Nigeria police break up anti-corruption meet: activists

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policenigeriaAbuja – Police in Abuja on Tuesday blocked an anti-corruption meeting by sealing off the hotel conference room where activists had planned to gather, a rights group and a hotel employee said.

Crackdowns on civil society organisations, common in some African countries, have become rare in Nigeria in recent years.

The meeting scheduled at Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja had been partly organised by Dino Melaye, a former lawmaker turned activist who has called for the resignation of a cabinet member accused of illegally procuring two armoured vehicles worth $1.4 million (870,000 euros).

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), one of Nigeria’s leading rights groups, condemned “reports that a detachment of heavily armed Nigerian policemen were today sent to seal off the Nicon Luxury Hotel” suite where the meeting had been scheduled.

An AFP reporter saw roughly a dozen officers and two police vehicles positioned outside the venue on Tuesday afternoon.

A hotel employee, who requested anonymity, said the police made clear when they arrived that they were instructed to break up the meeting.

National police spokesman Frank Mba and Abuja police spokeswoman Altine Daniel said they had no knowledge of the operation.

SERAP said the meeting’s theme was Nigeria’s freedom of information law and had scheduled speakers from Europe, the United States and Nigeria.

Melaye’s Anti-Corruption Network last month staged a protest in Abuja calling for the resignation of Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, who has been accused of illegally purchasing armoured vehicles with public money.

There was no indication that Tuesday’s move by the police was linked to Melaye’s campaign against Oduah, a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan.

– AFP