Aisha Jibrin, aged 30, is now in police custody as the Niger State Police Command responded to her leadership in orchestrating a large-scale protest in Minna on Monday.
The demonstration aimed at addressing the rising cost of living and involved active participation from women and young residents.Aisha, accompanied by two women, 57-year-old Fatima Aliyu and 43-year-old Fatima Isyaku, has been apprehended, along with an additional 22 individuals.
The Niger State Police Command’s spokesperson, Abiodun Wasiu, announced the arrests in a Wednesday statement, noting that an ongoing investigation will precede the court proceedings and subsequent arraignment of the protesters.
Wasiu stated that the protesters resorted to violence and engaged in illegal actions.
Allegations flew on Tuesday as the ruling All Progressives Congress pointed fingers at opposition parties for sponsoring the protesters. The Peoples Democratic Party countered the claim, asserting that the protests were a reaction to the economic difficulties resulting from President Bola Tinubu’s policies.
Describing the arrest as undemocratic, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, expressed his disapproval on Wednesday regarding the detention of the protesters.
Frustrated youths and women flooded the streets of Minna, the capital of Niger State, on Monday, expressing their discontent through a protest against the prevailing hardship caused by the surge in the cost of living.
The demonstration commenced with a women’s group blocking Minna-Bida Road at the prominent Kpakungu Roundabout to voice their grievances about perceived suffering under the President Bola Tinubu government. It later expanded as men and youths joined in, impeding the movement of vehicles.
In the morning hours, the protest took shape as youths began to speak in Hausa, expressing their concerns and lamenting the worsening economic situation under Tinubu’s leadership.
The presence of police operatives at the scene failed to deter the protesting youths, who openly expressed their distrust, asserting that the police were government agents and powerless to intervene.
Aisha, who spearheaded the protest, was officially arrested, along with 24 others, as confirmed by Wasiu, the spokesperson for the Niger Police.
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 journalists, 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.”