THE Niger State Police Command says it has arrested the leader of the protest that rocked Minna, the state capital, on Monday, February 7.
Among those arrested are a 30-year-old woman, Aisha Jibrin, Fatimah Isyaku, and 24 others.
The ICIR reported on Monday that the protesters blocked major roads, including the Kpakungu roundabout at Minna-Bida road, blocking activities of many commercial vehicles in the area.
The protesters, including women and teenagers, chanted protest songs and called on the government’s intervention in the soaring costs of food and other products.
They also complained about the fuel price hike and its continuous economic impacts, emphasising the need for the government to take action.
However, announcing the arrest of Aisha and 24 others in a statement on Wednesday, the state Police Command, while admitting that the police adopted ‘minimum force’ to disperse the protesters, alleged that the protesters were violent.
The command’s public relations officer, Abiodun Wasiu, stated that the Police resorted to using minimum force to disperse the protesters, who turned violent by attacking the Police with weapons such as stones, bottles, sticks, cutlasses and damaged Police patrol vehicles and parts of the Kpakungu Division roof.
The statement read, “It could be recalled that on February 5, 2024, at about 7 a.m., a large number of women and miscreants mobilised and blocked Minna-Bida road and Kpakungu Roundabout claiming to be protesting against increase in foodstuff prices, causing major obstruction on the highway and deprived motorists, travellers and other road users from gaining access to attend to their lawful businesses.
“The command immediately drafted police patrol teams led by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations – DCP Shehu Didango to the scene, and after much persuasion by the Police, the protesters deliberately refused to clear the road for public use, while His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Niger State, Yakubu Garba, equally availed himself at the scene and addressed the group, yet they turned deaf ears and chose to be violent,” part of the statement read.
The Police image maker also said the command recovered a bench and a stick used as a barricade, three knives, a pair of scissors, a cutlass, a saw blade, an iron pipe, four other sticks, two wraps of Indian hemp, charms, among others from the protest scene.
He noted that during interrogation, the protesters’ leader, Aisha, claimed that she wasn’t aware that mobilising residents to protest was ‘illegal’.
“During interrogation, the said Aisha claimed that she was not aware that her action was illegal by mobilising over 100 women and miscreants to block the highway for a violent protest. She claimed further that she informed one youth leader, Hassan, in the area, who promised to inform the Police of their plan to protest but did not do so.
He said all the suspects had been taken to SCID Minna for investigation and would be charged to court for prosecution, adding that effort was ongoing to arrest other identified members of the protest.
Under Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), every person is entitled to assemble freely and associate with others.
“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests,” Section 40 reads.
Also, the United States Human Rights Office affirms the right of everyone to a peaceful assembly.
Meanwhile, The ICIR reported how the Police often resorted to shooting, harassing harmless protesters and tear-gassing as their “minimum force” while dispersing protesters.
Only on a few occasions do the Police conform to the best policing practice by forming a wall around protesters as a way of protecting them, according to the report.
It has, however, become almost a norm that the Police harass Nigerians trying to prevent them from protesting against the government.