The Nigeria Police Force, Wednesday banned all political, socio-cultural, and religious gatherings within and around the country’s airport premises; including tarmacs, lounges, and other sensitive security points.
A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the ban was part of efforts towards averting any security breach and the need to protect critical infrastructure, travellers, aircrew, airport staff and personnel at the nation’s local and international airports.
The police authorities, therefore, directed the Airport Command Commissioners of Police and Commissioners of Police in states hosting the airports to ensure that, in line with international best practices, firm security measures were taken to safeguard the airports and their crucial infrastructure. The police also said the move was to prevent a situation where the airports were turned into places of political assemblies, religious worship and other social receptions, as there were enough civic centres, town halls, assembly halls, etc for public meetings, carnivals and celebrations of all kinds.
The statement said the decision was taken by a strategic security meeting at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The decision to ban receptions and carnivals was taken the same day the security personnel at the Port Harcourt International Airport clashed with the supporters of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.
Confusion had broken out when the security personnel barred the governor’s supporters who besieged the airport to welcome the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who were flying into the city to invite him to join the opposition party.
Amaechi, who was reportedly on his way to join his supporters to receive the opposition figures, including former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, was prevented from driving into the airport with his supporters, causing him to alight from his car and trek about four kilometres to the airport.
Spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Yakubu Datti, had told an online news medium, Premium Times, that thugs led by Amaechi, invaded the airport.
“As I am talking to you now, they have invaded the tarmac and an Arik flight just arrived Port Harcourt now,” he said.
The Police said in the statement that though it was not unaware of the constitutional rights of Nigerians to freedom of movement and assembly, the enjoyment of these rights should be situated within the boundary of the law and appropriate civil behaviour.
“The Force, therefore, implores Nigerians to cooperate with the Police in their effort at improving the maintenance of effective safety and security at all the nooks and crannies of the airport. It further called on the Nigerian elite, political and opinion leaders to assist the Police in the education and enlightenment of their fans, admirers, supporters and followers on the need to abide by these rules, as failure to comply will attract appropriate legal sanctions,” it added.
The Police also said the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar, “has reiterated his administration’s unalloyed commitment towards eliminating all forms of threat to internal security, even as he pledges a safe and conducive environment for our democracy and democratic institutions to thrive.”