40 arrested in Abuja
Agba Jalingo, others held in Lagos
Demonstrators demand change of leadership
RevolutionNow organisers yesterday staged protests in Abuja, Lagos, Osogbo and other major cities to ask for good governance and change leadership in the country.
But the protests led to clashes with security agents.
In Abuja, about 40 people were arrested as a combined team of security forces swooped on the protesters.
In Lagos, police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Members of the group had arrived the popular Unity Fountain, Abuja, as early as 8a.m., brandishing various placards, demanding an end to the deteriorating insecurity across the country.
Some of the placards also denounced maladministration and demanded an end to massive corruption in Nigeria.
The protests triggered a show of force as the team of security operatives comprising military, police personnel and other paramilitary agencies took over the streets of Abuja. They moved around in a long convoy of patrol vans, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and other security vehicles. It was this convoy that stormed the Unity Fountain, venue of the #RevolutionNow protest, dispersing the crowd and arresting some of the people.
Some of the protesters were forced to lay face down on the grass and were later taken to the FCT Mobile Court where they were charged for violating COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing. They were later released because the presiding magistrate was absent and the court was not in session.
One of the leaders of the protest, Deji Adeyanju, told New Telegraph that nobody was shot, but a lot of the protesters were harassed and dehumanised by the security operatives.
He condemned what he described as the militarisation of Abuja streets for the purpose of foiling citizens’ actions against government’s obvious failure.
Adeyanju said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would only be remembered for corruption and lack of good governance.
He said: “None of our members were shot by the security forces. They were, however, beaten, harassed, dehumanised and also arrested. The militarisation of Abuja is very unfortunate and that is one of the things we will remember Buhari’s government for, including corruption. We are strategising our next move.”
A member of the group, Pelumi Olajemgbesi, said the government at all levels had failed to provide good governance, and consequently encouraged all manner of insecurity threatening the corporate existence of the country.
Olajemgbesi noted that there was need for a change of leadership in the country.
According to him, there is no need to continue to pretend that all things are going on well in the country, when even the security agents are no longer safe.
He said: “There is need for us to have a change of leadership and allow people who have clear focus, passion and interests for the people. These cannot be achieved by political conglomeration of charlatans in office. The security architecture in Nigeria needs to be changed.
“I want to call on all Nigerians that no one should feel comfortable in their bedrooms because nobody is secured in Nigeria today. The security personnel are not secured. They should allow people who have the interest of the people to take over, we say no APC and PDP.”
The General Secretary, United Action for Democracy and a leading member of Take It Back Movement, Comrade Kunle Ajayi, said they came out to protest for free functional and standard education and healthcare before they were chased out of the Unity Fountain, beaten and brought before the mobile court.
He said: “We are here to lead the revolution and protest for free functional and standard education at all levels; free functional and advanced healthcare. A very good example is under this Covid-19 pandemic that we are in. Hospitals are not working, doctors are on strike, a lot of things are wrong with the country.
“We decided to mobilise community by community, street by street for people to come out and tell the government that enough is enough. 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 graveyard.
“As it is today, in most all parts of this country, everybody is living without security and that is why we legally and constitutionally came to protest at the specific place that is assigned for protest in FCT, which is the Unity Fountain. We are in the place, with our face masks and we observed social distancing. We came out to protest peacefully but we were chased out of the place. Not only were we chased out, we were beaten up by security operatives.”
The #RevolutionNow group led by Omoyole Sowore had earlier scheduled the protest for Wednesday against.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the arrest of the protesters and called on President Buhari to put an end to the use of excessive force against Nigerians.
In a statement issued by the organisation’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged the Federal Government to respect the rights of the people to peacefully assemble and speak out against bad governance and all forms of injustice in the country.
Oluwadare argued that by failing to adequately protect protesters from violent attacks, the government had 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.
He said: “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.”
Meanwhile, the protesters in Lagos had gathered at Ikeja Along Under Bridge, carrying placards and banners.
Like in Abuja, the protesters in Lagos converged about 8a.m., to demand good governance.
The protesters, many of whom wore orange berets, were dancing and singing while waiting for others.
It was learnt that a journalist cum activist, Agba Jalingo, was arrested by the police team.
Other protesters also converged on Ojuelegba. However, thai was said to be violence-free as the security operatives on the standby.
It was also learnt that the police stopped some of the protesters on Third Mainland Bridge, preventing them from joining their colleagues who had assembled at different parts of the state.
The group was said to have stage the protest to celebrate the first anniversary of the leader of #RevolutionNow movement, Sowore, who was detained last year for about three months while court orders for his release were ignored.
The former presidential candidate was later released following outcry by the public.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Bala Elkana, didn’t pick his calls to confirm the number of those arrested.
But it was learnt that a Mobile Court sitting at Oshodi later set free Jalingo and 18 others arrested during the protest.
Jalingo and the other protesters were seen walking out of the Safety Arena, Oshodi, venue of the court sitting.
Also in Osogbo, Osun State, police arrested the convener of the protest, Olawale Bakare, by the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Also arrested were two other persons whose identities were yet to be known at press time.
The protesters, who were mainly students, had gathered in Osogbo with different placards, calling on the Federal Government to tackle insecurity and reduce poverty in the country.