The Senate on Wednesday condemned the Nigeria Police’s attack on protesters asking President Muhammadu Buhari to return to work or resign 94 days after the ailing leader headed to London for medical treatment.
The protesters, under the aegis of #OurMumuDonDo, started on Monday with a sit-out in Abuja, but faced police harassment on Tuesday, as they commenced their civic action.
Just about the same time as the police’s action against the protesters, the Senate on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with the protests, which it described as “unreasonable” and capable of heightening tension as well as affecting government’s efforts on security and economy issues.
That Senate opposition to the anti-Buhari protests got a blistering response from the convener, Charles Oputa, who called the Senators “Buhari’s errand boys …desperate to patronize the president”.
But on Wednesday, the Senate in another statement by its spokesperson, Abdullahi Sabi, while it condemned the subject of the protest which is aimed at forcing Mr. Buhari to either terminate his medical vacation or resign, said it would not support any violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
“While we are opposed to the subject of the protest, the Senate acknowledges the fact that the protesters have the constitutional right to gather and express their views in a manner that will not breach public peace, order and tranquility,” said Mr. Sabi.
“Since the ‘Our-Mumu-Don-Do’ protesters did not conduct themselves in such a manner as to disturb public peace, it is not right for the police to brutalize the people as they reportedly did yesterday.
“The police should review their rules of engagement and ensure that they are in line with that of modern democratic societies. The rights of the people should not be violated by the police employed to protect these rights.
“Where the Police suspect that hoodlums are trying to hijack the protest, it is the duty of the Police to apprehend the hoodlums and those who break the law rather than generalise and thus brutalize innocent protesters.
“We however urge the organizers of the protest to join other Nigerians in praying for the safe return of President Buhari. They should note that any mortal being can find himself in the situation where one needs medical attention and more time to fully recuperate.
“More so, when in the present case, the President complied with the provisions of the Constitution and all organs of government are not impaired nor hindered by his medical vacation.”
Mr. Buhari’s ailment remains undisclosed to Nigerians. His indefinite medical vacation is publicly funded and activists now demand the president should return to work or resign.
The harassment of the protesters has been widely condemned, notably by Bring Back Our Girls co-convener and former minister, Oby Ezekwezili among others.