On Saturday the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest Omoyele Sowore was arrested at his apartment by agents of the Directorate of State Services (DSS). Sowore who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last general elections was accused of instigating a change of regime in the country and has committed a felony.
However concerned Nigerians including Prof Wole Soyinka have condemned Sowore’s arrest and transfer to Abuja as an infringement of his fundamental human rights.
Meanwhile it has been discovered that the Federal Government had made a provision of N2.258 billion for the Ruga settlement project in the 2019 budget despite the suspension. This discovery has sparked major anger amongst Nigerians.
Major Nigerian Newspapers have more on these stories:
Punch Newspaper: RevolutionNow saga: Protesters, Buhari group may clash, Soyinka, others knock Presidency
The organisers of the #RevolutionNow protests on Sunday met to finalise preparations for the anti-Federal Government protests they scheduled for Monday (today).
After the meetings, which were held in Abuja and Lagos, the organisers said they would go ahead with the protests, despite the arrest of the convener of the #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore. The ‘RevolutionNow’ organisers said this just as a pro-Buhari group, #IStandWithBuhari, said it would also embark on a nationwide counter-rally in support of President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday (today). This, observers noted, could lead to a clash between the two groups.
Sowore had declared Monday (today) as the day of the commencement of a revolutionary protest tagged, “Days of Rage,” across the country to demand a better Nigeria. But at 1am on Saturday, operatives of the Department of State Services invaded Sowore’s house in Lagos and arrested him.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said Sowore was arrested for planning a revolution to destabilise the government of Buhari and was liable to be charged with treasonable felony.
One of the organisers of the protests and popular musician, Eedris Abdulkareem, said the ‘RevolutionNow’ demonstration would hold on Monday despite arrest of Sowore, who is also the publisher of an online news outlet, Sahara Reporters. Abdulkareem told The PUNCH that the location of the protests would be communicated to the media on Monday morning. The ‘Jagajaga’ crooner, while responding to an inquiry by The PUNCH, said, “Yes, we are still on course. By 6am on Monday, the information will be communicated to you.”
When asked if the protests would take place nationwide, Eedris said, “Yes, it will hold nationwide on Monday.” Also, the Legal Adviser of the African Action Congress, Mr Inibehe Effiong, said the protests would still go on as planned despite the police threat. Effiong noted that the protesters would converge on the National Stadium, Surulere at 7am. He said, “Yes, we will go on with the protests. In fact, we just finished a meeting on it. We will only meet at the National Stadium for the protests and it will be peaceful.”
Guardian Newspaper: Soyinka, others protest as DSS moves Sowore to Abuja
The condemnation of the arrest of Omoyele Sowore continued yesterday with the Noble laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, lamenting that the country had been thrown into a cycle of suppression of citizens’ rights.
The police, at the weekend, accused Sowore, the convener of #RevolutionNow protests and the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria of trying to force a regime change in the country. They alleged that the move by the pro-democracy activist and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last general elections amounted to treasonable felony and an act of terrorism. Consequently, Sowore was arrested in the early hours of Saturday by operatives of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) in his apartment.
To Soyinka, Sowore’s arrest is a sad reminder of a similar unfortunate development that occurred during the era of the late former Head of State, Gen. Sanni Abacha.“This is all so sadly déjà vu. How often must we go through this wearisome cycle? We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne.”
The Nobel laureate, in a statement yesterday, noted that the deployment of “alarmist” expressions such as “treason”, “anarchist” and “public incitement” by security forces has become so predictable and banal that they have become meaningless. He said: “Beyond the word ‘revolution’, another much misused and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government. Nothing that he said, to me, in private engagement ever remotely approached an intent to destabilise governance or bypass the normal democratic means of changing a government.
“I, therefore, find the reasons given by the Inspector-General of Police, for the arrest and detention of this young ex-presidential candidate totally contrived and untenable, unsupported by any shred of evidence. His arrest is a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.
“The same pattern Pavlovian conduct manifested itself under yet another supposed democratic ruler who personally declared that the gathering of civilians to deliberate on, and propose a constitution for the nation was ‘high treason’, and would be resisted by the full rigour of state power if we persisted.
“And yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power. A march on Aso Rock calling for an end to governance by a ghostly entity was slated to be crushed, but fortunately, a conflicting balance of interests decided in favour of a reduced trajectory of protest. And so on and on and on, in a nation which continues to speak at once through both sides of the mouth, spewing out the same treason monotone, as if this was a magic incantation that could substitute for the venting of mass feelings, even as collective therapy!
“May I invite the Inspector-General to wade through the daily journals of the past few weeks and months, read and digest the calls by numerous sectors of society – across professions and national groupings – for demonstrations against the parlous conditions of society, all identifying ills to which attention must be drawn, and urgently, through mass action?”
According to Soyinka, demonstrations and processions are time-honoured democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilizing the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition, and thereby exhorting civil society also to devise means of ameliorating their condition through their own efforts.
“Religious bodies have urged such remedies, so have civic associations. The ready recourse to arrest, incarceration and threats to civilians are ultimately counter-productive. They alienate the citizens, erode their confidence in governance responsiveness, and thereby advance the very extremist nightmare that security agencies believe they are acting to thwart.
“If we cannot learn from the histories and experiences of other societies, let us at least learn from ours. Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens. Let the police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like revolution!”
A constitutional lawyer, James Ezike, who flayed the arrest, said: “If it is true that Sowore is under arrest, that would be the greatest blunder of Buhari. It was not ‘June 12’ that destroyed Abacha. It was the incarceration, not the execution, of Ken Saro Wiwa that finished Abacha in the eyes of the world.
“The lesson of history is that all modern societies were the results of treason. America (United States), Russia, China, France, Portugal, Spain and United Kingdom experienced it. The ‘Glorious Revolution’ was what modernized the United Kingdom.
“I don’t know what will become of us if we add treason to the mix of RUGA and Boko Haram insurgency (which never resulted in trials for treason or any trial at all). Herdsmen terrorism and brigandage to the mix of treason, we would have produced and planted a nuclear bomb in our land,” he said.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council yesterday warned the Federal Government that the continuous detention of the AAC presidential candidate would attract sympathy for him from the international community and discredit President Buhari’s second tenure if not released and the planned protest allowed to hold today.OYC, in a statement in Abakaliki by its National President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said Sowore’s arrest was capable of doing more damage, “if the proposed protests start today as he would be made a hero if he is made to remain in detention.”
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) also urged immediate and unconditional release of Sowore. Speaking to journalists on the issue at the weekend, the Director of MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said DSS should respect Sowore’s Allah-given fundamental human rights. He warned DSS not to subject the politician cum activist to inhuman treatment.
The DSS yesterday confirmed that its operatives arrested Sowore. The agency’s spokesman, Peter Afunanya, who made the confirmation while briefing journalists in Abuja, said Sowore was taken into custody for allegedly plotting a forceful removal of a democratically elected government in the country. He said that the secret police were “aware” of information that Sowore had allegedly been in touch with some foreign actors to destabilise Nigeria
The DSS official, who declined to give details on where Sowore is being kept and when he would be arraigned in court, said the security organization would not just “sit back and watch the convener of the protest and his cohorts threaten the peace and unity of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has warned those calling for a “revolution” to allegedly topple his government to employ an appropriate electoral process rather than seeking undemocratic and violent means.
The president said his administration respected and upheld the right of every Nigerian to peaceful protest and civil campaign–whether to raise awareness on issues, and even oppose the government. “It is the inalienable right of all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to do so.”
Sun Newspaper: FG budgets N2.2bn for Ruga
Shock, anger and Outrage have greeted the revelation that the Federal Government made a provision for the implementation of the Ruga settlements programme in the 2019 budget, in spite of its suspension.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Senator Ita Enang, disclosed that a N2.258 billion has already been earmarked.
Chairman of the National Food Security/Herders/Farmers Conflict, Dave Umahi, had in March announced the suspension of the programme owing to what he called lack of consistency with the National Economic Council (NEC) and Federal Government approved national livestock transformation plan, which has programme of rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resulting from the crisis and development of ranching in any willing state.
Enang, who spoke when he hosted students of Law School, Abuja, fat the weekend rom Akwa Ibom State, said the word Ruga is not derived from Hausa or Fulani, but an acronym for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiated in 1956 during the colonial era and is not intended to islamise, Fulanise or colonize anybody.
Supporting his claims, Enang cited the 2019 federal budget, volume 1 under the ministry of agricultural and rural development item number ERGP 5208 where the sum of N2.258 billion was provided and budgeted for the grazing programme. Enang stressed that the National Assembly members were not against the Ruga programme because they were aware of it and had been approving funds for its implementation.
Notwithstanding his explanation, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has vowed to resist it just as National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Uche Achi-Okpaga, a lawyer, told Daily Sun that no part of South East would be given up for Ruga as the region does not have enough land for its use let alone having the one for some ther people..
MASSOB leader, Uchenna Islamic said the programme will be a futile adventure because the exercise will speedily and finally bring the doom of the geographical expression called Nigeria. “The implementation of Ruga settlements will never see daylight in Igboland,” he stated.
The Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie asked the Federal Government to immediately withdraw the N2.2 billion Ruga implementation amount captured in the 2019 budget. He said since Ruga had been suspended, there was no way the amount should appear in the budget in the first place.
Alhaji Tanko Yakasai argued that there was never a time the Federal Government declared that it was abandoning the controversial Ruga project. Alhaji Tanko, who was not surprised at the retention of the fund in the budget, held that the word “suspended” has no semantic relationship with “discontinuing” the RUGA project.
He further stated that appropriating an amount is different from the actual spending the fund while noting that the disbursement of the fund on Ruga might accommodate whatever changes that have affected the policy. “If they (government) should do away with the RUGA project, what would they do with the Fulani and their cattle? Send them away? he wondered. “The Fulani are Nigerians like the rest of us and deserve the support of the government like all of us.You cannot discriminate against the Fulani simply because they are Fulani” he added .
Reacting, in a telephone chat, spokesperson of the Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said he could not understand why government should go ahead with the policy it claimed it has suspended. “It is shocking that the Federal Government could budget such fund for a private Fulani business enterprise. It is not only unfortunate but also terrible that government is funding a business that will benefit only a segment of Nigerians,” he said.
Former minister of Housing and Urban Development, Nduese Essien, and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, said the already budgeted money should be re-channeled into another programme of the Federal Government. He wondered why the Federal Government will opt for Ruga settlements and abandon exploration of oil in the Niger Delta which he said is the mainstay of the economy.
The International Society for Civil Rule and Rule of Law (Intersociety) also accused the government of insincerity in handling the issue of Ruga programme.
Executive Director, Emeka Umeagbalasi said the government was bent on foisting Ruga on even the southern states at all cost as part of the alleged Fulanisation and Islamisation of the whole country.
While Dauda Birmah, is not opposed to Ruga, he said if the scheme must be adopted in the south, it should only be practised by natives and not Fulani as being proposed by the Federal Government.
But former Publicity Secretary of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Erhahon, expressed surprise that the budget went through the National Assembly without any lawmaker challenging the proposal. “I am surprised that such proposal passed through the National Assembly without anybody challenging it, it’s a pity.
Spokesman of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Chris Nehikhare, also expressed surprise that a programme that was suspended by the Federal Government was budgeted for.
But members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, denied knowledge of the appropriation of N2.2 billion for RUGA settlements across the country.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Wole Oke, in a WhatsApp message to our correspondent on the issue, said “I have no information about this.”