• Opposition party asks protesters to defy police order
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have criticised the move to stop a nationwide peaceful protest spearheaded by a pop musician, Tuface Idibia, billed to take place this weekend.
The protest rally which is being planned to take place simultaneously in some major cities across the country, including Lagos State, Abuja and Asaba, is seen as an avenue provided by the organisers to enable Nigerians voice out their worries over hardship in the land.
However, against the background of reports yesterday stating that police authorities in Lagos had warned that it might not allow the protest to hold, both the APC and PDP were in agreement on opposing the police move, saying it would amount to a breach of the constitution to carry out such an order.
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi, said there was nothing wrong in people holding peaceful protest under a democracy.
He said the party was not opposed to any form of expression of opposing view point by anyone so far it is done in a peaceful and non-violent manner and did not constitute disruption of public peace.
“For us, it is about the constitution of Nigeria, Tuface or any other citizen of the country has the right to stage a peaceful protest, that is the position of our constitution. We as a party will not be part of anything that will abridge or take away the right of citizens to protest, especially in a democracy.
The APC spokesman justified the party’s position by saying it would be wrong to stifle peaceful protest since APC benefitted from such citizen’s right to expression of dissent during its days as opposition party.
“We have as a party benefited greatly from citizen’s right to express their democratic rights and our being in government is not going to change that orientation to promote the liberties and right of citizen hold dessenting views,” he said.
On what the party would be advising the security forces and the organisers of the protest to do under the circumstances, the party spokesman said: “Well I don’t know exactly what the police are saying about banning the protest. I think what the police will probably be saying is that they are concerned about the issue of safety and threat to lives and property in the course of the protest.
“There are always fears that hoodlums might hijack a peaceful protest and use the opportunity to perpetrate violence on innocent citizens. I suspect this might be the consideration of the police. But this should not be good enough reason to deny citizens the full enjoyment of their constitutional rights however they wish to express them.”
Speaking on the motive of such protests and whether it would impact negatively on the image of the federal government controlled by his party, Abdullahi said: “ We believe that protests are a form of feedback, although we may not agree with the grievances but at same time, it may be an opportunity for us to communicate more about what we are doing that the citizens may have had sufficient information on. It may an opportunity for us to give better clarification on what our government is doing.
But fundamentally, it will be a form of feedback for us to do more in citizen’s engagement and enlightenment and to focus more on our commitment to the promises we made to our people. I do not see it as anything that is antithetical to our democracy.
But on its part, the PDP described the reported ban of the protest as an undemocratic act which should be resisted.
The PDP spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, who spoke with THISDAY on the matter, urged the protesters to defy any such order by the police, adding that stopping people for engaging in peacefully assembly is not only undemocratic but against the spirit and letters of the country’s constitution.
“It is illegal and very undemocratic, the people have the right to protest, the freedom of assembly and freedom to protest are two strong ingredients of a democracy. In America, people have been protesting everywhere and nobody has made any effort to curtail it or to ban them or prevent them from holding.
“People have the rights to peaceful assembly and people had the right to protest under the previous regimes of Presidents Goodluck Jonathan, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Olusegun Obasanjo, how could these people now want to stop peaceful protest. These were the same people organising protests in those days against PDP governments.
“This shows clearly that we are now under a dictatorial regime. It is an illegal ban and I will urge the organisers of the protest to go ahead with it and defy the police ban because it is wrong.
In an effort to shore up, the federal government yesterday approved a new tax regime, just as it announced its intention to raise taxes on luxury goods.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) also approved the pursuit of an initiative to force down the prices of food in the country.
But the PDP spokesman reacted to the move to force down food prices as attempt to bring back an archaic economic policy that didn’t work many years ago.
“This is part of the archaic economic policies of President Muhammadu Buhari that he implemented during his first time in power as a military man. We are back to that again. It never worked and can never work.
“We are not in a communist country, prices of goods should be determined by demand and supply, market forces simple. You cannot force it, there is no way to force it. So the Minister of Finance should be better educated, it will not work and the policy is dead on arrival. You cannot force me to sell at prices below my cost price,” he said.