The #OccupyNASS campaign group has denied being sponsored to move against the National Assembly, or its embattled chairman, Bukola Saraki, pointing instead to a robust support package from unnamed Nigerians, at an average of N400, 000 daily, throughout its campaign period.
The group on Thursday said it would bring down its tents and leave the main gate of the National Assembly on Friday morning, three days after starting a sit-in there.
At a hastily-arranged press briefing Thursday night, the movement listed its achievements, demands and plans for the future.
Bunmi Awoyemi, its convener, said the protest was ending on a good note for all Nigerians.
“This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that Nigerians from all walks of life were able to galvanise each other to come to Abuja to shut down the National Assembly,” Mr. Awoyemi said. “We succeeded in sending a very strong message that Nigerians will no longer be taken for a ride.”
The group denied that the protest was against Mr. Saraki who is under pressure to step down from office as he faces corruption trial.
The #OccupyNASS said Mr. Saraki was merely a symptom of a dysfunctional National Assembly.
“As we have said since the beginning of this protest, it’s not about Saraki. The aim of this protest is not to get Bukola Saraki to resign because he’s a symptom of the entire rot in the legislature,” Mr. Awoyemi said. “The aim of this project is to achieve fundamental reforms.”
It also denied being sponsored against the nation’s legislature, saying its activities were fully funded by Nigerians who are sympathetic to the movement’s cause.
“From day one, when Nigerians said they’re interested in occupying the National Assembly, contributions started coming in. Nigerians started asking for the account of the movement,” Mr. Awoyemi said.
“Five thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand and even one million. A Nigerian, sitting amongst you today, donated ₦1 million to this protest. From U.S., from U.K., people were contributing to this movement. We were averaging ₦400,000 every day.”
The #OccupyNass group, however, rejected a call to open its internal processes to public scrutiny, describing a PREMIUM TIMES’ question about publishing details of its account as “insulting”.
The group said a series of missteps by lawmakers in recent weeks informed their decision to take over the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly was trying to amend the law in order to escape justice. Some of them even said making laws that will further balance gender issues will make women turn to prostitutes,” the group said.
The group also held the lawmakers responsible for the ongoing budget impasse between them and President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We know the president sent a terrible budget,” the group said, “but they (lawmakers) took this terrible budget, mutilated it, destroyed it, pounded it, separated it and pocketed it.”
The group listed areas it believed the protest had been “resoundingly successful”, and acknowledged its agitation was buoyed by the overwhelming support from Nigerians on the Internet.
“When the movement of OccupyNass started, there were issues that were related to the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, it was when this movement took off that they took those controversial bills down.
“We succeeded in sending a very strong message that Nigerians will no longer be taken for a ride.
“The senators also held a private meeting in which they said there’s too much negative publicity about the National Assembly because of our protest.
“They also cancelled the summons of the CCT chairman.
“This is a victory not just for the Nigerian people but the agitation on social media as well,” the group said.
The movement demanded an immediate return of newly-acquired Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles by the lawmakers, immediate passage of the petroleum industry bill as well as a reversal of all constituency projects proposed in the budget.
Its members said they will take their campaign to the country’s hinterlands where they will interact with other citizens on the need to recall their lawmakers if their demands were not met.
They also promised to continue their agitation for a better Nigeria by sensitising rural dwellers on the activities of their elected lawmakers.
Other leaders of the “OccupyNass” who participated at the briefing include Hamid Bakare, Isa Abubakar, Rekiya Sani and Jubril Gadzama.