By Abdulwahab Abdulah & Evelyn Usman
lagos—Men of Lagos State Police Command yesterday laid siege to the premises of the state chapter of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, to arrest the chairman, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, over plans by the group to embark on protests against the state government’s Land Use Charge, LUC.
But the state police spokesman, Chike Oti, said the NBA boss was only being invited to know the the area the protest would cover, especially in view of President Muhammadu Buhari’s official visit to the state.
Vanguard gathered that the over 50 policemen, led by the DCP Operations, A. Mohammed, stormed the NBA office at about 4pm and as at 8:00pm last night, the siege was still on.
The NBA boss and his members were holed up in the office, with the police waiting anxiously for them to emerge from a meeting to arrest the chairman.
The police had earlier in a letter to the NBA chairman inviting him for a chat yesterday, said it was investigating a petition to the effect that the conduct of the NBA chairman and his members would cause a breach of public peace.
“You are requested to report to the undersigned on the 28th of March , 2018 by 1900 hours through O.C X squad, who had been detailed by the Commissioner of Police to investigate the case,” the letter said.
The police said failure of the NBA chairman to honour the invitation explained the reason policemen were deployed to the premises to quiz him.
The command boss, Edgar Imohimi, who assured that all had been put in place to ensure a hitch-free visit by President Buhari, advised parents to caution their wards against being used as tools by some unscrupulous elements.
He said: “We will arrest anyone who comes out tomorrow (today) to stage a protest and charge him with very severe offences.
“In addition, it has come to the command ‘s notice that NBA Ikeja branch is being used by disgruntled politicians in Lagos.
“The issue of Land Use Charge has been addressed by the NBA; they were with me, they registered for police back-up in an earlier planned protest.
‘’Since it is their fundamental right to stage peaceful protest, I provided them policemen and they did their protest peacefully. For them to now issue another press release to say that they are taking the protest to the President, who has nothing to do with the Land Use Charge shows they are being used.
‘’It is also curious that of all the NBA branches in Lagos, it is only the Ikeja branch that has been using the option of protest and civil disobedience, despite several options available. For the avoidance of doubt, the Lagos State Police Command will not tolerate any protest from the NBA or any group of individuals during the visit of the President.
‘’The NBA or any group seeking to protest at this time is warned to jettison the idea or face dire consequences which may include arrest and prosecution of participants.’’
But the NBA vowed yesterday that it would resist every attempt by the police to arrest its leader, wondering why the police would seek to arrest its leader when the constitution gives members the right of protest.
The NBA chairman had earlier at a press conference announced the decision of the association to continue its protest against the Land Use Charge of the state government today.
The chairman, Ogunlana, said the NBA would not back down,despite the reduction of rates by the state government, insisting that government returned to statusquo.
Efforts to get the state government to react last night proved abortive as calls pulled through the mobile number of the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, were not pick and his Justice counterpart, Adeniji kazeem was unsuccessful as several phone call attempts rang out and messages sent were not replied.
Reacting to the police siege, the Education Rights Campaign, described it as “undemocratic and tyrannical.”
“It constitutes harrasment of innocent citizens reminiscent of the dark days of military rule,” said Hassan Soweto, national coordinator, ERC.