October 1 protests hit Abuja, southern states

Written by on October 2, 2020

Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary was yesterday marked with mixed feelings. While Aso Rock, the seat of presidential power, was making comely speeches and throwing banters, major states of Southwest, South South, Southeast and Federal Calital Territory (FCT), Abuja recorded protests, most of which culminated in a brush with security agents, especially the Police and the Department of State Service (DSS).

President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his national broadcast to mark the occasion, expressed commitment to enthroning firm democratic values in the electoral system. Apparently basking in the euphoria of the seamless outcome of the recent Edo State governorship elections, Buhari said he was poised to strengthen institutions to make them stronger in protecting national interest.

Prominent among those that attended the 60th Independence Day celebration were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), and former President Goodluck Jonathan. They were the only past Nigerian leaders that joined President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Eagle Square to celebrate the anniversary.

Also at the event were former Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya (rtd), and former Vice President Namadi Sambo. The former leaders accompanied the President to sign anniversary register to mark the end of the ceremony, which held amid military fanfare.

Top members of the Buhari administration, members of the diplomatic corps, among other invited guests also witnessed the ceremony. At the commencement of the event, Buhari, joined by the Commander of the Guards Brigade in an open van, inspected a guard of honour mounted by officers and men of Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, and paramilitary organisations. The day was also marked with display of traditional dances, in addition to performances by military and civilian artistes.

The highpoint of the ceremony was the Nigerian Air Force display of fighter aircraft, which was however moderated due to bad weather around the Eagle Square.

The fly past by Nigerian Air Force was led by two Agusta helicopters, both actively involved in combat operations, one of which bore the banner of the theme of the celebration.

The helicopters were followed by three Alpha jets used for combat operations in ECOMOG, Northern Mali, and Niger Delta operations, among others. The air force officials at the venue explained that the fly past was not as elaborate as planned because of low clouds at the Eagle Square.

Twenty-one (21) gunshots were fired by a detachment of men of the Nigerian Army Artillery Regiment to bring the event to a close
But the president’s assurances and message of socio-political and economic revival was not enough to forestall #RevolutionNow Movement from holding pockets of protests in capital cities of Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Edo, Rivers and other states, leading to arrest of at least 40 activists in Lagos and Osun states. A few others sustained injuries as DSS and the police sought to stop the protests.

Following the dramatic protests, Lagos-based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday condemned attacks on peaceful activists and journalists covering the protests.

It said there was physical assault on a photojournalist, Olukayode Jaiyeola, by men of the Lagos State Police Command. During the incident, Security agents reportedly arrested over 30 protesters.

In the melee that followed the attack, Jaiyeola, who was part of journalists covering the October 1 protest, was brutalised at the Maryland area of Lagos.

The incident happened around 12 noon, when a policeman, Innocent Adadu, allegedly hit Jaiyeola’s head with a baton. Jaiyeola’s colleague, Deji Lambo, a reporter who was at the scene, said Adadu hit Jaiyeola with such force that the photojournalist collapsed immediately, with blood gushing out of his injured skull.

SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, in a statement, said Nigerian authorities should immediately stop persistent attacks on protesters and journalists and end repression on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Eleven members of the #RevolutionNow movement were also arrested by the DSS in Osogbo, Osun State capital, during a peaceful protest against what they described as harsh policies implemented by the President Buhari-led government.

The peaceful protesters of Coalition of Revolution (CORE) movement told journalists that they were brutalised by heavily armed security operatives. Officials of the secret police had been on the trail of the protesters when they gathered at the Old Garage area of Osogbo in the morning.

The protesters, who later gathered at the popular Olaiya area to continue their march against the situation in the country, were dispersed, arrested and brutalised by the DSS. They accused the operatives of beating and arresting 11 members of the group during the protest. The arrested members were later released.

One of the arrested protesters said that they were pushed out of the DSS’ vehicles as the operatives took two of their phones, money, placards and other items.

Speaking for the group, Owoeye Olaoluwa, a member of “Take it Back Movement,” condemned the recent hike in price of petrol and electricity tariffs and called for reversal.

“We are here to say that the porous regime of Buhari should resign with immediate effect, and we are not calling for it with double-minded hearts. We are calling for immediate resignation because we cannot continue with this act of indiscipline; we cannot continue with this act of corruption. We cannot continue with this act of fuel hike; we cannot continue with this act of electricity hike.

“We are (calling for) immediate and unconditional release of the materials that have been taken such as our phones, money. We are also calling for probe of the battery regime, the DSS head; we are saying that he should withdraw his neck from this unruly act that they perpetrate against Nigerians. They should do that within 24 hours, or else, they are going to see us on the streets again,” Olaoluwa added.

IN Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, protesters, under the aegis of #RevolutionNow, staged peaceful march, demanding good governance and end to insecurity.

The protesters staged activities at the Mokola area of the state capital before heading towards Sango axis. At Mokola, they were gently dispersed by police officers manning the area. They carried placards bearing various inscriptions such as “Nigeria is sinking, we need to stabilise the ship, it is an emergency,” “They are killing our gallant soldiers in a war created by some corrupt leaders to enrich themselves,” “Oga Police, it is your job to protect, not to intimidate, protesters, we are all affected,” “Sack all service chiefs, provide standard weapons,” Boko Haram sponsors must be brought to book,” “Provide standard weapons and increase salary of all recruits fighting on the frontline,” “ Prioritise facilitation of our campuses more than the National Assembly,” and others.

Leader of the protest in the area, Comrade Gabriel Ogunlana, who spoke with The Guardian, said: “We are here to embark on this landmark protest organised by #Revolution Now under the leadership of Comrade Omoyele Sowore and on behalf of the people. We are marching out to register our grievances against challenges facing citizens of Nigeria. At this point in time, we are resolute. We demand quality healthcare, quality education and adequate security for all. We want a working system devoid of subjugation. We demand a system where no Nigerian will be subsumed. We are demanding a country where nobody will be a second-class citizen. Tell them that the situation of the country demands the intervention of a good system devoid of corruption.”

The situation was not any different in Benin, the Edo State capital, as activists, comprising members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSO), converged at the Benin City Kingsquare to decry the state of the nation under successive governments and the current leadership of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Convener and President of Talakawa Parliament, Kola Edokpayi and President, Network of Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (NOCSON), Barr. Abraham Oviawe, in their separate remarks, lamented the unfriendly policies of successive governments in the country citing failed promises resulting in failure to address the nation’s woes.

Edokpayi, who noted that government had failed to meet the yearnings of the masses, accused President Buhari of insensitivity to the plight of the common man.He expressed worry over hike in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol, as well as the alarming rate of unemployment and poverty in the country. They called for a reversal of what he described as “draconian policies” of government.

The protesters who brandished placards with inscriptions such as, “End Poverty in Nigeria now,” “The poor have rights too,” Kill Corruption Dead” and “Make Nigeria Poverty Free,” urged government to address all issues militating against quality leadership and development.
Edokpayi said Nigerians were dissatisfied with the ailing country under successive governments and called on the APC-led federal government to wake up to its responsibility, and take the welfare of Nigerians seriously considering that, after 60 years of independence, the country should enjoy dividends of democracy.

Rivers residents protest, say Nigeria in mess at 60

Meanwhile, there was visible anger on faces of Rivers State residents, yesterday, as the country celebrated its 60th independent anniversary.

Instead of the usual green and white colour marking national events like Independence Day celebration, many residents wore black clothing and marched through the streets describing Nigeria as “a mess at 60.”

Newsmen observed that others adhered to the ‘Sit-at-home order’ declared by the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as most of the shops in Ikoku, Mile 3 and Mile One markets remained closed.

Civil Society Organisations, activists and ordinary citizens also gathered at Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt, for a peaceful protest to Government House, but were prevented from getting to the Brick House by officers of the Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Police Force. However, speaking at the park, one of the activists, Ken Henshaw, said, citizens were tired of the country as a result of insecurity, poverty, insurgency; the reasons different ethnic nationalities wanted to pull out of the country.

“What kind of country is this? Everyone wants to pull out and the country is daily sliding into anarchy and chaos due to insecurity, hunger, and insurgency. At what point do we stop this mess, and if we don’t act now, when do we act?

“Nigeria is a mess at 60, we need to rise up, it’s 60 years of ineptitude, destruction, pollution, corruption, 60 years of deadness,” he stated.
Similarly, the member representing Degema/ Bonny Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Farah Dagogo, described Nigeria’s Diamond Golden jubilee celebration as “60 years of abject poverty, lamentations and crude form of modern slavery for the people of the Niger Delta.”He accused federal and state governments, as well as oil multinationals of subjecting the people “to the most inhumane living conditions ever imagined.”

He said since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, old Rivers State (now Bayelsa State) in 1958, the people of the region had regrettably been the worse for it.

He said the ‘paltry’ 13 per cent derivation revenue for oil producing communities had not been judiciously utilised by both past and present governors who have turned it to free money, while the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) “has become a corrupt vessel recreated to pander to the whims and caprices of politicians and influential Nigerians who are in the habit of planting Board and Management staff for themselves.”

IT was partial success for the sit-at-home order declared by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in parts of Anambra State as majority of traders in markets and streets refused to open shops.

The governor, Willie Obiano, had, ahead of the Independence anniversary celebration, said the event would be low-key in the state. Newsmen visited the popular Ekwueme Square, where the event had always been marked and discovered it was a ghost of its former self as no event held there.


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