The police in Lagos, Tuesday night, arrested many essential workers, including journalists and doctors, for allegedly defying the 8 p.m to 5 a.m curfew imposed on the state by the federal government over the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But a reporter who witnessed it all said the arrests were malicious.
The police mounted several checkpoints on several parts of Lagos on Tuesday night to enforce the curfew during which they arrested many essential workers.
The health workers, journalists, bank officials and other essential workers had been caught in heavy traffic caused by the checkpoints when they were arrested.
Among those arrested were Ivy Kanu, a crime correspondent with TVC News, and Chuks Oluigbo, the News Editor of BusinessDay newspaper.
They were later detained at a police station and their vehicles impounded.
‘Order from above’
Yusuf Adekunle, the Head of Investigation at The Nation newspaper who was also held up in the traffic, told PREMIUM TIMES that the journalists were arrested out of police annoyance at the media.
“They were all angry that all the loopholes in the COVID-19 directives, the media were heaping them on the police,” he said.
Mr Adekunle said the police mounted a checkpoint at Testing Ground, Alausa shortly after 8 p.m when the traffic had built up to Allen Avenue roundabout.
“I had to abandon my car and trek to the front to see what was happening. The police said it was total lockdown for everyone and no exemption for anybody, including doctors, journalists and others,” Mr Adekunle said.
He said the officers refused to allow anyone go, saying that was the instruction given to them.
“Despite all our entreaties, they said no. Bankers who were on essential duties, feeding money into the ATMs, some of them had letters, they said no. They told us they would impound all our vehicles and hand them over to the task force in the morning.”
Mr Adekunle said the DPO of the division later came to tell the people that nobody would be allowed to leave and that in the morning, their vehicles would be handed over to the task force.
“I had to go back, manoeuvre and even do one-way to get out of there, because I had already spent more than seven hours in the traffic,” he narrated.
Mr Adekunle said he was later intercepted by another officer at another checkpoint who insisted that nobody was exempted.
“They were all angry, every one of them was saying the same thing. They were blaming the media that we heaped all the blames of not observing total lockdown on the police and that they were not effective. Apparently, they were angry because of that,” he said.
At the end of a virtual conference with zonal assistant-inspector general of police and state commissioners of police on Tuesday, Mohammed Adamu, the inspector-general of police, ordered a “strict enforcement” of the national curfew and inter-state movement restriction imposed by the federal government.
The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has ordered strict enforcement of the national curfew and inter-state movement restriction orders emplaced by the Federal Government as part of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
— Nigeria Police Force (@PoliceNG) May 19, 2020
The police issued a clarification hours later saying people on essential services are exempted from the movement restriction.
Covid-19: Enforcement of Restriction Orders
All essential workers including Medical Personnel,Firefighters, Ambulance Services,Journalists,etc are exempted from the restriction of movement associated with both the partial lockdown and the national curfew across the Federation.
— Nigeria Police Force (@PoliceNG) May 19, 2020
Reacting to the arrest of its members, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Lagos directed members to proceed on an indefinite sit-at-home strike starting from 6 p.m on Wednesday.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the NMA said the sit-at order will run until the conflict between the directives of the state government and law enforcement agents is resolved.
READ ALSO: Curfew: Lagos doctors begin sit-at-home Wednesday
“The Lagos State Branch of the NMA has resolved that it is presently unsafe for its members to continue to provide healthcare services under the present confused arrangement.
“We resolve that all doctors under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association in Lagos to proceed on a sit-at-home starting from 6.00 p.m. today, May 20, indefinitely.
“Until such time when the state government and the Commissioner of Police, are clear on how they wish to operationalise the lockdown/restriction of movement directive as it relates to essential service and service providers, including healthcare services and doctors,” the NMA leaders said.
The spokesperson of the police in Lagos, Bala Elkana, did not respond to calls and a text message asking for his comments for this story.