Several protesters were arrested at the National Stadium in Lagos Monday after a crowd gathered to begin #RevolutionNow, a series of planned protests against bad governance in Nigeria.
The decision of the Nigerian government to arrest and detain Omoyele Sowore, a key organiser of the protest, early Saturday morning served to amplify the protest into the consciousness of a lot of Nigerians.
As early as 8 a.m., the protesters started to assemble at the stadium in Surulere but met a battery of armed police officers who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
More than 20 police patrol vehicles and armoured personnel carriers, as well as anti-riot and civil defence officers and operatives of the Military Joint Taskforce, were stationed at the two main entrance to the stadium.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that at least nine people were arrested and taken away by the police.
Stanley Imhanruor, one of the members of the #RevolutionNow, said the arrested protesters were kept in a police van parked inside the Area C Police Command in Surulere.
“That’s the number I can confirm now,” said Mr Imhanruor, a lawyer.
“They are still there, we just went to give them food and we will wait around to monitor where they will be taken to.”
A police officer at the Command told PREMIUM TIMES they were awaiting the directive of the Area Commander on the arrested protesters.
Those arrested include Segun Babatunde Osunla, Gabriel Ojumah, Ehis Omohomio, Aniobi Stanley, Victor Ogungbenro, Elias Ozikpu, Kenechukwu Ukachukwu, Banwo Olagokun, and Sanyaolu Juwon.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the police also assaulted some journalists who had arrived to cover the protest.
One of them, who identified herself as Amanda, said her phone was initially taken from her despite showing her ID card to the police officers.
“A female officer returned my phone and she told me, ‘If you have sense, you’ll leave.”
In Ibadan, a combined team of security operatives Monday morning took over the main entrance of the University of Ibadan to preempt the protest.
The officers from the police, State Security Service, Nigerian Army, NSCDC and Oyo State combined security team codenamed “Operation Burst” had, as early as 6;30 a.m. taken over the gate in anticipation of the protest march.
However, the security agents did not prevent movement despite their heavy presence.
A PREMIUM TIMES correspondent who was at the University of Ibadan early Monday reported that there was no sign of protest as the combined security team were monitoring the situation from about 300 metres in front of the university.
Our correspondent who was at the gate minutes before 8 a.m observed the heavy presence of security operatives around the main gate caught many students, lecturers and other visitors to the university unaware.
None of the security agents agreed to speak with the reporter on their mission in the area.
Our correspondent later gathered that the security agents were deployed because of the proposed nationwide #RevolutionNow protest scheduled for Monday.
The police in Oyo State had earlier warned residents to steer clear of the planned protest.
Police spokesperson in the state, Olugbenga Fadeyi, in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, said the police would not fold their arms and allow any group to cause anarchy in the state.
Mr Fadeyi in the statement described the group behind the planned public action as illegal.
“The commissioner of police in Oyo State, Shina Olukolu wishes to inform the entire citizens of this state to disregard the above-captioned message and video trending on the social media being circulated by a faceless group called “Global Dilation for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and other.
“It is an illegal group attempting to incite the generality of the people to join a planned ‘Revolution’ March Against the Federal Government of Nigeria today Monday 5th August 2019 mainly to force a regime change in the country. This is against the law of the land.
“The Police in Oyo State will not fold its arms and allow any individual or group to create anarchy, chaos and acts that can lead to the breakdown of law and order.”
In Abuja, a few protesters defied the heavy rainfall to gather in front of the National Human Rights Commission’s office.
The protesters changed “Freedom comes by struggle by struggle” and demanded the release of Mr Sowore.
One of the protesters, who identified himself as Comrade Raphael, addressed the protesters.
“We have gathered here because we know that Nigeria is in danger,” he said.
“We have decided that every part of the country must participate in the Revolution Now protest.
“In this country, there must freedom to voice our dissatisfaction and let the government know when it goes wrong.
“We have decided to go on with the process because we know that Rome was not built in a day. The freedom Nigeria needs is one the one that can happen if we all fold our hands and watch,” he said.
Another protester, who identified himself as Comrade Ariyo, condemned the government for tagging the protest a violent one.
“We have intelligence that some compromised Nigerians have been paid to attack us during this protest so that it will be labelled a confrontation.
“We are peaceful people. This is a revolution against corrupt ruling elites,” he said.