The #RevolutionNow protests organised by a coalition of civil societies on Monday recorded unimpressive turnout in Lagos such that security personnel deployed to stop the movement outnumbered the protesters.
Billed to commence by 7am at the National Stadium in Surulere, protesters did not come out until about 8:15am when the first four callers arrived near the locked, well-guarded stadium gate, witnesses said.
Our reporters observed over 20 patrol vehicles, two armoured tanks and the presence of 50 security operatives including police, soldiers and Department of State Services (DSS) mostly armed barricading the stadium area anticipatory of a massive turnout of the protesters who had vowed to carry on their mission despite the arrest by one of the front liners, Omoyele Sowore and threats from the government.
Some reporters who got to the scene as early as 6:30am said the number of the protesters grew from the initial four to about 10 around 9am and were dispersed by the security operatives stationed at there.
“When we got here, it was only policemen and soldiers that were here. The stadium gate was locked and those athletes who usually came to the stadium for their training were practicing outside.
“They (security) didn’t allow anyone in and they didn’t harass us either. The first four protesters got here around 8:15am. They were not wearing uniform.
‘’Around 9am, the number grew to 10 and they have started gathering confidence and were moving closer towards the Stadium gate.
“The security men came and asked them who they were and that if they weren’t journalists and had nothing to do in that place, they should leave.
‘’At first, they proved stubborn that they had right to peaceful assembly and protest. But the policemen released teargas and all of them disappeared,” said the reporter.
However, a mild drama ensued about 90 minutes later after the protesters, thought to have vanished, following the teargas resurfaced in a van.
As they advanced towards the stadium, chanting solidarity songs, the security operatives again released three canisters of teargas which almost resulted in an accident.
The protesters who were suffocating, scampered to safety as the van nosedived from the expressway, hitting a brick.
At this time, the security operatives were ready for a shootout. Positions taken, guns out, they aimed for the next van that was approaching but where halted when it was discovered the oncoming van was not conveying protesters.
While the protest came to an abrupt stop and the organisers retreated to the Committee for the Drafting of Human Rights (CDHR) in Ikeja, another drama ensued between a journalist with Sahara Reporters and security operatives who fingered him for alleged inciteful comments.
As reporters gathered in clusters discussing the aftermath of the teargas, the Sahara Reporters employee with a mic on, was allegedly overheard by a DSS operative who immediately notified the police and he was singled out of the group.
Asked to provide his identity card, the reporter who could not, resisted attempts by the police to arrest him which led to a scuffle.
Coalition alleges security fired gunshots at protesters.
At the press conference, which had about 30 people in attendance including some of the organisers Tonyin Raheem, Kunle Wiseman Ajayi, Sango Omojola, Seni Ajayi, Okikiola Johnson, Gbenga Komolafe, Ray Olorumboye, Philip Ogbodo and Olanrewaju Omolola, the coalition accused the police of shooting live bullets at peaceful protesters and using maximum force.
The coalition reminded the police that it was civil society that protested to ensure they were being catered for. They claimed that the security forces deployed shot people in Lagos, University of Ibadan, Benue, among others.
“We are collating the list. As we speak not only in Lagos at least for some of you who were in Lagos and witnessed it at the stadium, you saw that many people were shot at.
‘’At our last count in Lagos, about five persons have been arrested: Sanyaolu Juwon, Banwo Olagoke, Gabriel Ojuma, Elvis, Elias have been arrested.
“Also a journalist with Sahara reporters has also been arrested and brutalised.
‘’Then one of the passersby who we saw with a Nigerian flag, which we didn’t use because we used Orange berets, was arrested and beaten too.
‘’I am suspecting the Nigerian Flagged person might be a member of Enough Is Enough group which also subscribed to the coalition for revolution.
“Some of us have many of these footages and I know that there are some of the press persons that have them as well.
‘’We have information that in Benue, Comrade Rex and a lot of other comrades were arrested, beaten and whisked away.
“In Osun State, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), University of Osun, Osun State College of Education Ilesa, Osun State Polytechnic Ire and many others were arrested today too.
“In Ibadan, Gbenga and many of the students at the University of Ibadan at the front gate were arrested.
“In Abeokuta, our comrades were attacked. Some of them who escaped arrest are being chased around by thugs of the Ogun State Governor.
‘’In River State, Governor Nyelsom Wike did not only threaten to arrest our members, he sent the military and the police to go and attack them at their different houses as early as possible.
“What we want to say is that all of these persons must be immediately released with apologies.
‘’Nigeria cannot continue this way and President Muhammadu Buhari should know that the coalition for revolution is not in conjunction with anybody abroad.
“The coalition for revolution is a coalition of all oppressed Nigerians and that is why veteran leaders of the civil society are here.
‘’We are well trained, well nurtured, well-educated because you have not given anybody job anymore in Nigeria, the battle continues,” said Raheem.
Ajayi said it was clear the agitation by the coalition was ideological and peaceful, describing the government as “agents of violence who have things to hide.
“They have demonstrated it, they have shot people, they have arrested people and it is clear. We raised that alarm to the world that we have this processes in developing. We also emphasised that this agitation was formalised today officially.
“As from today the agitation against this crime called leadership will be campaigned against and millions of people will join wether they like it or not. We are prepared for that and that is our line of action.
“It is important to orientate the Inspector General of Police that the Civil Society has no obligation to seek any permit in the conduct of any protest. We are lawful citizens, we have only called for a peaceful demonstration and it is peaceful so far.
“We want the Inspector General of Police to retract that statement that they will not allow us embark on whatever protest or agitation we want to do.
‘’We are not Boko Haram, we are not the insurgency they should be going after. We still have many in captive; Leah Sharibu is there that we are looking for and thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped that they should be occupied with.
“Moreso, we also need to remind President Muhammadu Buhari that in 2012, the government of Goodluck Jonathan tolerated them enough when they embacked on protest throughout the street of Lagos and Abuja unhindered, nobody disturbed them and here we are today, under an acclaimed democratic government obstruction of peaceful movement. We want to say to Nigerians that it is no retreat, no surrender.”
A woman, who claimed she was nearly hit by a bullet at the stadium, said it was shocking for the police to claim that no bullet was fired.
She faulted the Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Adamu for describing the #RevolutionNow protest as treasonable felony.
But the police denied allegations that gunshots were fired in the state insisting they only used minimum force to disperse the crowd.
Spokesman Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) confirmed that nine suspects were arrested and would be charged to court.
He warned the organisers to desist from the protest as the security agencies were well prepared to ensure they do not succeed in the state.
“If they say they will continue, we too are ready. It is very untrue that gunshot was fired. No so for bullet was released.
“The picture they are talking about, did that look like a bullet wound? We appreciate Lagosians for going about their lawful businesses and urge them to continue to disregard any call to revolution,” he said.