The police on Tuesday gave reasons why officers attacked participants at a rally protesting President Muhammadu Buhari’s indefinite medical vacation in London.
An entertainer and rights activist, Charlie Boy, and Uyi Amadin, a security correspondent with Silverbird Television, as well as his cameraman, sustained injuries during the clampdown, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Tuesday’s exercise marked the second day of the action, which began on Monday morning at Unity Fountain, Abuja.
The demonstrators are calling on the president to either return to the country or resign.
The president has been away since May 7, 93 days ago, with citizens having only a sparse idea about his well-being other than a few pictures distributed by his office which showed him meeting visiting leaders from the country.
On Tuesday, the protesters, numbering only about ten, according to witnesses, returned to the park, which is located opposite Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Maitama.
The ground has been used by BringBackOurGirls campaigners for their daily sit-out since 2014.
Anjuguri Manzah, spokesperson for the FCT Command, said officers moved to disperse “some miscreants, hoodlums and other criminal elements that have infiltrated the protest.”
Mr. Manzah accused the protesters of “blocking major roads” adjoining the area”, thereby preventing citizens from free passage.
But those who witnessed the attack contradicted the police’s account.
Mr. Amadin, who said he arrived early to cover the event, said the police moved against the protesters, who were “not more than 10.”
The reporter told PREMIUM TIMES that the officers informed the protesters that they had “orders from above” to crack down on the protesters when they return to Unity Fountain today.
“They even unleashed fighter dogs against the protesters, including Charlie Boy,” he said.
“When they started beating me despite identifying myself as a journalist, they saw my cameraman filming the whole scene from afar and they swooped on him too and severely injured him.
“They seized our camera and did what they wanted with it,” the reporter added.
He said the protesters were clearly not violent.
When PREMIUM TIMES’ sought police’s explanation for the attack on Mr. Amadin, force spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, said the reporter should go and report the assault at the police station.
“We’re not aware that any journalist was caught in the confrontation,” Mr. Moshood said. “But the person can go to the station to lodge a complaint.”
On Monday, the protesters marched under the supervision of the police, which was confirmed by Mr. Manzah in his latest statement.
Deji Adeyanju, convener of Concerned Nigerians which was amongst the coalition of civic groups that put together the exercise, said the Buhari administration was “clearly uncomfortable with the success of the protest on Monday.”
“One thing is: The government cannot deal with us so ruthlessly for the past two years and still tell us that we cannot wail,” he added.
“This is just the beginning because we will not allow a sick old man to continue to hold the collective destiny of 180 million people to ransom,” he said.
The presidency defended the rights of the protesters to assemble and vent their grievances as emblematic of a democratic system, but faulted demands for Mr. Buhari’s resignation.
“The President has complied 100 per cent with the constitution by handing over power to the Vice-President before proceeding on his vacation,” Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said. “He has not breached any law or the constitution by staying away from office to take care of his health.”