Scores were injured while many Nigerians including journalists were arrested and brutalised by the police during protests against the alleged ineptitude of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on Monday.
The protesters also demanded the release of the Convener of the #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore, being detained by the Department of State Services for “threatening national security and public safety” by calling for a protest under the hashtag #RevolutionNow.
#RevolutionNow, according to its sponsors, is civil advocacy and democratic action convened to challenge “the ravenous revolution of the ruling elite that has for decades put our nation and the common man in bondage.”
They urged Nigerians to come out in their large numbers for the protests on Monday. Consequently, Nigerians in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo and Osogbo trooped out in large numbers for the protests.
Some protesters also took the action to the Nigerian High Commission in London.
In a video of the UK protesters posted on the internet on Monday, they demanded Sowore’s release. Instead of detaining Sowore, the UK protesters called on the security operatives to vent their anger on the Boko Haram fighters in the Sambisa Forest and kidnappers troubling Nigerians.
In Lagos, the #RevolutionNow protesters converged on Ojuelegba at 7 am from where they moved to the National Stadium, Surulere.
However, the group was prevented from entering the stadium by a team of OP MESA consisting men of the army, navy, air force, and policemen from different formations in Lagos, who had barricaded the facility.
Despite the heavy security presence, the protesters gathered in front of the complex, singing solidarity songs and calling for Sowore’s release.
Afterwards, some of the protesters engaged the policemen in a war of words, as they insisted that the demonstration was for the interest of all Nigerians.
As the verbal war degenerated, the furious policemen fired tear gas canisters into the crowd.
In the ensuing melee, many of the protesters were injured as some fled into the waiting hands of men of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit.
They were hauled into the taskforce’s Black Maria.
Among those arrested were reporters with Sahara Reporters, a United States-based online medium owned by Sowore.
An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Tijani Fatai, while justifying the police action, said the gathering was unlawful.
“We had to dislodge them because they don’t have any permit; nobody permitted them. There will be no gathering here (at the stadium) because nobody has asked for permission from the police to gather, peaceful or not peaceful. So, it is an unlawful assembly,” he told reporters at the protest.
Addressing journalists afterwards, the National Secretary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Olayinka Folarin, said civil societies did not need police permission to protest.
He said, “We assembled in a lawful manner at the front of the stadium. But the military and the police dispersed us; they shot tear gas at us. They arrested some of our people, including journalists. They whisked them away to an unknown location. Some of our people sustained injuries.
“Nigerians want the government to fulfil all its promises during the electioneering. We are also asking for the immediate and unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore, who is just a messenger in this struggle.
“The word revolution is a predated statement that was even used by the people in government today, including President Muhammadu Buhari. In 2012, Goodluck Jonathan did not stop our nationwide protest at Ojota, and the people in the present government participated. They have become tyrannical and have started unleashing mayhem and terror on the good people of Nigeria after they took office.”
The rights activist said the group was not interested in a regime change or removal of the President, but changes that would end insecurity, youth unemployment, among other ills.
At the Lagos protests on Monday were two controversial Nigerian musicians, Charles Chukwuemeka popularly known as Charly Boy and Eedris Abdulkareem.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Bala Elkana, said the police used “minimum force” on the protesters, adding that no one was shot.
“We have nine suspects in our custody and we are still investigating,” he said.
Despite the heavy rain in Abuja, #RevolutionNow activists on Monday stormed the National Human Rights Commission, Maitama, to protest against the poor security situation and other social issues in the country.
The protesters had planned to hold the rally at the Unity Fountain, but it was gathered that they were forced to change the venue following the lockdown of the park by policemen.
They reportedly sent out messages on social media that the protest would hold at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, but moved to the NHRC under the rain where they successfully held their rally.
The authorities had drafted a combined team of police and soldiers to the Federal Secretariat and the Eagle Square to thwart the protest.
The protesters delivered a letter to the NHRC in which they expressed their displeasure at what they called the continued silence of the commission in the face of the undemocratic practices in the country.
Coordinator of the protest, Dare-Atoye Ariyo said, “The ever-growing proclivity of the President Buhari-led regime for human rights abuses is indicative of a complete departure from all democratic tenets, norms and practices.”
He said Sowore’s arrest was undemocratic and disgraceful.
Ariyo added, “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.”
Meanwhile, another group under the aegis of Coalition for Good Governance also stormed the Unity Fountain with banners proclaiming support for President Muhammadu Buhari.
The protest convener, Sunday Attah, said the protest was to express their support for President Buhari for “laying a solid foundation in the country.”
He criticised those calling for revolution, describing them as enemies of the country and asked Nigerians to disregard them.
Policemen deployed in the garden watched as the pro-government protesters sang and danced as they expressed their support for the government.
In Osogbo, Osun State, an elderly woman identified as Sariyu Akanmu, was brutalised by policemen while 10 members of the #RevolutionNow were arrested.
The police had asked the protesters to disperse but the youth, numbering about 30, decked in orange beret and handkerchiefs, stood their ground and sang protest songs for about two hours.
The security men later seized their public address system and ordered them to fold their banners.
This led to a clash between the police and the protesters.
The police descended on the protesters, beat them up, before firing tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
In the ensuing melee, Sariyu, who is about 70 years old and sells fufu, was brutalised by a policewoman, while another policeman hit her with his footwear.
Journalists and many bystanders were also not spared, as a policewoman released tear gas canister into the face of Sunday Oguntuyi, the correspondent of Nigeria News Direct newspaper.
Some members of the #RevolutionNow group were also brutalised by the DSS operatives, while about 10 members of the group were arrested.
Addressing newsmen earlier, Olawale Adebayo, who led the protest, demanded the unconditional release of Sowore.
He listed among other demands “an economy that works for all and an end to insecurity and insurgency.
“We want an end to systemic corruption and total system change in the interest of all and the immediate implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage. We also demand an immediate stop to the illegal and fraudulent implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme.
“Government must also end police brutality, harassment and intimidation, especially in the student populated areas in Osun State and the country at large.
“We are asking for an immediate increase of funding of the education sector by up to 26 per cent of the national budget as recommended by UNESCO,” Adebayo said.
In Ibadan, security operatives including soldiers, police, DSS, civil defence and men of the state anti-crime unit, Operation Burst, laid siege to the main gate of the University of Ibadan to curtail the anti-Federal Government protest for hours on Monday.
This, it was learnt, was to stop the #RevolutionNow protest that was coordinated by the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria.
When newsmen arrived at the institution’s gate around 8 am, scores of the security personnel had taken over strategic locations in the area.
They did not prevent human and vehicular movements but their presence created fears among motorists and students.
A postgraduate student, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “We were not sensitised to the protest and as a matter of fact, many students are still preoccupied with their registration for the first semester.”
However, a supporter of #RevolutionNow, Bimbo Awoyale, said the protest had been “technically stopped” for reasons he could not say.
However, the men of the Ondo State Police Command on Monday disrupted the protests at Ore in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state.
One of the protesters, who identified himself as Ade, said, “We were about to start the peaceful protest after informing the police about it but we were surprised that the police stopped us for no reason. One of them told us that they had the order from ‘above’ to stop us. This is unfortunate.”
At the venue of the protest, a journalist, Mr Tosin Ajuwon of the Leadership Newspaper, was arrested and detained by the police for hours at the Ore Police Station.
Narrating his ordeal, Ajuwon said, “When the police were chasing away the protesters, I brought out my camera and started taking the pictures. So, one of the policemen approached me and asked me why I was taking the pictures, I showed him my identity card. But he didn’t listen to me.
“Suddenly another policeman came from behind and slapped me. I was handcuffed. They collected my camera and they bundled me into their van and drove me to their station.”
Ajuwon said it took the intervention of the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the station before he could be released. He said all his seized items were later returned to him.
All efforts to reach the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Femi Joseph, were not successful as he did not pick calls put across to his phone.
Meanwhile, residents of Kaduna State may have shunned the anti-government’s protest because of the court ruling on the foreign medical trip request of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
Though security was tight in the state capital as a result of the El-Zakzaky and wife’s case, residents on Monday sat at home for fear of the unknown.
The state Police Command had warned against the street protest.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Yakubu Sabo, reminded residents of the ban on protest or demonstration in the state.
He had said the police would deal decisively on violators of the ban.
However, a former governor of Kaduna State and leader of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, has condemned Sowore’s arrest.
Musa, who spoke to newsmen in Kaduna on Monday, demanded the immediate release of Sowore, saying that citizens had the constitutional right to protest.
The former governor said, “Sowore’s action is not treasonable. You cannot arrest any Nigerian who is protesting against the maladministration of the Buhari government. The situation in the country is terrible. Nigerians have endured enough. There is a need to protest poor governance by Buhari. So, we have the fundamental rights to embark on a protest. And the revolution people are calling for in this country is not treasonable.”
In Ogun State, the #RevolutionNow protesters were on Monday intimidated by the police.
It was gathered that some civil society groups had planned to join the protest but were stopped by stern-looking policemen, who were seen patrolling some major roads in Abeokuta, the state capital.
When asked why the protest was shelved, the state Chairman of Committee for Defence of Human Rights, Yinka Folarin, said he and some leaders of the CDHR and other activist groups had left for Lagos to participate in the protest.
Folarin said some members had been positioned to stage the protest while the leaders would join the Lagos protest.
It was, however, gathered that the activists stayed indoors to avoid being dealt with by the policemen who were on the lookout for them.
When contacted on the reason for the show of force by the police, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said, “We want to make sure that Ogun State will not be used as a theatre of war. That is why we are having this show of force.”
Meanwhile, the state capital was on Monday calm as residents went about their business.
Though the #RevolutionNow protest did not take place in any part of Anambra, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Rivers and Benue states, security was beefed up in most areas of their capital cities.
Katsina was peaceful throughout Monday as no protest took place in the home state of President Buhari.
Meanwhile, the Presidency said on Monday that President Buhari was elated that Nigerians “ignored” calls to join the #RevolutionNow protests.
It said the action taken by Nigerians was a demonstration that democracy won over the plan of the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy to cause a regime change through a revolution.
“Today, millions of Nigerians went about their business; work, seeking employment, attending schools/colleges and caring for their families.
“By doing so, the millions defended our country’s hard-won democratic rights by ignoring calls on social media to join a phantom ‘revolution’.
“There were a few hundred persons today who, for their own reasons, decided to act upon the demands of a group calling itself Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, which went on social media to ask everyday Nigerians to overthrow the government they only elected some six months ago.
“The President is humbled by the support, not for himself, or the governing party, but for the democratic values of modern-day Nigeria through the wisdom of those millions of citizens who preferred democracy and decided not to undermine an elected government,”, the Presidency said in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
Also, Democracy Watch Africa has frowned on the protest, saying there is the need to exercise caution to avoid overheating the polity in Nigeria.
The President of the group, Josephine Okpara, in Lagos on Monday said, “The planned protest is ill-timed, mischievous and orchestration of some external forces who have some collaborators in Nigeria whose actions in recent times have indicated that their mission in Nigeria is to cause disaffection and mutual suspicion between the government and the people.”