The Nigeria Police Force insisted on Saturday that it would not allow the planned protests by the members of a coalition, OccupyNigeria led by ace musician, Innocent Ujah Idibia (a.k.a 2 Face Idibia) and a pro-government group in order to avoid breakdown of law and order.
It explained that its duty was to prevent mayhem and loss of lives that could result from clashes by the two groups which planned to stage pro and anti-government rallies on Monday across major cities in the country.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, told newsmen that the police stood by their statement in that advised the agitators to refrain from going on with the planned protests.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Acting President, Laolu Akande, had said that the government was not in the business of restricting the citizens rights.
He said, “Nigeria is a free country. Lawful assembly is permitted (for Nigerians) to express themselves.
“This administration is not in the business of stopping people’s rights. The most important thing is to ensure a peaceful assembly.”
When asked specifically if the Presidency was not concerned that the Abuja protest was scheduled to take place on a day Buhari was expected to resume work, Akande said, “They are free to protest any day they choose.”
Moshood nevertheless insisted that the police stance did not contradict the position of the Federal Government which maintained that Nigerians had the constitutional right to assemble peacefully.
He said, “We still stand by our statement issued on the protest. The position of the Force remains what we said in our statement yesterday (Friday), advising the two groups not to go on with the protests.
“We are not contradicting anybody; like I told you, we did advise that the two groups should not go ahead with the protests so that they do not clash. We advised against the protests because of the situation that may arise if the two groups protested at the same time. It’s an advisory.”
The OccupyNigeria protest organisers had said the gathering was to draw the attention of the present government to the hardship in the country as a result of high inflation rate, shortage of food and other social problems. They are scheduled to hold simultaneously in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
Moshood, in a telephone interview on Saturday, insisted that the Force would not allow the protests to hold as earlier advised.
When told that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, had reached a rapprochement with the two groups on how to conduct their rallies, Moshood said the CP had the discretion to look at the situation on the ground and take necessary action.