Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Following persistent protests by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) over the continued detention of their leader, El-Zakzaky, the Police High Command yesterday restricted all protests in Abuja to the Unity Fountain located close to the Millennium Park.
A statement issued by Force PRO and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba, said the measure was designed to ensure safety and security of lives and property and ensure free flow of traffic.
“In furtherance of the efforts by the Police at ensuring safety and security of life and property, the free flow of traffic and the protection of commerce and other economic activities, as well as a more coordinated handling of peaceful protest, the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, has restricted all forms of protests within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to the Unity Fountain, Central Business District, Abuja,”,he said.
Mba said by the directive, “intending protesters are requested to steer-clear of all critical national infrastructure, especially the Three Arms Zone and other sensitive security areas. They are however at liberty to assemble and conduct peaceful protests within the Unity Fountain – the authorised protest zone”.
He said the restriction was sequel to “series of protests, such as the one on October 30, 2018 in various parts of Abuja, which brought the capital city to a standstill, crumbling economic activities and inflicting untold hardship on motorists and the general public.
“A similar protest during the same month led to the setting ablaze of a police patrol vehicle at Banex Plaza, Abuja, traumatising innocent citizens”.
He recalled that “this year, on July 9, another protest at the National Assembly, Abuja, led to an unprovoked attack on police officers on legitimate national assignment, injuring nine of them and causing massive damage to public and private property.
He said the “the force is not unaware of the African Charter on Human Rights, which the Nigerian State has ratified and the Constitutional provisions relating to the fundamental human rights, particularly freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly and freedom of movement.
“It is important however to note that these rights are not absolute and are constitutionally moderated by the genuine concerns for public safety, public order and for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
“Needless to state, it is within the prerogative of the Police to regulate activities of protesters who have the tendency to cause damage to life and property, particularly to innocent and non-protesting citizens, who also have equal right to exercise their freedom, unmolested by the protesting group”.