Several peaceful protesters under the umbrella of #RevolutionNow were molested and arrested Wednesday by security agents from the State Security Service (SSS), the Nigerian Army, and the Nigeria Police.
The protesters were demanding good governance, proper infrastructural development, end to extrajudicial killings, the sack of service chiefs over the poor security situation in the country, and low employment opportunities, among other agitations.
The protests were in states such as Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Niger, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to mark the first anniversary of the #RevolutionNow Movement.
Activists said over 100 protesters have been arrested. According to Deji Adeyanju, a right activist, about 60 protesters were arrested in Abuja around the Unity Fountain and whisked away in police trucks.
Mr Adeyanju, who also took part in the protest, shared on Twitter pictures of protesters who were ordered to lie face down by armed security agents.
“Security agents harassing peaceful protesters but they run or cry when they see Boko Haram or bandits,” he said. “We are currently witnessing a joint madness by the military, police and other security agencies as over 60 of our comrades have been arrested over peaceful #RevolutionNow protest. The Abacha days are here once again..
In Lagos, at least, 10 persons, including Agba Jalingo, a journalist, were arrested by the police, witnesses said.
The protesters were arrested at Ikeja Along during their second convergence for the protest on Wednesday.
Mr Jalingo and the others arrested were sensitising traders and passersby on the need to rise and fight bad governance in Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters on Wednesday morning.
Minutes after they were dispersed, the protesters re-converged at another venue where they continued the call on the public to reject bad governance.
While expressing dissatisfaction over bad governance, looting, corruption among other vices perpetrated by the two prominent political parties in Nigeria, the protesters called for a change.
While Mr Jalingo and a few others were rounded up by the police, other protesters fled the scene. All those arrested were taken to the Area F Police Command in Lagos.
Last year, Mr Jalingo, the publisher of Cross River Watch, was arrested and charged for treason after he published a report accusing the Cross River State government of diverting N500 million. He was detained for six months and released on bail, amidst pressure by local and international civil society groups.
PREMIUM TIMES also reported how Olawale Bakare, a co-defendant of Omoyele Sowore, and six others were earlier today arrested in Osogbo, during the #RevolutionNow protest in Osun State.
Mr Bakare, alongside others, converged at the Olaiya junction in Osogbo.
The police also reportedly arrested at least five protesters in Ogun State.
“Five of our comrades have been arrested and that sounds very silly that Buhari protects Boko Haram repentant but attacks protesters,” one of the protesters, Festus Ogun, told PREMIUM TIMES.
As of the time of this report, no arrest has been confirmed in other states.
This newspaper recalled that Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3 last year for planning the #RevolutionNow protest.
The federal government accused him of attempting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
He was detained for over 100 days until December 24, 2019 hen he was released after widespread local and international condemnations.
He is not part of today’s protest because of the conditions of his bail restraining him from joining mass gatherings.
A court had earlier ruled that the disruption of last year’s protest by police was against the right of the protesters to freedom of expression and association.
The Buhari Media Organization (BMO) in a statement said the #RevolutionNow protest aimed to cause “chaos and destabilisation” of the nation.
“Security agents, including the Directorate of State Services (DSS) must understand that what is being touted as a protest against corruption, is not what it is. It is that notorious group making an attempt to push its agenda of “revolution” under a seemingly innocuous umbrella”, the group said in a statement by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju.
Rights groups kick
Reacting to Wednesday’s incident, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, condemned the violent attacks on protesters.
“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.”
The group called for the release of all those arrested.
“SERAP urges 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 protests and to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to effectively investigate attacks on protesters, prosecute perpetrators and to respect and protect the human rights of everyone.”
Speaking in the same vein, @HEDAgenda condemned the “shrinking of civic space & arrest of peaceful protesters by state securities.”
It added: “Similar rallies sponsored by politicians enjoyed protection of same securities before now.”