By SaharaReporters, New York
Nigerian activists from the Nigeria Liberty Democratic Forum (NDLF) last night protested at the Town Hall meeting called by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Adaku Onwuliri, shutting down the event until the New York Police Department was called in an hour later.
The meeting, which was scheduled to start at 6: 00 p.m., did not start until 7:45p.m, as the minister came late.
Prof. Onwuliri is one of three Ministers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of a top-heavy, free-spending government. About 10 days ago, in one of his broadcasts on the oil subsidy crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan said he would drastically cut down on foreign travel; Mrs. Onwuliri’s tour of the United States, like the lavish tour of South Africa of Mr. Jonathan’s team to the ANC 100th anniversary, is evidence of the emptiness of that pledge.??The activists led by Bukola Oreofe of the NDLF waited patiently in the hall as officials of the Nigerian consulate in New York and organizers of the event started with opening prayers and the Nigerian national anthem. As soon as the anthem ended and the Consul-General of Nigeria in New York moved towards the podium to deliver a prepared speech, NDLF activists took over the microphone on the aisle which was set aside for those who wished to ask questions.??They announced that the Minister was late, and pointing out that it was another sign of disrespect and contempt for Nigerians. The activists were upset that a federal minister would be late to the very meeting for which she had travelled all the way from Nigeria at great public expense, noting that Nigeria continued to be governed and mismanaged so sloppily.??The activists also explained why the downhill meeting would not hold in view of the killing of peaceful protesters during last week’s OccupyNigeria movement rallies.??As soon as the first speaker stated the mission of the protest, another speaker stepped up and announced that the meeting was over.??Apparently, Nigerian officials who had anticipated such disruption had also mobilized and paid some Nigerians in the New York area to attack the protesters, as pandemonium and fights started in the hall.
It started with a certain Carl Ummuna and Bukola Shonuga who began shoving and verbally abusing protesters, claiming they were there to “protect the minister”. But an unrelenting and sustained protest shut down the proceedings.
The Minister and her entourage could do nothing other than watch and threaten to invite hotel security and the police to arrest members of OccupyNigeria-New York.? ?But when they contacted the NYPD, the officers at first declined intervention, asking the hotel security to sort things out with the protesters. Meanwhile, the undeterred group sang protest songs and gave intermittent speeches for about an hour.??After hanging outside for close to 15 minutes a detachment of about eight policemen led by a sergeant entered the hall and appealed to the protesters for dialogue. When the protesters stepped out with the police, they explained that since the Nigerian embassy apparently paid for the hotel venue through an individual, they had to step in to restore order.
They also noted that they resisted any attempt to harass or arrest anyone for exercising the right to protest corruption on US soil.??Later, the officers accompanied the protesters, to pick up their winter jackets and personal effects. Some of them expressed satisfaction that the point had been made and that the Minister would have plenty to report to President Goodluck Jonathan about that the days of freewheeling corruption in the country were over. During that time, when the activists returned to pick their belongings, the program, which had hurriedly commenced, was disrupted again as protesters began another round of protests as police look on.??“Let this be a lesson to the crooks in Nigeria,” one protester said.?? “For as long as they persist in their greed and corruption, there will be Nigerians wherever they go in the world waiting to welcome them with anger and disrespect.”