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The Nation

Ensure safety of lives, property, Obasanjo orders police chief

• As Balogun threatens to wield the big stick against labour


PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednes day ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, to ensure the safety of lives and property during the on-going strike over the June 22 increase in prices of petroleum products, while the police boss threatened to wield the big stick against the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the champion of the strike, “to restore sanity in the polity”.

Special Assistant to the President (Media), Mrs. Remi Oyo, who made this known to State House Correspondents in Abuja, said the President’s directive came on the heels of complaints of molestation of people going about their lawful duties by miscreants working under the guise of enforcing the strike action.

Mrs. Oyo pointed out that “President Obasanjo has directed the Inspector-General of police to ensrue the safety of all Nigerians, irrespective of their leanings and that is to say that all Nigerians are protected to go about their daily activities and that is our prescribed freedom of movement”.

She said the president had to give the directive because “there have been complaint that people are being prevented from movement by those who parade themselves as labour people,” hoping that the leadership of labour would call its people to order.

The Special Assistant who insisted that it is the constitutional rights of those willing to move about to be allowed, stated that “I do know that the leadershi of our labour is very responsible and will not encourage violence in any guise.

Mrs. Oyo argued that the president’s directive was inevitable because “there are people who do not agree with this strike and they have the right not to agree”, stressing that “you are allowed to have different opinion and that is what is part of human rights”.

She disclosed that the technical committee’s work was progressing and that “the two parties are nearing convergence on the issues that are tabled before them”, adding that “I want to say emphatically that there is cordiality in the discussion that is going on. It is frank and everyone is presenting his point”.

And addressing newsmen in Abuja, Wednesday, the Inspector General of Police said, “the protesters, or hooligans were hiding under the NLC strike to foment trouble.

What they were not able to achieve through the front door, the wanted to use the opportunity of the NLC strike get it through the back door.

Now we have to strike and warn that any person or group of persons who threatens, obstruct, intimidates or molestes anybody going about his or her lawful duty or legitimate business shall be arrested and delt with according to the Law”.

Balgon said the protesters of ong beyond the bounds of normal strike, accusing the protesters of:

* Making bonfires on public highways;

*Molesting and chasing out civil servants and other workers who are willing to work from their offices;

* Issuing threats of harm to their persons if workers disobey the NLC directive;

* Padlocking of offices, banks, markets and other places of work;

*Going as far as disrupting scheduled local flights and causing panic at the Ikeja Airport on July 1, by forcibly taking over the control tower in Ikeja;

* Barricading Highways and in the process impeding the free flow of traffic;

* Making un-authorised announcements to cancel local flights at Enugu Airport and forcibly taking over the control twer;

* Smashing windscreens of cars and vehicles of innecent drivers and woners; and

Inciting and causing disturbance of public peace by throwning stones at law abiding civil servants and other workers who are not prepared to withdraw their labour, etc.

He warned these are not acts of normal trade disputes in unionsim. They are acts of destruction of lives and properties, intimidation, violence, vandalism, and political activism patently unlawful in trade dispute declaration.

Balogun cited Maraba, and outskirts of Abuja, where the protest metamorphosed into political protest as portraits, and posters of prominent politicians were freely displayed. He added that the protesters attempted to burn Mararaba police station, apart from smashing cars and windscreens of innocent citizens and stripping naked young ladies who were accused of wearing trousers.

The Police have a statutory duty and responsibility to maintain law and order and ensure the protection of life and property, as a result, the police would not allow any person or group of persons under any guise to constitute a threat to law and order, The police will carry out its lawful and constitutional responsidbility of maintaining law and order, and protecting lives and properties.