SECURITY agents and demonstrators have been involved in a series of skirmishes across the country today as organisers of the #RevolutionNow protest sought to continue their planned marches despite the arrest of their leader Omoyele Sowore on Saturday.
Sowore, 47, who ran for president in Nigeria’s last election as the candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), had planned to lead a series of nationwide protests today under the slogan #RevolutionNow. His campaign was to protest against bad governance and the failure of the current administration to address issues such as insecurity, rising unemployment, poor power supply and growing corruption.
However, at 1am on Saturday morning, he was arrested by men of the Department of State security (DSS) in Lagos and has since been moved to Abuja. Despite Sowore’s detention, his comrades vowed to continue with the protests and today, they were out in full force, especially in Lagos and Abuja.
Early this morning in Lagos, security agents surrounded the National Stadium in Surulere, using an Operation Mesa van to block the entrance to the facility. Operation Mesa is a joint internal security operational platform made up of the army, navy and the air force but despite the heavy presence of the security agencies, the protesters still went on with their action.
One of the organisers, who is the general secretary of United Action for Democracy and a member of the Socialist Workers and Youth League, Kunle Ajayi, said: “They think they can stop an idea whose time has come. You have plenty to arrest. We will show you all that our generation cannot continue with your state madness.
“We will hand over a better world to our children. The time to act is now. This arrest is not surprising to us as we know that the presidency has tried everything in their powers to discredit and dampen our struggle.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police Tijani Fatai, the area commander of Area C of the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Police Force, said that they were on ground to stop any form of protests at the stadium. He explained that they were not there to give security cover to protesters and advised the crowd already gathering in front of the National Stadium gate to stay away.
Mohammed Ali, the deputy commissioner of police, operations, of the Lagos State Police Command, added that the protesters failed to obtain the necessary permit to carry out the planned protest. He added: “Their planned protest is unlawful.
“They did not obtain permission for the protest. If they say they have the permission, let them show it. Anyone that foment trouble will be dealt with according to the law.”
Despite the heavy rainfall in Abuja, activists stormed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Maitama, to protest against the poor security situation and other social issues in the country. They had planned to hold the rally at the Unity Fountain, but they were forced to change the venue following the locking up of the park by armed policemen.
In Maitama, the protesters delivered a letter to the NHRC in which they expressed their displeasure over what they called the continued silence of the commission over the undemocratic incidences in the country. Coordinator Dare-Atoye Ariyo described the arrest of Sowore as undemocratic and disgraceful.
He added: “The ever-growing proclivity of the President Buhari-led regime for human rights abuses are indicative of a complete departure from all democratic tenets, norms and practices. We believe that these events are not only undemocratic but they are also disgraceful for a country like Nigeria that practices constitutional democracy.
“However, we are completely dissatisfied by the eerie silence of the National Human Rights Commission in the face of these undemocratic developments. Our dissatisfaction is further aggravated by the fact that the role of the NHRC in defending the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians is well-revered and dearly treasured by Nigerians.”
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, armed police and DSS operatives stopped protesters from taking to the streets. As a result, the protesters, led by Olawale Adebayo, addressed newsmen in the Fagbewesa area of Osogbo.
Shortly after the address, the protesters were about storming Olaiya Junction to kickstart the protest, when armed DSS men and police arrived and stopped them. There was no incidence of shooting in Osogbo, although in Lagos, it is believed that one protester was shot in the leg.