* Sealed-up Nicon Luxury Hotel
About 50 heavily-armed police officers, purportedly on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, today temporarily sealed-up Nicon Luxury Hotel Abuja, venue of a colloquium on Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2001.
The two-day colloquium organised by the Anti Corruption Network (ACN) was themed “Demystifying the Complexities: Empowering the People”.
The Policemen led by an assistant commissioner of police who refused to disclose his identity and the reason for their actions, prevented former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, David Mark represented by Senator Victor Lar and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal whose protocol officers were seen at the venue of the event and former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, from attending the colloquium.
Other dignitaries barred from the event include Femi Falana, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Gen. Ahmed Aboki (rtd), director general of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mike Omeri, representatives of the Minister of Justice, chairman of ICPC, EFCC and guests from the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa, among others.
Executive Secretary of ACN and former House of Representatives member, Dino Melaye, told reporters that he was yet to understand the rationale behind the Police action.
“We were here throughout last night (Monday) in preparation for today’s programme. We have made payment for the venue and the feeding.
This morning, we came over to open the hall and the management of the hotel briefed us that there is an order from the IGP stopping the programme. I then asked why the police will stop a programme where they’ve been invited as participants.
“I have two letters here acknowledged by the office of the IGP, where we told them to send 20 participants. The theme of the colloquium is ‘Demystifying the Complexities of FOI and How to Empower the People’.
We invited all the security agencies. It is outrageous and laughable for an event involving even the government. I don’t know what to say.
Nigeria is now a police state? What we are doing is in the interest of Nigeria. We are here to enlighten Nigerians. I don’t know what the IGP and this government are afraid of.
“We are going to consult with our lawyers and we are going to sue the NPF and this hotel. As at Monday night, we had released N4 million to
this hotel. This is not even a protest. It is an intellectual discourse. What impression are we giving those international speakers that have been invited?” Melaye said.
Alhaji Balarabe Musa on his part said the Police action was shameful and that the Police must have acted on the instructions of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“All the relevant people in government have been invited and most of them have indicated their indication to be here. The conclusion we can get from this is that the president himself must have ordered that this event must not take place. The president is unhappy about this event.
“Since the government cannot justify that this is a campaign against corruption, this is just a cover-up, the only thing they can do is to ensure that a function like this which will expose the level of corruption in this country does not hold. No matter what happens, there is a limit to which you can limit certain things. We will continue to expose corruption.
“How can the president transform the country when he cannot allow healthy deliberations like this to take place? Whoever stopped this programme is making a fool of himself. Police men cannot stop us. This is why we said the proposed national conference is another game plan and cover-up. How would someone who cannot tolerate a discussion at this level tolerate a discussion at national level?” Musa said.
Melaye has recently been having a running battle with the police over his anti-corruption protests including the last one held to demand the removal and prosecution of Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, over the controversial N255 million armoured car purchase and was briefly arrested, then released, during the protest.