The police in Abuja, on Thursday aborted a civil society rally protesting government’s impunity, ineffective war against corruption and the administration’s reluctance to implement the fuel subsidy probe report.
The rally, tagged END IMPUNITY NOW campaign, was organised to provide civil society groups an opportunity to march to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, to present a letter demanding the implementation of the report and prosecution of indicted officials.
Participants had planned to march to the minister’s office after a brief rally at 10 a.m. outside the premises of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Towers, which they described as “the face of corruption in Nigeria”.
The march was scheduled to terminate at the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the Maitama District, where organisers had planned to deliver another letter to its Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, to demand the investigation and prosecution of officials indicted in the report.
However, unknown to the conveners, consisting of the Executive Director, Africa Network Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, and National Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD), Jaye Gaskia, the police had instructions to thwart the plans and abort the march.
As early as 6 a.m. on Thursday, a detachment of fully armed policemen numbering more than 100, led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Operations, Abutu Yaro, stormed the car park opposite the NNPC Towers where participants had planned to converge before marching to the minister’s office.
The police team, which occupied the place till about 10 a.m., was complimented by another set of equally fully armed soldiers dressed in combat gears in a personnel carrier truck stationed a few yards away from the venue of the rally, with a mandate to move in and crush the rally if the organisers insisted on having their way.
When they arrived a few minutes later, the rally conveners were told in unmistaken terms they would not be allowed to proceed with the march for fear that hoodlums could hijack it and threaten the peace of the capital.
Despite assurances by the conveners that the march would be peaceful, Mr. Yaro stood his ground, insisting the protesters must disperse. After two hours of trying to convince the police to allow them embark on the demonstration, organisers called off the protest.
Speaking with reporters at the venue of the rally, Mr. Gaskia said the rally became necessary to enable civil society pressure the Federal Government to prosecute those indicted by the Farouk Lawan report.
He also condemned President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to sack the top management of the NNPC, leaving behind the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke, saying as one whose office is responsible for supervision of the NNPC and other agencies indicted by the probe, she should have been the sacked too.
“This attitude by the president confirms our fears about President Jonathan’s lack of commitment to end impunity and corruption in the country. Where indicted officials are not brought to account for their corruption offences shows that government is determined to sustain the reign of impunity in the country, and Nigerians are saying enough is enough,” he said.
“The only way the government can send the right signal to the international community and Nigerians is for us to end the culture of impunity. The president must start from himself. The situation where people steal billions of Naira and are just sacked and allowed to go free with their loot, whereas a petty criminal is sent to prison, is unacceptable,” Mr. Gaskia said.
According to Mr. Ugolor, those indicted in the report should voluntarily resign or be sacked by the president for “that is the only way government would show the world it is actually tackling corruption.”
“The president must lead by example. His recent statement that he does not give a damn to the issue of public asset declaration was very unpresidential. A president that wants to fight corruption in an atmosphere where corruption has become endemic will publicly declare his assets to show sincerity and to show the people that he is leading by example. One should not hide under principles that are actually not principles to fail to do what is right,” Mr Ugolor said.