THE Enugu Citizens Forum convened by a coalition of over 50 Civil Society Groups to present the analysis of the implementation of Enugu state 2013 budget was aborted by the police on Thursday.
The event was slated for Oakland Event Centre along the Ebeano Tunnel road but the participants drawn from some states of the South East were denied access to the hall by four policemen who claimed to have the instruction of the police commissioner to stop the meeting.
The management of the centre had informed the organisers that the Police Public Relations Committee, PPRC of the state police command had booked the same main hall which the coalition earlier reserved and paid for, and decided to give them another hall downstairs.
Coordinator of the Enugu Citizens Forum, Barrister Crownwell Chibuzor, told reporters that two members of the group were arrested by the police for insisting that the group’s event would hold in the hall assigned to them.
He said that when he attempted to address the participants in the hall, four armed policemen came into the hall and stopped him requesting that he should go with them to the police headquarters.
He said: “The Enugu Citizens Forum, which is a coalition of Civil Society Groups numbering over 50 in Enugu State, conducted budget implementation findings and we wrote all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs in respect of going into the field to get information and after we got all the information and analyzed the implementation process, we also wrote the relevant MDAs informing them that we are going to unveil the report of that finding publicly and that everybody should attend.
“Should we have areas of mistake we also invited community people affected by that so that everybody will be on one page while the dialogue goes on.
“But while I was coming, I was told that our hall was to be used by the police for another event, so eventually the hotel management gave us another hall downstairs. While I was there I was asked to come over to the Police Headquarters and that two members of the coalition were already taken to the police station.
“While I was addressing the participants that we actually gathered here to look at budget implementation in the state and that it was not a political issue, it was a governance matter devoid of political colouration, four policemen came in and said that the Commissioner of Police directed that the programme should be cancelled.
“I wondered what was the public breach of peace or the insecurity that we have constituted in the same environment where over 500 people were in the hall upstairs and we were less than 50 downstairs.”
Chibuzor said that the forum was also intended to project part of the things that the state government had done as a means of setting a stage for the coming government that people would begin to monitor implementation of budget as well as to assess the Federal government’s allocation to the state to ascertain how far it has impacted the lives of the citizens of Enugu State.
He said that the police had denied them the opportunity to carry out the exercise as they threatened that “if we failed to disperse anything could happen and that they should not be blamed.”
The coordinator lamented that apart from the cost of the hall lost some of the materials for the programme were also lost in the confusion and wondered why a law enforcement agency should engage in such unfortunate act.
“My challenge now is I do not know what I have done wrong and I am not bound to disclose which political party I belong if ever I belong anywhere but this is a governance matter and the citizens have the right to meet to talk about issues that affect them,” he said.
When contacted on the development, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, who was attending the PPRC event with the Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Mohammed at the same venue, said that he was not aware of the disruption of the civil society’s forum.
He said that he would speak on the matter when fully briefed about what happened.