When POMA Law is used to intimidate

A while back, one of my fellow executives of a not-for-profit organisation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO),  that focuses on human rights issues observed that when the state intimidates human rights oriented NGOs with such laws as the Public Order Management Act (POMA), we the executives of NGOs or not-for-profits doing service delivery take a back seat and think, well that does not apply to us, narrated Ajakait.

Well, Ajakait it seems has had a rude awakening. Let us just say, a certain not-for-profit organisation that Ajakait knows of organised an internal meeting within its own grounds and premises that it owns at a certain sub-county up country there, there – let us call it Gombolola.

According to Ajakait, as they were doing the introduction session, yes, she was also there but does not specify in which capacity she was there. Anyway, apparently as they were doing the self-introductions at their internal meeting, the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Omusirikale, the Officer in Charge (OC) of Gombolola Police Station arrived with a horde of other ‘crime preventers’ and demanded to talk to the person who was chairing the meeting.

The Boss introduced herself to ASP Omusirikale, at which time he declared that he had received reports that in accordance with POMA, the on-going meeting was an illegal gathering, because permission had not been sought from his office. It was the intention of ASP Omusirikale and his horde of ‘crime preventers’ to stop the meeting and also to arrest and charge the Boss for violating POMA.

Eeeh, exclaims Ajaikait. Ekiki, as in what? If it was me, I swear I would not have handled it as well as the Boss did it. I would have reverted directly to my porcupine prickly mode and that ASP Omusirikale would have seen the damage that my quills, fully erect, would have done to him, boasted Ajakait.

You see it is easy to boast like that when you are not the Boss under intimidation. Anyway, according to Ajakait, in the presence of Abakulu – distinguished, genuine and legitimate leaders of the communities of the Gombolala – not the politicians and those other ones, who were the participants in the meeting, the Boss explained to ASP Omusirikale that the POMA had no jurisdiction in a private facility such as the NGO’s own premises.

The Boss  also further explained that POMA does not apply to private meetings in which a development organisation is holding conversation with representatives of the communities that it serves, according to Ajakait, who shared this bit in a victorious tone.

Mbu after hearing the Boss’s explanation given in perfect flawless English, according to the Ajakai, ASP Omusilikale changed tactics. Apparently, he then demanded to see a copy of the agenda for the meeting. “He he he … wowe … otukwi …”, laughed Ajaikait in full enjoyment.

You see, apparently, when the Boss obliged and gave ASP Omusilikale the agenda, he started seeing blank, blank, white, white …This, according to Ajakait, was because the agenda was printed on the official NGO letterhead paper on which the owners of the NGO are listed.

The owners of the NGO, according to Ajakait, are not for playing, playing with just like that, like that. “They are significant and also … totally, totally”, described Ajakait. On realising the calibre of the owners of the NGO and the content of the agenda, ASP Omusirikale pretended to allow for the meeting to temporarily proceed as he consulted with his bosses, explains Ajakait with loads of laughter in her voice.

Ajakait seems to have had so much private fun with ASP Omusilikale. Apparently, the guy eventually returned to the meeting. And this time he claimed mbu his office needs to be part of such meetings. To Ajakait’s chagrin, apparently, unlike her who would have rolled out her porcupine prickly mode, the Boss welcomed ASP Omusilikale to join the meeting as a participant, which he did, shamelessly, according to Ajakait.

Towards the end of the meeting, according to Ajakait, the Boss even went further and gave ASP Omusilikale an opportunity to share his views and he did. Ajakait then proceeded to imitate ASP Omusilikale and to the best of her recollection she quotes ASP Omusilikales remarks as follows, more over doing so while punctuating her recollection with loads of laughter:

Thank you very much the Boss and Abakulu, protocol observed. I am not speaking on behalf of the POMA misusers (his bosses oba), neither on behalf of anybody. I am speaking in my capacity as the OC Station.

At first we were not on programme. We got concerned. We came here we consulted the relevant offices above then they said they were on the way coming but I don’t know what happened. But we had promised that we are going to be part of you. And that is why am here.

Thank you very much I remain ASP, Omusilikale. I have also benefitted. I only knew about this and that but not this new enterprises that you have been talking about. So I have taken the knowledge, I will take it to my home people in Eyo when I go back. Thank you very much.

“Banange, people should have ko some shame!”, exclaimed Ajakait. How so, I asked Ajakait?

“It can be deduced from ASP Omusilikale’s remarks that in the end he agreed that the meeting was not an illegal meeting and it most definitely was not the kind of meeting for which POMA is applicable”, surmised Ajakait.

I agree.

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