The police, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Senator Dino Melaye appear to be heading towards a fresh showdown.
The Police headquarters yesterday invited the two politicians and Senator Ben Bruce for an interaction on Monday following alleged violence at a protest led by them in Abuja yesterday
The trio and several leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had driven in a mini truck to the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to protest what they called the stealing of PDP victory in last month’s governorship election in Osun State.
But, Saraki responding to the summon last night said the police “are simply setting the stage for another onslaught on members of the Nigerian Senate and that is why they singled out the Senate President and two other Senators as the people being invited and accused of all these false charges.
The police, in a statement entitled “Dispersal Of Unruly And Violent Protesters Who Attacked Police Personnel On Duty In Front Of The Force Headquarters, Abuja,” said Saraki, Melaye and Bruce were captured on camera, leading “the disturbance of public peace and public safety, unlawful blockade of Shehu Shagari Way for several hours preventing motorists, road users and other members of the public from having access and passage on the highway.”
The force said the trio “were thereby disturbing public peace and public safety and causing innocent people to scamper for safety and violent attack on policemen posted to ensure security of the Force Headquarters, pushing and hitting the policemen to forcefully enter the Force Headquarters to cause damage to police equipment and government properties.”
It added: “Today (Friday) at about 1330Hrs, unruly and violent protesters who are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their hundreds with thugs and miscreants inside several trucks and vehicles blocked the Shehu Shagari Way in front of the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, creating gridlock of traffic on the highway and preventing motorists, road users and other members of the public from having access and passage on Shehu Shagari Way.
“The police team headed by a very senior police officer despite the provocation, after issuing words of proclamation, warning these unruly PDP protesters who were chanting war songs of “we no go gree o, we no go gree, we no go gree”, charged the police personnel who used minimum force and dispersed them.
“The Inspector General of Police has directed immediate investigation into this unprovoked and unwarranted attack on the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and the Force Headquarters premises which is against the law and condemnable.
“The force will do everything within the law to bring all perpetrators of this crime to justice, no matter how highly placed.
“Consequently, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Ben Bruce who were captured on camera to have been involved in the disturbance of public peace and public safety are hereby invited to report themselves to the IGP Monitoring Unit at the Force Headquarters on Monday, 8th October, 2018 for investigation.”
Saraki: Police’s false claim on PDP’s peaceful protest in Abuja
Moments after the police statement, Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, issued a counter statement, accusing the police of partiality in the performance of their duties.
His words: “In exercise of their constitutional right of assembly, expression and movement, leaders of the PDP decided to stage a peaceful procession from the party’s campaign office on Ibrahim Babangida Way to INEC and Police Headquarters.
“The procession consisted of the Senate President, the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, presidential aspirants, members of the National Assembly, Governors of Ekiti and Sokoto states. Later, the Governors of Taraba and Gombe states joined the procession.
“The purpose was to express the opposition of the PDP to the manner in which the electoral body and the security agencies had been colluding with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to manipulate election results and subvert the will of the people, as evidenced by the conduct of the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun state. We wanted to send a clear signal that such official subversion of the will of the people in favour of the APC should not be repeated in the 2019 elections.
“At the INEC secretariat, the procession spent over 40 minutes where the various leaders addressed the crowd in the presence of two National Commissioners of INEC, including the one in charge of legal matters, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu. The two INEC commissioners equally responded to the complaints raised by the PDP leaders. It was a civilised, frank and enlightened exchange, devoid of any rancour.
“The procession then headed towards the Police Headquarters while being hailed on the streets by ordinary Nigerians who came out to cheer the leaders standing in an open van. From the Eagles Square end, the procession was on the other side of the road going to Police Headquarters. The procession did not even get to the point where it will turn to the side where the Police Force Headquarters is located when the police rained tear gas on the people. They deliberately targetted the open vans in which the Senate President and other VIPs were standing.
“The procession quickly diverted to the Area 11 Junction leading to FCDA. The diversion was done to avoid a repeat of the 2003 event in which a similar tear-gassing event led to the death of a former Senate President, Senator Chuba Okadigbo.
“Let it be known that the hostile, brutal, needlesss, tactless and uncivil response of the Police under the present leadership of Mr. Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, to the peaceful, lawful and justified procession was in contrast to how the same police responded to a similar protest by the opposition in 2014.
“In 2014, the protesters then led by the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), the candidate of the opposition party, were not attacked. They were tolerated and their grievances listened to by the police leadership. In 2014, it was the same Nigeria Police as we have today. The difference is the temperament and democratic credentials of the then administration, in general, and that of the police leadership, in particular.
“The fabrications by the Police as contained in their press statement only show the new police leadership as mere jesters trying to hone their skills in comic script-writing. Every move of the PDP procession today was recorded by the media – Television, print, radio and online – citizens, members of the civil society and the international community. These independent observers know that nothing is far from the truth than the claims made by the Police in their statement.