The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has dissociated itself from the attack by a pro-government group on a coalition of civil society activists who were protesting outside the Nigeria Human Rights Commission (NHRC) office in Abuja on Monday.
The APC accused the activists of being sponsored by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to paint “the APC government in bad light” before the world.
The protest came at the end of a 14-day ultimatum issued by the activists for the release of all persons illegally held in SSS custody and respect for civil space by the government.
It, however, turned violent when the pro-government group displaying various placards with inscriptions praising the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration launched a physical attack on the activists.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how one of the leaders of the civil society groups, Deji Adeyanju, was injured by the attackers.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, on Tuesday, the ruling party condemned the attack but said the activists were “PDP supporters who try to deceive the public by hiding under various names such as civil society groups, human rights activists, and constitutional lawyers, to link our government to a dastard act as witnessed on Monday.”
“This incident stands condemned by our party,” the APC said.
“As the governing party, we recognise the inalienable rights of people, groups, including political parties to gather or carry out protest by themselves or through proxies within the ambit of the laws. We do not subscribe to a situation where such protests become chaotic or different protesting groups turn on one another, causing avoidable injuries. Such is clearly unacceptable to our laws and it is against the principled stance of our government.
“While we recognise the fundamental liberties of citizens to freely express their views through lawful means, we cannot as a government allow excesses and irresponsible acts. No group or individual has a right to torment the public or display any act of intolerance to other people’s views,” the statement read.
The party denied that the President Buhari-led administration was using strong-arm tactics on its critics.
“It is there for us all to see: there has been no incident of harassment, arrest, or intimidation of anyone or group despite the level of attacks, name-calling, personal insults, and even callous statements being directed at the person of President Muhammadu Buhari by the different PDP leaders and its hideous supporters.
“We are witnessing increasing cases of irresponsible and unrestrained verbal attacks on the Nigerian President by the opposition elements with no consequences. Evidently, President Buhari’s government has no doubt displayed an avowed commitment to civil liberties and promotion of democracy,” APC said inn the statement.
The party, however, warned that the administration would not hesitate to deal with anyone who “poses a threat to our national security” and called for “thorough investigation of the incident to ensure adequate actions are taken against anyone found to have overstepped his bounds.”