Like the #EndSARS protests which rocked Nigeria in October 2020, the June 12 protest paralysed business activities in South-west states on Saturday.
The Democracy Day demonstrations were organised by some civil society organisations and activists with no particular central leadership structure.
They sought to express their grievances against the poor governance and the worsening insecurity in the country under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.
Even though the federal government and the authorities in various states had indicated their disapproval of the protests, the demonstrations recorded massive turnout of citizens, mostly the youth, on Saturday.
The protest took place in five of six South-west states. The five states which recorded massive turnout are Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun states.
Our reporter’s findings showed that no protest was held in Ekiti State due to fear of attack by security operatives.
But business activities were grounded even without the protest physically holding in the state.
Protesters, however, defied security forces’ harassment, teargas and gunshots fired to scare them away, in the other five states.
There was massive turnout at the popular Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota, Lagos on Saturday.
The protest which drew mostly the youth was relatively peaceful, although, the police in their usual manner, dispersed them with tear gas.
They also arrested a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Adeola Oladipupo, who was covering the protest around the Total Filling Station at Ojota, Ikorodu Road.
Mr Oladipupo was arrested and hurled into the police van. He was later released after the police failed in their attempts to make him delete the photos and videos on his phone.
Some protesters were also arrested but were later released on the order of the commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosu, who addressed protesters after they had been harassed by police officers.
Some Lagosians who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that business activities were crippled in the state on Saturday.
“People were scared of what happened during #EndSARS protests. Most shops were locked because of the protest. There has been a heavy presence of police and soldiers in the state since yesterday. So, businesses were paralysed,” Akeem Adekola, a resident of Ajah said.
Nigerian youth in Ogun State gathered at the Lagos Motor Park in Ijebu-Ode as early as 9 a.m.
The protest was peaceful until police attacked protesters.
The protesters grounded business activities in Ijebu-Ode metropolis as they chanted anti-government songs. They asked Mr Buhari to find a lasting solution to the incessant farmer-herder violence in Ogun State or resign from office.
Not pleased with the crowd pulled by the protest, police and thugs disrupted the peaceful demonstration.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how police shot at the protesters.
This newspaper obtained a video clip capturing what appeared to be a scene of protesters taking to their heels as gunshots sounded in the background.
“The police aimed their guns at us – not even teargas but guns. So, we had to run. One person got injured as the shell of a bullet hit him on his head. But he is safe. Another young person was arrested, but comrades are seeking his release at the moment,” Soneye Abdul-Azeez, one of the leaders of the protest, told our correspondent.
The turnout in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State was also massive.
Residents converged on Mokola Roundabout. Hundreds of them, mostly the youth, trekked to Sango, Agodi and also grounded activities on the popular Iwo Road.
The protests also disrupted vehicular movement in major parts of Ibadan.
In the early hours of the protest, a BBC reporter, identified as Micheal, was attacked by a police officer.
The reporter, who works with BBC Pidgin, was slapped while trying to record the harassment of protesters by security operatives.
He was attacked by a police officer identified as S. A. Oke. The officer also seized the reporter’s phone.
The police officer also vowed to kill any protester who refused to listen to their orders. Some officers were heard saying protest is “illegal on Democracy Day”.
Meanwhile, Governor Seyi Makinde ran into the protesters in Agodi and briefly addressed them.
“I locked my shop because of the protest. I feel no regret. I am proud that your generation is confronting the bad people in power,” a businesswoman, Joke Goriola, told PREMIUM TIMES correspondent.
Students in Osun State defied the directive of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) president, Sunday Asefon, not to join the protest.
Mr Asefon had in a statement on Friday declared his support for Twitter ban and told his colleagues not to stage any protest.
But the branch of the students’ body in Osun State joined the coalition of civil societies in a massive rally against insecurity and unemployment.
The students, alongside other right activists, protested en masse at Oke-Fia in Osogbo, Osun capital.
They held different placards with both inscriptions such as, ‘Return my Twitter; Nigerian youths are not lazy,’ ‘Buhari must go;’ ‘Resign if you are tired – Buhari,’ Restructure Nigeria Now,’ among others.
There was a heavy presence of security operatives at the venue of the protest.
Some major roads in Osogbo were deserted while businesses and shops were also shut.
Ondo State saw a massive turnout of youths who gathered for the protest in Akure, the state capital.
Streets in the state capital were deserted sequel to the tension that gripped the people over threat of protest.
Sources told PREMIUM TIMES that police and soldiers also harassed some protesters in the state.
“It was a tense protest, but I am glad that the youth did not disappoint. We refused to be cowed and we confronted police officers and soldiers who harassed our comrades,” Tunji Alao, an activist, said.
As of the time of filing this report, markets and shops remained shut while only a few commercial vehicles were operating.
Unlike other states in the region, no protest was held in Ekiti state, residents said.
Various newspaper correspondents who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said there was heavy security presence in the early hours of Saturday.
Despite the fact that there was no protest, markets and shops remained shut while only a few commercial vehicles were operating as of the time of filing this report.
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