By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja and Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The federal government yesterday night denied speculations that it was planning to stop the planned protest by pop star, Tuface (Innocent Idibia) against the economic hardship across the country.
The media assistant to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, dismissed the speculation, saying that government remained committed to the rights of Nigerians to protest.
“We are not about to stop the protest, that will amount to violation of the right to descent. As a matter of fact, we are very well connected to the people as you will recall, this is the only government in history that has created a social intervention fund of about half a trillion Naira to assist Nigerians. It is therefore wrong to say that this government does not feel the pain of the people.”
However, Police authorities in Abuja yesterday said it was currently in possession of credible intelligence reports that other interest groups were planning to hold a counter protest on Monday 6th, “same places, same day Tuface Idibia group planned to hold its.”
The Force averred that clash of these two groups could lead to break down of law and order.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Jimoh Moshood, which was made available to the media late Friday night.
According to him, if these various planned protests are held simultaneously, there may be breakdown of law and order, with attendant loss of lives and property.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to publications in the media on the planned protests slated for 5th and 6th February, 2017 in Lagos and other States by different groups, one to be led by the popular musician Innocent Idibia aka Tuface musician and other opposing groups.
“Nigeria Police Force is deeply concerned with the security implications with regard to the planned protest/demonstrations, and as the lead security agency in the country, is fully aware and recognizes the constitutional rights of every citizen (including Tuface and his group) to assemble and move freely in any part of the country.
The Force PRO said Police is fully cognizant of its constitutional responsibilities of taking any proactive/ preventive security measures, adding that it is in the interest of public safety, public order, public morality or public health that the protest should not hold.
“That Innocent Idibia (a.k.a Tuface) and his group are hereby advised strongly to shelve their planned peaceful protest/demonstration in the interest of peace and security.
“That the other opposing groups are equally advised strongly to shelve its planned counter protest/demonstration in the interest of peace and security.
“That the Nigeria Police Force is prepared to employ every possible legal means for the maintenance of law and order; and for the protection of lives and property.”
Moshood warned parents and guardians, religious/opinion leaders and other interest groups to prevail on their children and wards, followers and adherents not to allow themselves to be used by any group to cause disturbance of public peace and break down of law and order.
Also yesterday, a civil society organisation, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), advised the organisers of the February 6 anti-government rally and those who wish to join them that they are protected by the fundamental laws of the land.
CSJ said: “Any attempt by any authority, no matter how highly placed to disrupt the rally will be ultra vires their powers, unconstitutional and a grave violation of constitutional rights which will found a good cause of action for aggravated damages in a court of law.”