Policemen on guard duty at Force headquarters, in Abuja, yesterday used tear gas to disperse leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were on peaceful protest at the Force HQ.
The National Chairman, Uche Secondus, led the PDP leaders, which included Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo in the protest.
Other leaders were: Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku; former Jigawa State governor and a presidential aspirant, Sule Lamido; Senator Dino Melaye; Senator Ben Bruce; presidential aspirants, Danti Baba Ahmed and Tanimu Turaki.
They were at the Force HQ to protest the alleged use of policemen to manipulate the just concluded Osun State governorship poll.
The PDP leaders, who had earlier protested at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the outcome of the Osun governorship poll, on arrival at the police headquarters were denied entry into the premises.
On sighting them, the police built a human wall at about 20 metres from their headquarters, so as to stop them from gaining access. However, the protesters with Senator Dino Melaye at the front, tried to force their way through the human barricade into the premises.
The policemen quickly reacted by firing tear gas canisters, as well as shooting into the air to disperse the opposition party leaders.
Speaking earlier at the INEC headquarters, the PDP leaders warned the electoral body to desist from doing the bid of the ruling of the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially in the run up to the 2019 polls.
According to Secondus, “the country is sleeping on a keg of gunpowder, you know it. If you feel that Nigerians are not aware of the activities of INEC and police, you are deceiving yourselves. You are pushing Nigerians to the wall and when you push them to the wall, there would be resistance. We hope we will not get there, but this will serve as a notice.
“Therefore we demand that INEC chairman should resign, Amina Zakariyau should resign. She is the manipulator of all elections. Let me address Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari, you cannot continue to give instructions to security agents to carry out your agenda, instead of protecting Nigerians.”
Similarly, Saraki said, “we are here representing millions of Nigerians to speak to you, that INEC, you have a responsibility by law, by the constitution to do what is right to all Nigerians. Enough is enough of elections that are not credible. Enough is enough of impunity. Enough is enough of harassment. INEC you met a standard, don’t take us back.
“Nigeria has raised the standard of electoral processes, take us forward, and don’t take us backward. The last two elections have been said all over villages, towns, Africa, other continents that it was a sham. INEC enough is enough.”
The Ekiti State governor added, “we want to let INEC know a few things and remind them that the damage done to this country is enough. The damage done to our democracy and by extension the common man is enough.
“If the people cannot choose their leader anymore, then we are in trouble. In 2014, APC won election in Osun State by 114,000 votes. But this last election, with all the rigging, APC won by 400 votes, that is a statement enough to say APC is no more in the demand in Nigeria.
“We are not asking for favours, this country and this INEC belong to Nigerians and Nigerians must be respected by allowing them to make a choice.”
In her response, INEC National Commissioner on Legal Matters, Mary Agbamuche-Mbu, said the electoral body would continue to discharge its duties professionally.
Meanwhile, the PDP has said it cannot be cowed in its determination to dismantle the alleged rigging machinery of the ruling party.
In a statement by the opposition party spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, reacting to the teargassing of its leaders at police headquarters, the PDP stated that it is reprehensible that APC leaders, who were allowed to protest freely in the best could turn round to authorise police brutality against the opposition.
It said: “This unwarranted attack has left no one in doubt that our police have finally been turned into a militant wing of the APC, with direct orders to use force to repress opposition and turn our nation into a one party state.
“It has also shown that the police, under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has officially declared war on the opposition and there is no way our safety is guaranteed under the current police leadership.
“If the police, which ought to protect the people, the law and the democratic process, could show such violent aggression on notable leaders, then it can no longer be trusted with the welfare and safety of regular citizens.”
Reacting, the Police spokesperson, Acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, insisted that the police deployed a “minimum force” in resisting an alleged attempt to break into the Force Headquarters by Senate President Bukola Saraki and a host of other lawmakers and politicians, who took part in a rally to demand immediate declaration of Ademola Adeleke as the winner of the controversial governorship election in Osun State last month.
Moshood made this known in a statement, where he further stated that Dr. Saraki, Sen. Melaye, Sen. Murray-Bruce and others who participated in the protest should turn themselves in to the police latest by Monday, October 8.
“Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Ben Bruce who were captured on camera to have been involved in the disturbance of public peace and public safety, unlawful blockade of Shehu Shagari way for several hours preventing motorists, road users and other members of the public from having access and passage on the highway thereby disturbing public peace and public safety and causing innocent people to scamper for safety and violent attack on policemen posted to ensure security of the Force Headquarters, pushing and hitting the policemen to forcefully enter the Force Headquarters to cause damage to Police equipment and Government properties are hereby invited to report themselves to the IGP Monitoring Unit at the Force Headquarters on Monday, 8th October, 2018.”