations of human rights violation, extrajudicial killings, intimidation and harassment of Nigerians by the Police Force, some of these allegations triggered the End SARS protest.

“If these excesses of the police are not curtailed and erring officers called to order, it could lead to a mass rebellion by the people against the government, hence the need for an urgent investigation.”

The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, however, condemned the bill as frustrating the efforts by the government through the security agencies to secure life and property at a time when insecurity is growing.

He also said the protesters were members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria also known as the Shi’ites.

Wase partly said, “I am against this motion and these are the facts: with the lingering issues across the country in terms of insecurity, and each time Nigeria Police want to do their job, we will have one regulation or the other to cow them down (sic). He (Elumelu) is coming from the South-East (Delta State in the South-South actually) and he knows the effect of what IPOB are doing today, burning police stations, killing people.

“He fell short to tell exactly the association that is involved in this. I want to ask: does peaceful protest mean you destroying national infrastructure by burning tyres on the road? They weaken the strength of the structure and it should not be tolerated.

“If you carry your placards peacefully, go to the right place. But obstructing people who are out to go and loom for their genuine means of livelihood, and you say it is human right; I don’t know what that kind of human right is.”

The Deputy Speaker claimed to be one of those who were stranded along the road during the incident.

“Before that day, they were along the other route towards Mararaba (in Nasarawa State) and everybody will tell you the kind of inconveniences they caused. Lives were lost as a result of what they call peaceful protest. And when they are called to account, we will be the same people here defending people who are offending the laws, offending our country. I think that is not correct.

“This is coming from what they call the Shia group. We should allow the Nigeria Police to do their job.”

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who also criticised the motion, expressed his reservation about the phrase, “violently opened fire”, in Elumelu’s motion. While the Minority Leader clarified that the policemen only shot in the air to disperse the crowd, he deleted the paragraph from the motion.

When Gbajabiamila put adoption of the motion to voice vote, it was unanimously declined.

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