Police abort civil society rally on fuel subsidy probe report

The police in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, on Thursday aborted a civil society rally organised to highlight the negative impact of government’s impunity and the need to bring it to an end, through the implementation of 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 were expected have marched 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 end up at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) office, where the 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 been given 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 the rally was expected to hold prior to the march 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 that they would not be allowed to proceed with the march for fear that hoodlums would hijack it and allow the exercise to escalate.

Despite assurances by the conveners, Mr. Yaro, apparently acting on orders from above, was unwavering, resulting in the conveners’ decision to call off the march after two hours.

Speaking with reporters at the venue of the rally, Mr. Gaskia said the rally became necessary to enable civil society compel the Federal Government to initiate the prosecution of 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 the person whose office was responsible for supervision of the NNPC and other agencies indicted by the probe, she should have been the first to be sacked.

“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, such people who have been indicted in the report should voluntarily resign or the president should sack them 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.

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