Gbenga Omokhunu, Nicholas Kalu, Abuja, Toba Adedeji, Osogbo, Osagie Otabor, Akure and Precious Igbonwelundu/ THE NATION
•25 charged in Lagos • DSS holds Bakare, six others in Osun •‘Why police didn’t disrupt Ondo march’ •SERAP condemns attack on protesters
SECURITY personnel on Wednesday arrested scores of #RevolutionNow protesters in some parts of the country for various offences.
The protesters had taken to the streets of Lagos; Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Osogbo, the Osun State capital and Ore, in Ondo State, to express misgivings about some happenings in the land.
They appeared angry about what they called increasing insecurity, festering corruption, the poor state of the education and health sectors as well as sundry issues, as expressed in their placards.
Many of them were held for breaching the COVID-19 protocols; others were arrested for alleged acts of violence.
In Abuja, over 40 protesters who were arrested by the joint security personnel at Unity Fountain in Maitama area for violating the COVID-19 protocols were brought before an FCT Mobile Court for prosecution.
But Magistrate Idayat Akanni, who was to preside over the matter, had other cases in another court and could not sit.
Speaking on behalf of the FCT Ministerial Task Team on COVID-19, Ikharo Attah said Nigerians have the right to protest but must do so within the ambit of the law and COVID-19 protocols.
General Secretary of United Action for Democracy and a leading member of #TakeItBack Movement, Kunle Ajayi said: “We are here to lead the revolution and protest for free functional and standard education at all levels, free functional and advanced healthcare. A very good example is under the current COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are not working, doctors are on strike, a lot of things are wrong with the country. We decided to mobilise community by community, street by street, for people to come out and tell the government that enough is enough.”
Security operatives took over the Unity Fountain to forestall likely breakdown of law and order.
In Lagos, security operatives arrested 22 protesters who were demanding actions against insecurity, bad governance and corruption.
The protesters were arrested at Ikeja Underbridge around 9 a.m, about an hour after hundreds of youths converged on the venue for a peaceful protest.
Chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards with inscriptions, such as “Nigerians are sick and tired of poverty, corruption, injustice and untimely death; say no to injustice; yes, to living wage for unemployed youths…”, the protesters kicked against politicians and their cronies who they said were less than one per cent of the nation’s population and were running the country on autopilot.
They decried the alarming insecurity; unemployment, hunger, increase in taxation and the plan to review education budget downwards.
The protest did not last as security operatives dispersed the protesters.
It was leant that residents heading to the protest venues at Apongbon, Oworonshoki, Ikorodu and Epe were chased away.
Condemning the action of the security operatives, a Co-convener of Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Gbenga Komolafe said such attacks would not deter the protesters.
Although most of the protesters arrested in Abuja and Kano were later released, Komolafe said their Lagos colleagues were beaten up and later whisked to Area F Police Command, Ikeja.
Efforts by our correspondent to get reactions from Force Headquarters spokesman Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) were unsuccessful.
But Lagos Police Command spokesman Bala Elkana said 25 protesters were arrested and charged to court.
He said they were arrested for obstructing traffic and concealing the number plates on their vehicles.
The spokesman denied allegations that some of the protesters were assaulted, adding that it was also untrue they were tear-gassed.
Operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested a leader of the protesters in Osun State, Olawale Bakare, and six others in Osogbo.
Some of the others were identified as: Abiodun Sanusi, Samuel Olowofela, Gift, Martin and Okunlola.
The protesters, who converged on the popular Ola-Iya Junction, started their march around 10 a.m, armed with placards with several inscriptions.
Policemen were on hand to maintain law and order as they stationed their patrol vans in the area.
Around 10.30 a.m, Bakare left the other protesters and went to the Correspondents’ Chapel office near the venue of the protest to issue a statement to reporters.
DSS operatives arrested two of the protesters and, spotting Bakare, went after him.
When the other protesters saw what happened, they ran away to escape arrest.
The operatives arrested more protesters around the junction and whisked them away.
In Ondo State, police spokesman Tee-Leo Ikoro, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said they did not touch the protesters who marched on Ore because they were peaceful.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) condemned the arrest of the protesters in Lagos, Abuja, Osogbo and other parts of the country.
In a statement by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “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.”