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"Concerned Mothers" and police brutality:

A product of Obasanjo Government's zero tolerance to opposition to its action and policies

19 December 2005

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) condemns the barbaric and provocative assaults the Nigerian Police unleashed on the peaceful protest of Concerned Mothers of Nigeria on Friday December 16, 2005 in Ikeja, Lagos. The women, the majority of whom were averagely in their 60s and professionals of repute, were on a peaceful procession to protest the action and inaction of government regarding the ramshackle state of the aviation sector that led to December 10 Sosoliso Airline crash (the third in 2 months) and to sympathise with the mothers who lost their children in this gory incident. About 70 out of 109 passengers and crew members whose lives were claimed by the fatal air accident were students of Loyola Jesuit College Abuja. The women numbering over 1000 were tear-gassed, harassed and manhandled while 20 of them including Professor Jadesola Akande, a former Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University were actually arrested and detained. As a result of the tear gas inhaled, some of the women including the wife of late Justice Fatai Williams have been hospitalised.

While the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, purportedly apologised to the nation over the uncivilized action of his men, very significantly however, he declared the women’s protest illegal as it had not secured prior police approval to protest 72 hours in advance, thereby rationalizing the action of his men. The police boss argument is false. Few months ago, a High Court ruling declared the Public Order Act that necessitates obtaining police permission before embarking on protest as illegal and unconstitutional. Sadly, the flagrant violation of a court ruling by the police smacks of serious danger to our so-called nascent democracy that is supposed to be based on rule of law. The action of the police is a brazen contempt of court. We demand that the Police must recognise the subsisting ruling against Public Order Act.

The CDWR therefore urges all Labour centres, pro-democracy groups, radical political parties etc to call for the trial of all the policemen and women who partook in the assault on the mothers, including officers who ordered the action. The police must pick up the bills of those who are hospitalised, while all the protesters must be compensated for unlawful and crude police action. Again, the so-called apology by Ehindero is unacceptable. The Nigerian police should openly admit the illegality of its shameful action and tender unreserved apology to the latest known victims of its state sponsored brutality and to all Nigerians whose sensibilities were offended by the police’s action and defence.

If the police could apply “Zero Tolerance” to the concerned mothers, a good number of whom are members of the ruling class, then, worst days lie ahead for the poor working masses who will be forced to wage battles against Obasanjo’s government anti-poor policies and the unpopular but desperate third term agenda of Obasanjo.

The CDWR commends the action of Concerned Mothers of Nigeria (CMN). It is this kind of action and series of organised action by the working masses themselves that can bring an end to the rule of Obasanjo and his regime of neo-liberalism, privatisation of our collective heritage, which is primarily responsible for the air disasters and the growing degeneration of the Nigeria state.

The suspension of two aviation officials and temporary grounding of Sosoliso and Chanchangi airlines are not only belated but also inadequate. For almost one year, a report has seriously indicted the two airlines but which was swept under the carpet. Exhuming the report now after serious damage has been done smacks of scapegoatism and betrays the contemptuous disregards of government to the safety and lives of Nigerians. We support the call for the immediate resignation or removal of Borishade, the Aviation minister. There is need for thorough overhaul of the aviation industry. Specifically for the aviation industry to be revitalized, it needs to be nationalised and massively funded with public resources. In addition, in order not to allow it to be characterised with arbitrariness, corruption and looting of money, nepotism, sabotage, like what happened to Nigeria Airways, there is need to place this nationalised airlines under workers democratic control and management .and run to meet the needs of safe travels in the air as opposed to the present private airlines whose interest is profit first to the detriment of safety of lives.

Rufus Olusesan

Victor Osakwe