The Niger State Police Command has arrested a 30-year-old woman, Aisha Jibrin, who led women and young people in a mass protest on Monday over the high cost of living in Minna.
Aisha was arrested alongside two other women: 57-year-old Fatima Aliyu and 43-year-old Fatima Isyaku; and 22 others.
The spokesman for the Niger State Police Command, Abiodun Wasiu, who disclosed the arrest in a statement on Wednesday, said an investigation was ongoing after which the protesters would be taken to court and arraigned.
According to Wasiu, the protesters acted violently and illegally.
On Tuesday, the ruling All Progressives Congress alleged that the protesters were sponsored by the opposition parties, a claim the Peoples Democratic Party refuted, saying the protests were triggered by the hardship occasioned by the economic policies of President Bola Tinubu.
On Wednesday, the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, described the arrest of the protesters as undemocratic.
Angry youths and women had on Monday taken to the streets of Minna, the Niger State capital, protesting hardship in the land, occasioned by the hike in the cost of living.
The protest started when a group of women blocked Minna-Bida Road at the popular Kpakungu Roundabout to lament what they termed the suffering under the President Bola Tinubu government. They were later joined by men and youths stopping vehicles from moving.
The protest occurred in the Morning morning when some of the youths began speaking in Hausa language, lamenting how the country’s economy was getting worse under Tinubu’s leadership.
A deployment of police operatives to the scene could not stop the youths from the protest as some of them could be heard saying that the police were the agents of the government and they could not do anything.
The Niger police spokesman, Wasiu, said Aisha, who led the protest, was arrested alongside 24 others.
Wasiu said after being alerted to the protest, the police “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.”
“However, the police adopted 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.
“In the course of this, the police arrested the initiator of the protest one Aisha Jibrin, 30 years, Fatima Aliyu, 57years, Fatima Isyaku, 43years, all of Soje ‘A’ of Kpakungu area of Minna, and 22 other miscreants.”
According to the police spokesman, the police recovered from the protesters “ three knives, one scissors, one cutlass, one saw blade, one iron pipe, four other sticks, two wraps of Indian hemp, and charms.”
He said, “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.”
However, the PDP condemned the arrest of the protesters.
The opposition party’s spokesman, Ologunagba, in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, said Nigerians should not be further punished in addition to the economic hardship they were grappling with.
He said, “We condemn this arrest; this is not democracy. They have the constitutional right and duty to protest. This President was the leader of the protest in 2012. President Buhari was the leader of the protests in 2012. So many other prominent Nigerians who have now gone into hibernation were part of that protest. So why arrest protesters?
“If they can protest against the PDP then, because is their democratic right to do that, why can’t Nigerians now protest against the more excruciating pain that they have inflicted on Nigerians?”
Ologunagba said the protests were just a reflection of the hardship in the country.
He said, “There is frustration in the land and that frustration can be seen on the street already in different parts of the country. There is a need for the President to listen to people, listen to the protesters, don’t listen to people around you in the corridors of power because people are hurting.
“Your policies are draconian. Your policies are inhumane, your policies are insensitive. Your policies are such that they don’t show any level of competence on the part of the people in government. Nigerians are beginning to hurt and they are beginning to be frustrated. And they have begun to vent that frustration. And what did the government do? They arrested the leaders of protesters in Niger State.
“We call on all Nigerians to speak up, demand immediate and unconditional release of those arrested in Minna, Niger State.”
However, reacting on behalf of the ruling party, the APC National Publicity Director, Bala Ibrahim, said, “The ruling APC is a democratic party. And as a party in power, its ambition is to promote democracy. This demonstration (Minna) is encouraged by the constitution and democracy. There is no way the ruling party will go against the provision of the Constitution
“It is the wish of the party that whatever grievance anyone has should be expressed in such a way that is encouraged by the Constitution. To do that is to go about the provisions laid down by the Constitution and, by extension, the law.
“If the police announced that they made arrests, I am sure it will be in line with the law. There is no way the party can stop people from expressing their opinions, provided it is in order. Even the President has made an address to the nation where he said that he feels the anger of Nigerians all over the cities, towns and villages.”
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