Police should apologise to Charly Boy and other protesters it attacked

The police force should be apologising to the group of protesters it attacked with teargas canisters this week.

Charly Boy leads protesters to Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday, August 7, 2017

The protesters were led by eccentric artiste and entertainer, Charles Oputa who is famously known as Charly Boy.

After the police had made a show of dispersing the protesters with teargas, Charly Boy fainted and was rushed to a nearby clinic.

Others were struggling to breathe as the Millennium and Unity Fountain parks became enveloped in teargas fumes.

Charly Boy wasn’t the only person at the Unity Fountain venue of the protest who suffered from police brutality on the day. A photojournalist with Silverbird Television, Femi Togun, was physically attacked by police officers. Reports say Togun was slapped and dragged on the floor by policemen before his camera was confiscated.

A few other journalists who arrived the scene to cover the protest, were also reportedly beaten to a pulp by belligerent police officers.

Other protesters who dared to capture the brutality on display were reportedly hit with police batons and gun butts.

When news and images of police brutality on the day hit the internet, police command spokesperson, Anjuguri Manzah, issued a statement to say the high-handedness from the force was necessary in order to “disperse hoodlums and other criminal elements who had infiltrated the protest”.

Pray, tell, how was the police able to tell protesters from hoodlums and miscreants? Do 'miscreants' have the word emblazoned on their foreheads?

It was a hackneyed, tiresome line often deployed by police each time they happen on a group of unarmed protesters and inflict injuries on them.

To make matters worse for the protesters,the senate issued a statementminutes later to say Charly Boy and his group were over-heating the polity and should quit the protests.

From where we sit, the only persons who were over-heating the polity on Tuesday were the guys with the guns and teargas canisters.

It is barbaric and silly that in 2017, police officers show up at protests with live bullets and teargas canisters. Elsewhere in the world, the police watch over protesters in order to prevent the breakdown of law and order. In civilized climes, water cannons and canisters are items of last resort by the police force and not a first line of attack.

The protesters weren’t asking for anything out of the ordinary. The president of a nation is no private citizen and his compatriots who got him elected and who handed him the job, have a right to query him when he’s been away from his desk for longer than necessary.

Yes, the president did constitutionally handover to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, but he was head of the ticket and everyone should be concerned that President Buhari hasn’t had a feel of his work desk in over 90 days.

As his employers, Nigerians have the right to fire him and that right shouldn’t be lost on anyone--this includes the overzealous police officers who took the laws into their hands and infringed on the rights of the protesters to peacefully assemble as enshrined in Sections 39, 40 and 41 of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended).

The police should apologise to the group and make sure not to interfere with their protests henceforth.

And this has nothing to do with whether anyone wishes the president a quick recovery or not.

What the police should be doing is watching over the protesters, not harassing them into abandoning what is a legitimate cause.

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