Nigerians have accused the Federal Government of unleashing the police on ‘resume or resign’ protesters; describing the action as barbaric.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Ali, and civil society organisations said the people had the rights to protest, adding that the police should be trained in protest-control strategy.
A cameraman, Femi Togun, and a protester, Theophilus Abumagada, were among those that were injured on Tuesday in Abuja after policemen fired tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters, who were demanding the return of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Togun was also allegedly assaulted by eight policemen who slapped and dragged him on the ground.
The policemen were also said to have initially confiscated his camera which they later released.
Abumagada, who was taken to the Federal Staff Clinic at the Federal Secretariat Complex, choked on the tear gas used on the protesters by the police.
An STV reporter, Amadin Uyi, said he was also beaten up by the policemen for covering the protest.
He said, “The policemen beat me up and also slapped me. When they saw my cameraman recording the assault, about eight of them attacked him. When he fell, then they dragged him on the ground.”
“They seized our camera, but later released it. Femi’s (Togun) hand was bruised and he sustained an injury in his leg.”
Togun corroborated Uyi, saying the operatives attacked him because he recorded the assault on his colleague.
“They attacked me when they saw me filming them as they were assaulting Uyi; they took my camera and dragged me on the ground,” he stated.
The protesters from four civil society groups have been demanding that the President, who has been on medical leave in London, United Kingdom, since May, 2017, should resume in office or resign. They started the protest on Monday.
The coalition members had embarked on a sit-out at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, in continuation of their demand on Tuesday when the armed policemen, who initially feigned indifference, abruptly asked them to leave.
The protesters ignored the order, prompting the police to use water cannons and fire tear gas canisters at them.
The coalition members, including popular artiste, Mr. Charles Oputa, aka Charlie Boy; and the protest convener, Deji Adeyanju, initially resisted the water cannons, but later bowed to the tear gas, which eventually terminated the sit-out.
Motorists and commuters on the Shehu Shagari Way also got a dose of the assault as the operatives fired several tear gas canisters towards the road, forcing many motorists to wind up their glasses while those walking ran for safety.
Adeyanju chided the government for unleashing the police on harmless citizens demanding to know the health status of their President.
He argued that Buhari was not a private citizen, noting that it was within the people’s right to demand and know the status of their President.
He said, “This government only has a hammer, so everything appears to be a nail. They do not understand that the people have the right to ask about the health status of the President.
“The President is not a private citizen; he is a public official elected by the people and he is accountable to the people of Nigeria.”
He described the attack by the police as barbaric, adding that protesters would not be deterred by the assault.
Adeyanju said, “Tomorrow (Wednesday), the sit-out continues at Unity Fountain and we urge other Nigerians to join us as we continue to ask the right questions.”
Reacting to the Presidency’s statement that it was disrespectful of the protesters to demand Buhari’s health status, the activist said it was also “disrespectful of the President to leave this country for 93 straight days without informing us. I believe Nigerians are taking note of all these, and in due course, we will pay them back in their own coin.”
Also, Charly Boy said the groups would not back down on the demand for the President’s resumption or resignation.
Oputa described the Senate as a monumental failure for allegedly failing to demand details of Buhari’s ailment.
Oputa, in a statement by media consultant to the group, Ezrel Tabiowo, described Senate’s criticism of the protesters as “outright ridiculous,” saying the upper chamber of the National Assembly had demonstrated that it was nothing but a rubber stamp of the executive arm of government.
He said, “I am disappointed in this country. But let it be known that no amount of intimidation by security agencies will deter us from demanding explanations from government. They must be accountable to Nigerians because they were elected into power by us.”