The federal government was faced with a lot of criticism yesterday as they mounted heavy security presence on the unarmed protesters at the Revolution Now protest. The National Stadium Surulere was completely barricaded with police, military personnel on ground.
Also many states across the country will be acquiring drones, CCTV and other security gadgets to curb the insurgency currently plaguing the country.
Guardian Newspaper: Outrage over crackdown on unarmed protesters
The Federal Government came under criticism yesterday over its suppression of unarmed #RevolutionNow protesters.
The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the last general elections, Omoyele Sowore, had called for a mass protest against the alleged misgovernance of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Sowore was however arrested on Saturday by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Following its earlier description of the protest as treason, the Federal Government yesterday dispatched heavily armed security operatives across parts of the country to stop the march.
In Lagos State, the police fired live bullets and teargas canisters to disperse the protesters who had planned to gather at the National Stadium.
Operatives including those of the Army and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also took up positions at potential convergence points at Freedom Park in Ojota, Oshodi, Ojuelegba, Ikeja Under Bridge, Governor’s Office Alausa, and Obalende, among others.
“Their planned protest is unlawful. They did not obtain permission for the protest. If they say they have the permission, let them show it. Anyone who foments trouble will be dealt with according to law,” said Lagos State Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mohammed Ali.
But at a press conference yesterday, the organisers of the protest vowed they would continue the demonstration today.
Lagos State police spokesman, Bala Elkana, confirmed the arrest of nine persons including one Victor Ogungbero, a video editor and cameraman with Sahara Reporters.
Heavily armed operatives also prevented the protest in Ibadan, Oyo State. As early as 6:30 a.m. the personnel had manned the main gate of the University of Ibadan in anticipation of a march.
“The police force in Oyo State will not fold its arms and allow any individual or group to create anarchy, chaos, and acts that can lead to the breakdown of law and order,” said the spokesman, Olugbenga Fadeyi.
“We have all gathered to raise out our voice for free, quality and compulsory education at all levels. We also want a democratic end to the issue of insecurity in the country, and ask the government to pay the minimum wage while also placing all politicians on minimum wage.”
In her reaction, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, former presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party (ACP), decried the description of the protest as an unlawful assembly, and condemned the Federal Government for “stifling freedom.” According to her, “Nigerians will not relent in their united effort to bring about a country that is governed better for the sake of posterity. The citizens of Nigeria are bigger than the country and will outlive the current leadership.”
Another former presidential candidate, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, asked: “What do the security agencies mean by Sowore crossing the line? What line has he crossed? Do citizens not have a right to protest against bad governance?”
The Leader of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, also condemned the arrest of Sowore and called for his immediate release. He told The Guardian in an interview that citizens have a constitutional right to embark on a legitimate protest when the Federal Government fails to provide good governance.
In other reactions, a group, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA) Worldwide described the attack on the protesters as an infringement on human right. In a statement by its national president, Olalekan Hammed, the group said: “Any government that orders a crackdown on protesters has trampled on their right. The terror unleashed by the security agents against protesters is despotic.”
A pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), also condemned what it described as the primitive and brutish attack by the police on unarmed civilian protesters, even as it demanded the immediate release of all the arrested persons.
It further vowed to take the police boss, Mohammed Adamu, to the International Criminal Court (ICJ) for prosecution over crimes against humanity. In a statement in Abuja by the national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group said the action of the security operatives is an attack on the soul of democracy.
It explained that peaceful assembly is a broad term covering all types of gatherings, including peaceful demonstrations. It noted that the general rule under Article 21 of the ICCPR is that any restriction placed on such freedom shall be prohibited, unless it is provided by law, subjected to a strict test of necessity in a democratic society, and imposed only in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of health and public morals, or of the rights and freedoms of others.
HURIWA wondered why the National Assembly has allegedly gone to bed while armed security forces are gunning down peaceful protesters. This came as some of the citizens protesting under the #RevolutionNow coalition have refuted the government’s allegation that a regime change was being hatched. According to them, the action is aimed at engaging the government in a demand for a safer and better country.
Lagos-based lawyer and civil rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, said the protest bears no semblance with a coup d’etat as the police have claimed. He said: “It is sad that we live in a country where the military would be deployed to quell peaceful protests. We cannot tolerate that kind of situation. And frankly, the National Human Rights Commission has not been doing enough on the dictatorial tendencies of the government. “What we have seen today is regrettable and has basically taken the country backward. They had no reason to respond the way they did. In Lagos, at the National Stadium, for example, we had only gathered and started singing. We had not even begun the march when a contingent of soldiers arrived.
“Our #RevolutionNow movement has nothing to do with toppling any government. We have a charter of demands we have stipulated publicly. It is what we are protesting for. None of those demands suggested the violent removal of the president. “Were we at Aso Rock today? Are we going to remove the president with our berets? It is nonsense to suggest we are planning to overthrow the government.”
Similarly, in Abuja, some protesters petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at its headquarters, expressing displeasure over the silence of the commission in the face of alleged rights abuses by the Buhari government. The coalition, led by Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said: “We are completely dissatisfied by the eerie silence of the NHRC 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. “It is, therefore, our hope that the NHRC would wake up from its slumber and rise to its responsibility of defending Nigeria’s civic spaces and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of her citizens.”
Sun Newspaper: Tension as DSS, police foil ‘Revolution march’
Security agencies, yesterday, made good their threat to foil the planned nationwide protest tagged: RevolutionNow, organised by Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria.
Reports from across the country revealed heavy deployment of security operatives. Heavily armed and drawn from all security outfits including anti-riot and civil defence officers, the military, National Civil security and Civil Defence Commission (NSCDC) and Department of State Security (DSS), were visible in all public arenas including stadia, apparently to foil any “illegal” gathering.
In Lagos, at least, nine persons were arrested at the National Stadium in Lagos after a crowd gathered for the #RevolutionNow, a series of planned protests against bad governance in Nigeria. As early as 8 a.m., the protesters began to assemble at the stadium in Surulere but met armed police officers who fired teargas to force the protesters numbering about 50 into a hasty retreat. They later took gathered under the stadium bridge were they chanted song.
Security agents, including the police and army were also stationed at the nearby Teslim Balogun, Surulere, the National Theatre, Iganmu and Gani Fawehinmi Park on Ikorodu road, Ojota. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mr. Mohammed Ali, said the protesters did not obtain permission for the protest.
Lagos State police spokesman, Balla Elkana, confirmed the arrest of nine protesters at the stadium but said there was no casualty. “There was rumours making the round that one person was shot. Nobody was shot. The photograph that is viral of a man with gunshot injury is a lie. The photograph we are seeing is not gunshot. The photograph is that of wound but not gunshot.”
Activists defy downpour, protest in Abuja
Activists defied downpour in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as they converged on the office of the National Human Rights Commission, Maitama, to protest against the poor security situation and other social vices in the country. The protesters chanted “Freedom comes by struggle by struggle” and demanded the release of Omoyele Sowore, one oc the conveners of the protest, who was arrested bty the DSS on Saturday.
The protesters had planned to hold rally at the popular Unity Fountain, but changed their plans following heavy security presence at the park. At the office of the NHRC, they delivered a letter in which they expressed displeasure over the continued silence of the Commission to the undemocratic incidences in the country.
Coordinator of the group, Dare-Atoye Ariyo condemned the government for tagging the protest a violent one. “We have intelligence that some compromised Nigerians have been paid to attack us during this protest so that it will be labelled a confrontation. We are peaceful people. This is a revolution against corrupt ruling elites,” he said.
Ariyo said the arrest and detention of Sowore was undemocratic and disgraceful. Aside the protest at the NHRC, the FCT did not witness any protest. Police Public Relations Officer said no arrest was made.
Security foils protest in Oyo, Osun
In Ibadan, a combined team of security operatives took over the main entrance of the University of Ibadan to preempt the protest. The officers from the police, State Security Service, Nigerian Army, NSCDC and Oyo State combined security team codenamed “Operation Burst” had, as early as 6:30 a.m., taken over the gate in anticipation of the protest march.
However, security agents did not prevent movement despite their heavy presence. Police spokesperson in the state, Olugbenga Fadeyi said in a statement that the police would not fold their arms and allow any group to cause anarchy in the state.
It was gathered that some arrests were made, but the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Olugbenga Fadeyi, could not confirm it at the time of filing this report, saying he would find out the number of persons arrested in connection with the protest and get back to the reporter.
In Osun, protesters led by Olawale Adebayo, had arrived the popular Olaiya Junction, Osogbo, to address newsmen on reason for the protest. The protesters who had mobilised no fewer than 30 persons were halted by the DSS and police personnel. The operatives asked the protesters to disperse but were rebuffed by a group of youths numbering no fewer than 30 and decked in orange berets and handkerchiefs. The youths stood their ground and sang protest songs.
The security team threw tear gas at the crowd which eventually dispersed them. Earlier, Adebayo had addressed newsmen in Fagbewesa area of Osogbo on their demands from government after which they intended to take the protest to the streets.
An elderly woman, Sariyu Akanmu was brutalised by armed policemen while five members of “RevolutionNow” group were arrested by the police and DSS operatives, who also used teargas to disperse the protesters.
Security at alert in Rivers
Security was beefed up at strategic places in Port Harcourt and its environs, in Rivers State, to forestall breakdown of law and order. Though, there was downpour in Port Harcourt, security operatives took over the popular Isaac Boro Park, the muster point for the protesters.
Pockets of persons suspected to be protesters were dispersed by policemen at their take off point. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had earlier warned that nobody should attempt the ‘Revolution Now’ protest in the state.
Police disrupts athletes’ training in Kwara
To forestall breakdown of law and order in Ilorin, Kwara State, armed police operatives stormed the state’s stadium complex to disperse athletes on training. Sporting activities at the stadium complex, located in the metropolis, were disrupted as athletes, who had arrived at the stadium for training, were turned back.
Police were ordered to block the stadium gate followiong speculation that the facility had been picked as meeting point for the protest match. Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajayi Okasanmi said the presence of policemen at the stadium was to prevent chaos.
Delta, Ondo shun protest
Protest did not hold in any part of Delta State, as residents in Asaba and its environs went about their normal duties unhindered. Although the presence of security operatives was scanty, Commissioner of Police, Adeyinka Adeleke, said the command was ready to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
South South chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisations (CLO), Mr. Chinedu Uchegu said CLO was not consulted, hence could not mobilise to be part of it. He, however, agreed that the protest was necessary given the state of insecurity and other issues affecting the nation, and condemned the arrest and detention of Sowore and called for his immediate release.
Business and social activities went undisrupted all through the day in Ondo State, which incidentally is the state of Sowore, convener of the exercise. Security agencies deployed to strategic areas of the Akure metropolis in anticipation of the protest which eventually did not hold in any part of the state.
At the M.K.O Abiola Democracy Park, close to the main market, Oja Oba, in the heart of the metropolis, men of NSCDC and police in plain cloth were sighted on the road leading to the park, Mobil Roundabout, Alagbaka, Shoprite, Oda Road, NEPA Roundabout, Isikan Roundabout and Oke Aro
Besides, several police vans were sighted patrolling major streets in Akure, while people went about their businesses undisturbed. Spokesman of the state Police Command, Femi Joseph said the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Undie Adie had ordered police officers across the state to be on alert.
Kaduna streets half empty
Most streets and popular places in Kaduna metropolis were half empty as residents deserted such areas. The tensed situation in Kaduna city was compounded by the trial of the embattled leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who was brought to court amidst tight security.
Our Correspondents who visited major streets of Ahmadu Bello Way, Abeokuta Street, Yakubu Gowon Way, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Junction Road, Ibrahim Taiwo road, amongst others, noted that some shops and offices were not opened.
The ever busy post office area of Yakubu Gowon Way, where hawkers of various items used to converge was deserted. There was heavy presence of combined security operatives across the city.
Security beef up in Edo
Police and DSS laid siege to the premises of the Bendel Newspapers Company Limited (BNCL), publishers of the Nigerian Observer, to prevent civil society members from embarking on the planned nationwide protest. Civil society members were assembling in front of the media house in readiness for take off when the security agencies arrived to disperse them.
The security agencies also besieged the secretariat of the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The security personnel positioned their vehicles at strategic entrance to the Nigerian Observer and its adjoining streets like the vegetable market road and the Observer lane.
The security officers stormed the Nigerian Observer premises with four Hilux patrol vans and NUJ secretariat with three. However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, denied claim that the presence of the security operatives were for the protest march. Chidi said it was to forestall attacks on the media house.
No protest in Ebonyi, Benue
All parts of Benue State is so far calm as there is no RevolutionNow protest taken place anywhere in the state.However, the police and other security operatives were stationed in strategic areas across the state to prevent breakdown of law and order.
Our correspondent sighted heavily armed men of the police force around the Police headquarters roundabouts leading to the DSS office, the CBN and all through to the Government House in Makurdi. The PPRO, DSP Catherine Anene said the command had taken a proactive measure to forestall breakdown of law and order in the state. “Let’s just say that we are being proactive at this time and we have deployed our men to ensure there no breakdown of law and order. So far, there is no report of any such protest taken place in Benue,” Anene stated.
In Ebonyi, residents of Abakaliki, the capital of the state, went about their normal businesses. Some of them who spoke to Daily Sun said that they did not see sufficient reason to embark on protests as such would not solve the nation’s multiple problems. Nkechi Oginyi said that the challenges confronting the country needs dialogue as against the option of protests. “Protests cannot solve our problems. We need to sit down and discuss our challenges. We need dialogue, not protests. Leaders of the country should dialogue on the best way to move the country forward”, said Oginyi.
Punch Newspaper: Herdsmen menace/banditry: Lagos, Benue, Ebonyi, five others to acquire drones
There are strong indications that no fewer than nine states will soon acquire remotely piloted aircraft (drones) and other devices as part of measures to tackle kidnapping and killing in their states.
Investigations by The PUNCH on Saturday showed that the states included Ogun, Oyo, Ebonyi, Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Benue and Enugu. Sunday PUNCH had, on July 28, reported that efforts of some state governments to obtain necessary safety and security clearances to acquire drones were failing due to the strict conditions stipulated by the Federal Government’s agencies responsible for granting the approval.
The report listed some of the states that had made moves to deploy drones in tackling bandits, kidnappers and killer herdsmen as Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Kaduna and Anambra. At a meeting with the South-West traditional rulers at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari said he would direct relevant federal agencies to speedily approve applications by states for drones.
Ogun, Oyo initiating process of applications
In the light of the fresh President’s pledge, the Ogun State Government told The PUNCH that it had begun the process to apply for drones to fight herdsmen menace and other criminal activities in the state. The PUNCH learnt that the decision of the state government was based on the relocation of killer herdsmen to areas of the state including the Lagos-Ibadan road and the Sagamu-Ore Expressway.
Two weeks ago, a son of the Chief Medical Director of the Lafia Hospital, Apata, Ibadan, and two workers of the hospital were kidnapped at Ajebo, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State, on their way to Lagos. It was learnt that the victims, who were allegedly kidnapped by some Fulani bandits, secured their release a few days later after paying about N50m as ransom.
On Thursday night, five people, including a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, were kidnapped around the Area J3, Ogbere along the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway. They have since regain their freedom. The Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State Governor, Kunle Somorin, told one of our correspondents that the state was ready to acquire drones to tackle the menace of the killer herdsmen.
Somorin said, “We have always stated that we will deploy technology in fighting crimes and insecurity. Drones are consistent with how we plan to track, pre-empt and prevent crimes and deviant social behaviours. The Federal Government’s position is in tandem with our vision for drones.” When asked whether the state had sought the permission of the Federal Government, Somorin stated, “Whatever means that is legal will be taken to ensure the drones are acquired.”
On his part, the Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor on Media, Jide Ajani, said his principal had already said he would deploy technology in tackling insecurity. He added that drones were one of such technological devices to actualise the plan. Ajani, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The issue of drones is not new to us here. At one or two fora, our governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, had hinted about deploying technology to combat criminality in our state. Drones are included in the larger body of technology that can be deployed in combating criminality. “But for the process and the complex nature of our country, where you have security on the exclusive list, our governor would have set the ball rolling. Most importantly, however, there is the urgent need for the realisation that these episodic approaches to fighting crime are not sustainable. “What is sustainable is what we have been talking about and which is dear to Governor Makinde and that is the issue of true federalism. The issue of state police is very central.”
Ebonyi waiting for green light to apply for drones
Also, the Ebonyi State Government said it would apply for licence to import drones any time the Federal Government decided to issue such official permit. Emma Uzor, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor David Umahi, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abakliki, the state capital.
He added that aside from the state government’s willingness to join others to acquire drones, it had commenced the installation of security cameras and closed-circuit televisions at strategic entry and exit points within the state to check the influx of foreigners, especially illegal herdsmen. “We will import drones as soon as the Federal Government decides to issue the licence for them in the country. This will help in Abakaliki and curb insecurity in the state. “Outside the planned importation of drones, the state government is mounting CCTVs in strategic entry and exit points within the state to check foreigners and herdsmen,” Uzor added.
Benue to apply for drone licence
Also, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, expressed the plan of the state to acquire drones anytime the Federal Government decided to give the go-ahead for the licence. Ortom, who disclosed this through his Special Adviser, Col. Paul Hemba (retd.), described the decision of the Federal Government to allow the appropriate agencies to issue the drone licence as a welcome development. “The state will surely apply for the drone licence anytime the Federal Government approves the issuance of the licence. “Although I have not heard nor read the Federal Government’s decision to issue the drone licence, Benue will surely apply,” he added.
We’ll look at the possibility, says Ekiti
On the state’s plan for the proposed drone initiative, the Special Adviser on Security Matters to the Ekiti State Governor, Brig. Gen. Ebenezar Ogundana (retd.), said the state would look at such possibility after due consideration of the cost and the benefits. Ogundana, who explained that although drones owned by the military were catering to the strategic needs of Ondo and Ekiti states, stated that the drone licence initiative was just emerging. He said, “We would sit down and actually analyse the situation, the cost implication, the advantages and disadvantages, we will now decide whether we are going to key into that arrangement.”
Enugu to deploy aerial surveillance
On his part, the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Suleiman Balarabe, said aerial surveillance would be used to monitor forests in the state. The police commissioner said this on Friday after a security meeting following the killing of a Catholic priest in the state by suspected herdsmen.
The state police boss, who read the resolution of the meeting, said, “The state government also resolved to have aerial surveillance in all the forests that these dastardly incidents are taking place.” When contacted on the matter, Kaduna State, one of the states which The PUNCH had reported had applied for licence for a drone, declined to comment.
The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, described the enquiry as a security matter. “What you are asking is clearly undermining and compromising security of our citizens and we cannot compromise their security on the pages of newspapers. No comment,” Aruwan stated in his response.
Anambra discontinues use of drone
But the Anambra State Government said it had discontinued the use of drones for the surveillance of criminals. It explained that in place of drones, the state occasionally hired police helicopter for aerial battle against criminals. Speaking with The PUNCH on the telephone on Friday, the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba, explained why the state discontinued the idea of using drones for security. “One is the lifespan of the battery and the image generated by the device,” he said.
The Ondo State Government, through the Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, said, “I’m not inclined to disclose whether or not the Ondo State Government has applied, or will apply for such (drones). “Like the states of the South-West have always maintained, the menace of insecurity has assumed such a frightening dimension that requires a commensurate strategy to tackle.”
Banditry checked, no need for drones –Zamfara
Meanwhile, Alhaji Abubakar Dauran, the Security Adviser to Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, said the state, which had witnessed some of the most deadly and persistent attacks in recent times, did not need drones. “The state does not need any drone at the moment considering the fact that the activities of bandits are almost controlled as a result of the peace accord between the government and the bandits,” Dauran stated.
No security threat in A’Ibom, says commissioner
But the Akwa Ibom State Government said there were no security threats in the state. The state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, said, “I don’t like commenting on issues of insecurity; there is no insecurity in Akwa Ibom. We are focused on development and how to ensure all communities in the state get the basic necessities of life; that is the plan of the government.”
The Permanent Secretary in charge of security in the Cross River State Governor’s Office, Sir Alfred Mboto, said, “Normally when you want to buy any security equipment, you have to apply through the National Intelligence Agency. I don’t know whether another agency will handle the application for drones. I will liaise with the Chief Security Officer on the issue.”
South-East forest guards won’t carry arms – Umahi
Meanwhile, the South-East Governors’ Forum said each state in the zone would form its forest guards to ensure that criminals, who infiltrated into the zone, were fished out. The governors also disclosed that in the planned security measure for the zone, the guards would not carry arms but would work with security agencies to achieve the desired results for which they were being set up.
The Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, who is the chairman of the Forum, spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Uzor, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abakaliki. The CPS said, “They are not going to bear arms. They are going to be pure civilians and they will be going into these forests with security agents such as policemen, men of the Nigerian Army, operatives of the Department of State Services and others who will provide security cover for them while in the bush. “Every state will have its guards, but there is going to be a coordinating security committee to be headquartered in Enugu, the capital of the defunct Eastern Region.”
He noted that each state in the zone was expected to gather intelligence and forward same to the committee in Enugu, whose responsibility would be to process it and send to security agencies for necessary action. He further revealed that the guards in collaboration with security agents would comb the forests in their different states twice or thrice daily. He said each state in the South-East was at liberty to commence the exercise as soon as it could, adding that arrangements were already ongoing to start enlisting trusted Ebonyi youths into the planned programme.
According to him, states in the geopolitical zone are embracing what the Federal Government is doing by clearing 50 metres into bushes on major highways to ensure there is no hiding place for criminals. “The essence is to checkmate the infiltration of foreigners who are not Nigerians that illegally come into the country as herdsmen and others. “Their (forest guards) mode of operation involves traversing all the forests in each state within the zone, twice or thrice daily, to fish out criminals,” he added.