Security operatives Wednesday cracked down on protesting members of #RevolutionNow Movement across Nigeria.
The protesters who marched out peacefully were molested and arrested by security agents from the State Security Service (SSS), the Nigerian Army, and the Police.
They were demanding good governance, proper infrastructural development, end to extrajudicial killings, the sack of service chiefs over the poor security situation of the country, and employment opportunities among others.
The protest which was to mark the first anniversary of the #RevolutionNow Movement, held in various states like Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Niger, and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In Abuja, a victim whose name could not be readily obtained by Blueprint, claimed the operatives ordered him to prostrate on the floor before one of them pulled out a knife while another used a broken bottle to cut off his dreadlocks and shaved his hair.
The young man said the security agents harassed him for wearing “brown hair’ since he was not a woman.
Another protester with bruises on his back, Damilare Adenola, said he was dehumanised and battered by the security operatives for taking part in the protest to demand better governance from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile, activists said over 100 protesters have been arrested.
A rights activist, Mr Deji Adeyanju, said about 60 protesters were arrested in Abuja around the Unity Fountain and whisked away in police trucks.
Adeyanju who also took part in the protest, shared pictures of protesters who were ordered to lie face down by armed security agents on Twitter.
“Security agents harassing peaceful protesters but they run or cry when they see Boko Haram or bandits,” he said.
“We are currently witnessing a joint madness by the military, police and other security agencies as over 60 of our comrades have been arrested over peaceful #RevolutionNow protest. The Abacha days are here once again.”
In Lagos, at least, 10 persons, including Agba Jalingo, a journalist, were arrested by the police.
Jalingo, alongside others were arrested while sensitising traders and passers-by on the need to arise and fight bad governance in Nigeria, following which the police used tear gas to disperse the protesting crowd.
Minutes after they were dispersed, the protesters re-converged at another venue where they continued their protest and telling the public to reject bad governance.
While expressing dissatisfaction over bad governance, looting, corruption among others within the two prominent political parties in Nigeria, the protesters called for a change.
While Jalingo and the others were rounded up by the police, the rest fled to safety.
All those arrested were taken to Area F Police Command in Lagos.
Jalingo, publisher of Cross River Watch, was arrested last year and charged for treason after he published a report accusing the Cross River state government of diverting N500million.
He was detained for six months and later released on bail amidst pressure by local and international civil society groups.
And in Osogbo, Osun state, about seven members of the RevolutionNow Movement were also arrested by DSS operatives.
Among the protesters arrested was the co-accused of Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare.
Bakare and other protesters had gathered at the popular Olaiya junction where he was arrested August 2019, in Osogbo.
They appeared in their revolution-inscribed beret and scarf, waiting to begin the rally when the police arrived the venue.
They were apparently explaining to the police when the operatives of DSS arrived the venue and some of their members ran away.
The DSS were able to arrest Bakare and six others who stood to apparently explain their peaceful conduct to the police.
The protesters were outside the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the scene they were arrested last year August while planning to display their placards.
Blueprint recalled that Sowore was arrested August 3 last year for planning the #RevolutionNow protest.
The federal government accused him of attempting to overthrow President Buhari’s government.
He was detained for over 100 days until December 24, 2019 when he was released after condemnation from international communities.
He is not part of today’s protest because of the conditions of his bail restraining him from joining mass gatherings.
A court had earlier ruled that the disruption of last year’s protest by police was against the right of the protesters to freedom of expression and association.
The Buhari Media Organization (BMO) in a statement said the #RevolutionNow protest aimed to cause “chaos and destabilisation” of the nation.
“Security agents, including the Directorate of State Services (DSS) must understand that what is being touted as a protest against corruption, is not what it is.
“It is that notorious group making an attempt to push its agenda of “revolution” under a seemingly innocuous umbrella”, the group said in a statement by its chairman, Niyi Akinsiju.
Rights groups kick
Reacting to Wednesday’s incident, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, condemned the violent attacks on the protesters.
“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.
“Nobody should be arrested or subjected to torture and ill-treatment simply for taking part in peaceful protests. The authorities should stop criminalising peaceful protesters.”
The group called for the release of all those arrested.
“SERAP urges the international community including the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to publicly condemn attacks on peaceful protests and to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to effectively investigate attacks on protesters, prosecute perpetrators and to respect and protect the human rights of everyone,” it said.
Speaking in the same vein, @HEDAgenda condemned the “shrinking of civic space & arrest of peaceful protesters by state securities.”
It added: “Similar rallies sponsored by politicians enjoyed protection of same securities before now.”