POLICE DISBAND NIGERIAN REVELERS AT NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL
As expected, Nigeria recorded a huge turnout at this years Notting Hill carnival. But, for the second year running, Police would just not leave the green-white-green gathering alone to soak in the fun and get on with the groove.
In 2007, officers from the Metropolitan Police cordoned off Cambridge Gardens, the usual meeting point for Nigerians. Carnival-goers from the country that year wandered around aimlessly, with no float to follow, no major stand to network, except the Obalende Suya ground where many mingled and chatted in the absence of music.
This year, there were at least two majr meeting points for Nigerians: The AIT stand and the Blackknights/Grafton stand. But it was the latter, situated along Westbourne Park road, that attracted heavy crowds, including many celebrities from Nigeria. The music was setting the crowd on fire, and many more joined in the fun.
Until Police came in to disperse them all. ‘‘keep the roads free of traffic please. Or else they’ll chase us from here’’, the MC Tunde Ednut warned repeatedly. But the crowd was swelling. Soon, it was a thick ball of people, a sea of heads, and it must have appeared to the police-usually wary of Nigerians- that chaos was in the making. That’s when they stepped in to discharge everyone from the area.
With a helicopter hovering in the air, and stern-looking cops standing their ground, it became clear that the fun was over. Patriotic Nigerians left with their flags in their pouches. Looking forlorn and disappointed, many blamed the Police for spoiling the fun for Nigerians.
But one of the organisers told AyeniTheGreat ‘‘It’s because the crowd was too much. You know what we had was not an original stand per se.
We exploited a hole in the law which said people could gather in front of their houses, as far as they don’t constitute nuisance. But I guess we became too much and a sort of security threat. We’ve spoken with the authorities and they’ve told us to do things properly next year. We’ve even started preparing already. Nigeria should have an approved stand and float next year’’.
Meanwhile the rivers state government which had earlier planned for a stand at the carnival, appeared to have pulled out at the last minute. Branding materials carrying the state’s logo and activities were seeing sitting idly at a stand, with nothing to show that the troupe or the officials from the state were on ground. A source told AyeniTheGreat the government ‘‘pulled out’’ at the last minute. ‘‘They didn’t grant most of the team visas, so I think they developed cold feet, even though they had paid as much as £5000 to get a stand’’, the source added.
Also, speculations that the federal government had arranged to have a Nigerian float at the carnival this year were proved wrong. As the floats snaked through and everyone watched countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Brazil, Greece, Jamaica and others put up brow-raising spectacles, Nigeria was again, conspicuously missing. A highly-placed source told AyeniTheGreat on the carnival ground that the Federal Ministry of information were in discussions to have a float this year.
And the Notting hill carnival continues to grow even larger, recording heavier turnouts this year. But it’s also causing the police more headache to manage the swelling crowds. Nearly two million fun-seekers attended the two-day street party this year, with the police making more than 250 arrests.
Only 164 arrests were made in 2007. and violence erupted in the final hours of the carnival last Monday as a gang of 40 swept in on unarmed police officers, throwing bricks at them and injuring many.