By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Kingsley Omonobi, Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Bose Adelaja,
Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Bashir Bello, Gabriel Ewepu, Luminous Jannamike & Shina Abubakar
One year after the #RevolutionNow protests, there were series of protests in many cities of Nigeria, yesterday, leading to clashes between demonstrators and security agents.
Activists claimed that no fewer than 100 demonstrators were arrested during the mass action in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Niger and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja to mark the first anniversary of the #RevolutionNow Movement.
Security agents also took over the streets of Kano to ensure nobody came out for the protests
Among those arrested were Olawale Bakare, a co-defendant with Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo, a journalist, and six others.
The clampdown on the protesters elicited condemnation from civil society organizations, CSOs as the Presidency kept mum.
Efforts to get reaction from the media office of the Presidency on the protest did not yield results.
However, a source at the seat of power who spoke on condition of anonymity, simply told Vanguard: “Look for people to speak on that. It (protest) is too small for the Presidency to react to.”
The protesters in different parts of the country decried high unemployment, rising insecurity and poverty, and demanded good governance, infrastructural development, end to extra-judicial killings, and the sack of service chiefs over poor security situation in the country, among others.
Protesters decry state of the nation in Abuja
The #RevolutionNow Protest, started in Abuja, with protesters expressing displeasure over the state of the nation.
The mass action commemorated the first anniversary of the #RevolutionNow Movement.
The demonstration, tagged: ‘National Day of Action’ kicked off its Abuja leg around 8:30am at Transcorp Junction, near Maitama.
A leader of the protest, Mr. Pelumi Olajengbesi, maintained that the group’s demand bordered on the need for a political revolution in the country.
“Our demand is that there is need for us to have a conscious political revolution. We need people who have a clear focus and the interest and welfare of the masses in leadership positions.
“Let no Nigerian feel so comfortable because the country is not safe and secure. Even the security agents are no longer safe.
“If we don’t take our future and destinies in our hands, this country will continue to remain without progress. Together we must rise to liberate this nation,” he told reporters.
Similarly, General Secretary, United Action for Democracy and a leading member of Take It Back Movement, Comrade Kunle Ajayi, said: “We also came here to lead the revolution and protest for free functional and standard education at all levels, free functional and advanced healthcare.
“We decided to mobilize community by community, street by street for people to come out and tell the government that enough is enough.
“Also, we came here to say that Nigerians want better education, better healthcare and social welfare and topmost of it all is the issue of security.
“You cannot continue to do as if the country is a grave yard. As it is today in most parts of this country, everybody is living without security.”
Security men spray protesters with pepper
The scene turned chaotic shortly after the protesters commenced their demonstration when security operatives drafted to the scene to maintain law and order clashed with them.
To quench the protest, security operatives ordered the protesters to lie down on the grass and sprayed them with pepper. No fewer than 40 protesters were, thereafter, arrested and taken away in six police patrol vehicles.
Vanguard gathered that the joint security personnel hinged the arrest of the protesters on violation of COVID-19 protocols.
The police charged the alleged offenders before the FCT Mobile Court for immediate prosecution.
However, the court did not sit because the presiding magistrate, Idayat Akanni, had other pending cases before her.
Consequently, the security operatives released the arrested protesters with a note of stern warning from the FCT Ministerial Task Team on COVID-19.
Coordinator of the Task Team, Comrade Ikharo Attah, said the rights of the protesters to demonstrate remained sacrosanct but noted that they must follow the Presidential Task Force’s guidelines on social and physical distancing as most of them were seen without face masks.
He, therefore, advised the protesters to comply with all COVID-19 protocols to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
We arrested, released COVID-19 protocols violators, not protesters – FCT Police Command
Indeed, the FCT Police Command, in its reaction, said its personnel did not arrest any protesting member of the #RevolutionNow group at any point in the FCT, Abuja, contrary to insinuations that 62 protesters were arrested.
Rather, the command said its operatives arrested some persons who violated the COVID-19 protocols banning the convergence and gathering of people without face masks and those violating social distancing principles.
Commissioner of Police, FCT, Bala Ciroma, said all the persons arrested were taken to Eagle Square in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols to appear before a magistrate and be arraigned for the violations.
The said offenders were, however, let off the hook because the magistrate that would have presided over their case failed to show up at Eagle Square.
Consequently, the CP directed his operatives to issue warnings to the arrested persons to desist from further violation of FCT COVID-19 protocols, after which they were released.
Asked why it was during the Revolution Now protest that the Police decided to swing into action and arrest violators of COVID-19 protocols, the CP said: “Their arrest had nothing to do with the protest. It is their right to protest as long as they don’t disturb the peace and other law abiding Nigerians.
“The FCT Command has remained steadfast in ensuring people follow the COVID-19 protocols and this has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of over 1,000 person’s in the past. So this has nothing to do with any protest.”
25 protesters arrested, charged to court in Lagos
In Lagos, 25 protesters were arrested for allegedly causing obstruction for road users in Ikeja, the state capital.
Some of them were also alleged to have driven in vehicles with covered number plates.
Though identities of those arrested could not be immediately ascertained, one of them was Agba Jalingo, a journalist and activist, who was recently released from detention by the Cross Rivers State Government.
When contacted, spokesman of the command, SP Elkana Bala, said they had been charged before a mobile court.
He said: “The arrest was because they came out in vehicles with covered number plates which is an offence, and also caused a hitch in the free flow of traffic. As much as they have a right to protest, others also have a right to free flow of traffic. They have been charged to the Mobile Court.”
In fact, armed policemen prevented protesters on the banner of Coalition for Revolution CORE, from joining the planned nation-wide protest against what they described as “massive corruption, rising unemployment and worsening misery of the masses in Nigeria.”
The protest, tagged: “Grand Corruption Mass Misery,” was to mark the first anniversary of the #RevolutionNow Movement and relaunch a campaign for an end to looting of public resources to pave way for revamping of the social and economic fabric of the country.
Also, the group demanded greater accountability in the management of public funds.
As early as 7 am, the Police barricaded the Ikeja under bridge venue, where the protesters were supposed to converge for a march to Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja and prevented them from gathering.
As soon as the police sighted some of the protesters coming to the venue, they fired tear gas canisters to disperse them.
The protesters, mainly youths, displayed placards with various inscriptions, such as: “Put an end to insecurity and mass killings now;” “Stop destroying our homes, invest in social housing;” “No to increase in electricity tariffs, fraudulent bank deduction;” “Embezzlement and looting is affecting our nation,” “Is this how to fight corruption?” among others.
Despite police presence and appeal by authorities of the Area F Command to vacate the area, the Convener, Comrade Babatunde Ayelabola, popularly called “Baba Aye” urged the demonstrators to continue with the peaceful protest in an orderly manner in the face of police threat.
Consequently, the police fired tear gas canisters which made the demonstrators scamper in different directions through the Computer Village and adjoining streets.
At press time, it could not be confirmed if the police made any arrest.
CORE accuses FG
Ayelabola accused the Federal Government of unleashing unprecedented repression, incarceration of some leaders of the movement, and brutalization of not less than 50 CORE activists all over the country during the protests.
His words: “This was with the mistaken belief that such jackboot tactics would silence the yearnings and aspiration of the people for equitable development, social justice and improved standards of living.
“Since then, the situation in the country for most working people keeps getting worse. While poverty continues to increase for many, the rate of stealing of monies that could be used to improve lives and livelihoods keeps accelerating on a daily basis.
“The gross mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the suffering of the masses to historic proportions as inhuman lock-downs were imposed, resulting in massive retrenchment of workers, terrible hunger, insecurity, and death for people working in the informal sector, while at the same time, prices of the most basic utilities, including electricity and fuel, have been whimsically increased
“Meanwhile, unprecedented looting of the national treasury continues unabated as exemplified in the pilfering of N81 billion at the NDDC by a few officials even during the difficult and trying period of the lock-down!”
Some of the protesters later gathered at the Committee for Defense of Human Rights, CDHR, Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja where CORE National Secretary, Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, commended them for their resilience.
Komolafe noted that despite intimidation by the Nigeria Police, the protesters were able to register their plight, saying, “the protest was successful because we have made an impact in fighting social injustice in Nigeria and this will be a continuous exercise until our plights are hearkened to by the government,”
Komolafe said. Four protesters who were arrested by law enforcement operatives were soon set free.
DSS re-arrests Bakare, 5 others in Osun
In Osogbo, Osun State, Olawale Bakare, co-convener of Revolution Now was re-arrested by operatives of the Department of Secret Service, DSS, yesterday.
On August 4, 2019, a human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner and former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore staged a protest in Lagos which led to his arrest and detention
Similarly, Olawale Bakare was also arrested in Osogbo and arraigned alongside Sowore.
Olawale, alongside other members of the Revolution Now converged on the popular Olaiya junction in Osogbo to stage a protest against bad governance, lack of infrastructure, and extra-judicial activities among others.
The protesters, led by Samuel Olowolefa, while having a peaceful protest, addressed the police officers at the scene on their mission.
A yet-to-be identified member of the RevolutionNow movement, while addressing security agents and onlookers, was abruptly arrested by DSS.
Bakare and four others, including Abiodun Sanusi, Samuel Olowolefa, one Gift Martin and Okunlola were also arrested.
Peaceful protest in Ondo
In Ondo State, youths converged on Ore, Odigbo Local Council to participate in the #RevolutionNow protest.
The protesters moved round the commercial town of Ore, demanding a better society, and called on the people to rise and fight for their rights.
They urged President Buhari to give priority to welfare of the citizenry, and address the rising insecurity in the country, which .they described as embarrassing.
Meanwhile, armed security personnel manned strategic locations within the town to prevent miscreants from hijacking the protest.
Security beefed up in Kano
There was heavy security presence in Kano metropolis in readiness for the protest in the state capital.
Combined teams of security personnel including the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Police, KAROTA, among others, were stationed in strategic areas with their vehicles around the Kofar Nassarawa bridge, Gadan Lado and Dangi bridge.
At the time of filing in this report, there was no protest in the area as residents were going about their daily activities.
SERAP condemns police action
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, condemned the attacks on protesters in Abuja, Osogbo, Lagos and other parts of the country.
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization asked what government of President Muhammadu Buhari was doing to end the use of excessive force against protesters.
The statement read: “By failing to adequately protect protesters from violent attacks, Nigerian authorities have blatantly violated their obligations under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“Nobody should be arrested or subjected to torture and ill-treatment simply for taking part in peaceful protests. The authorities should stop criminalising peaceful protesters.
“Rather than suppressing peaceful protests, the authorities ought to protect peaceful protesters and ensure a safe and enabling environment for people to exercise their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.’’
SERAP, therefore, urged the international community, including the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to publicly condemn attacks on peaceful protesters, pressure the Nigerian authorities to effectively investigate attacks on protesters, prosecute perpetrators, respect and protect the human rights of everyone.
NCFront kicks, calls for immediate release of protesters
Also, the leadership of the NCFront demanded immediate freedom for protesters arrested during the protests.
NCFront in a statement signed by Dr Tanko Yunusa, Head of Public Affairs Bureau, also condemned the latest increase in hate speech fine by government
The group described protest as a constitutional right of every citizen of Nigeria, adding that the arrest and continued detention of the young protesters was illegal and high handed
“For this reason, those forcefully taken into custody by security agents today deserve unreserved apology and compensation for abuse of their constitutional and fundamental human rights of Speech, association and movement apart from deserving of being immediately released from their illegal detention,” the group stated.
Arrest undemocratic, unjustifiable– RULAAC
Similaerly, the Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre , RULAAC, condemned the arrest, describing it as undemocratic and unjustifiable.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr Okechukwu Nwagunma, the group, asserted that “right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Nigerian Constitution and other regional and international human rights legislation which Nigeria is a signatory to. Peaceful protest is one of the means of exercising the right to freedom of expression.’