Dramatic arrest over Sydney bomb scare
A man who forced the lockdown of NSW Parliament House on Friday in a suspected bomb threat had been on a hunger strike outside the building last year over a $200 fine he received 15 years ago.
Abdula Ganiji told the Illawarra Mercury in December 2012 he was refusing to eat or return home to his Wollongong family until Premier Barry O'Farrell launched an investigation into his dispute with his former employer, Wollongong Radio Cabs.
On Friday, Ganiji was arrested in dramatic scenes in Sydney's Macquarie Street.
He had parked his white Chrysler on the footpath outside the historic building about midday, made a set of demands to police and threatened to light a petrol container if they were not met.
Following a two-hour stand-off, the 58-year-old wound up the windows of his car and attempted to ignite a cigarette lighter.
At that point, tactical operations and riot squad police stormed the car, firing smoke canisters into the vehicle, smashing the windows and pulling him onto the footpath before he was arrested. Officers also removed an item from the sedan.
The whole scenario placed NSW Parliament House into lockdown with the Premier, other ministers, staffers and the press gallery told to remain inside.
Ganiji was taken to St Vincent's Hospital for treatment to some minor cuts.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said the man had made a series of demands as he spoke to police negotiators over the two hours.
"He was making certain demands of the police, we weren't in a position to meet those demands nor were we ever in a position to entertain them.
"Our whole tactic was to contain and negotiate with the man, equally we were committed to not letting him get mobile.
"We put certain arrangements in place to stop that from happening. Given what we believe to be a man in a car with a container of flammable liquid, the risk to the community was obvious."
Ganiji told the Mercury last year he had been fined in 1998 by Wollongong Radio Cabs for misusing his taxi radio - he was accused of clicking the buttons unnecessarily, causing problems on the communication network.
On a hunger strike for at least eight days, he said he was upset authorities had "taken no notice" of his letters of complaint and he believed he had never been given the chance to appeal the fine.
Asked at the time why he wouldn't forget about the past and leave the issue behind, Ganiji said: "My wife says this to me too, but this fight I will not give in."
Wollongong Radio Cabs refused to comment on the case.
Transport NSW said at the time Ganiji had been "provided every assistance" to resolve his issue.
"Investigations that have already taken place resolve that Wollongong Radio Cabs did not breach network service standards or guidelines," a spokesman said.
Assistant Commissioner Murdoch said on Friday investigators were still trying to determine what had caused the man to carry out the threat, but said he was known to police.
PRAISE FOR OFFICERS
Assistant Commissioner Murdoch praised the efforts of his officers, saying they put themselves at great risk to protect the community.
"When that man attempted to light a cigarette lighter, wind the windows of the car up with what we believe to be a container of flammable liquid, those officers put their lives on the line this afternoon and they resolved the situation in a peaceful manner.
"That is to be commended."
Macquarie Street remained closed in both directs between St James Road and Hunter Street at 3pm, as police carry-out their investigation, RMS Traffic Management said.
At the height of the drama, NSW Treasurer Mike Baird tweeted that he and Premier Barry O'Farrell were inside the building when it went into lockdown.
Baird tweeted that he and O'Farrell were asked to evacuate the building. However, he later clarified in a tweet that Mr O'Farrell was asked to leave the balcony area, not the building.
An announcement played through the building ordered everyone away from the front of the building.
This week is not a sitting week at parliament so not all ministers and MPs were in the building.
- with AAP, Sydney Morning Herald