.Says winner is democracy as security agencies abort mass protest in states
.We won’t back down, say protesters .Buhari allergic to criticism – Ozekhome
Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja, Kehinde Akinpelu, Ilorin & Amaka Ogbu, Port-Harcourt with agency report
President Muhammadu Buhari has thanked millions of Nigerians, who deliberately ignored calls on social media to join a phantom ‘revolution,’ but instead went about their normal day –to-day businesses on Monday.
The President made his feelings known in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu in Abuja on Monday.
According to the statement, the President was humbled by the support “not for himself or the governing party, but for the democratic values of modern-day Nigeria.”
He, however, acknowledged that there were few hundred persons, who for their own reasons decided to engage on the protest march against national interest.
The statement read in parts: “Today, millions of Nigerians went about their businesses; work, seeking employment, attending school/college and caring for their families. By doing so, the millions defended our country’s hard-won democratic rights by ignoring calls on social media to join a phantom revolution.
“There were a few hundred persons today who, for their own reasons, decided to act upon the demands of a group calling itself Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, which went on social media to ask everyday Nigerians to overthrow the government they only elected some six months ago.
“The President is humbled by the support not for himself or the governing party, but for the democratic values of modern-day Nigeria through the wisdom of those millions of citizens who preferred democracy and decided not to undermine an elected government.
“Today, joining those millions of Nigerians was not only the President and governing party at federal level, but many state governments from the opposition, trade unions, civil society organisations, media and NGOs with focus on freedom of speech.
”All have rightly, united in protecting Nigeria’s young democracy and the rights of all to elect leaders and lawmakers. The Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria’s attempt to incite citizens into a revolution against their own democratic rights and interests has failed as will all attempts to take away from the people their hard-won rights and freedom to choose who leads their country.’’
However, The Daily Times reports that heavily armed police assisted by other sister security agencies, including the army on Monday aborted the planned nationwide #RevolutionNow protests in states where the organisers of the mass action had planned to stage the protests.
In Lagos, security operatives from the police, the army and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) barricaded entrances to the National Stadium, Surulere ahead of the #RevolutionNow protest spearheaded by Omoyele Sowore.
Police patrol vehicles, including that of the Rapid Respond Squad (RRS), numbering more than 20, armoured personnel carriers, anti-riot operatives, civil defence men and military joint taskforce operatives, OP MESSA, were stationed at the two main entrances to the stadium.
As at 8.40 am few protesters, wearing orange caps had started to converge under the stadium bridge displaying neither banner nor placards,
The stern-looking security operatives prevented employees of the National Stadium, students of the National Institute for Sports (NIS) and members of the public who had come to train at the facility from gaining access into the stadium.
Passers-by were told by security men to leave the area at exactly 8.50 am because the operatives were ready to tear-gas the protesters at any moment.
Police Area Commander, Area C, ACP Tijani Fatai, stated that the operatives were on ground to stop any form of protests at the stadium, explaining that they were not there to give security cover to the protesters and therefore, advised the crowd already gathering in front of the National Stadium gate to stay away.
According to the Deputy Police Commissioner (Operations) in Lagos State, Mohammed Ali, the protesters didn’t obtain the necessary permit to carry out the planned protest.
“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 that foments trouble will be dealt with according to the law,“ Ali said.
In Kwara State, sporting activities at the Kwara Stadium Complex, Ilorin, in the early hours of Monday were put to a halt with the presence of heavily armed policemen.
Athletes who had arrived at the stadium to train were turned back by the police, resulting in many of the athletes being stranded in and around the stadium gate at the popular Taiwo Ibrahim Road in Ilorin.
Some of them who spoke to journalists questioned why sportsmen would be denied access to the stadium to train.
However, the protest turned violent in Osun State following the alleged police brutalisation of a 60-year-old woman as well as the alleged harassment of some journalists who had gone to cover the protest.
Eyewitness confirmed that police officers at the scene of the protest allegedly descended on an elderly woman identified as Sariyu Akanmu as well as on other journalists, including a journalist with Newsdirect newspaper, Sunday Oguntuyi.
The elderly woman was said to be hawking ‘fufu’ but later joined the protesters when a female police officer at the scene descended on her.
The eyewitness account added that when some of the journalists sought to rescue the woman, the police reportedly harassed them with tear-gas arresting some in the process.
But in Edo and Ondo states, the planned nationwide peaceful protests failed as business and social activities were at their highest ebb on Monday. There was no protest in Benin City, the Edo State capital and other towns in the state.
The popular Oba Ovoranmen Square, located at the city centre that serves as rallying point for previous protests was empty as residents were busy going about their daily activities.
Reports have it that a press conference scheduled by some activists in the state was called off in the last minute after a call from Abuja.
Similarly, several police vans were sighted patrolling major streets in Akure, the Ondo State capital while people went about their businesses undisturbed.
Spokesperson of the Ondo State Police Command, Femi Joseph, a superintendent of police, said the state Commissioner of Police, Undie Adie, has ordered their men across the state to be on red alert.
However, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State directed citizens of the state to boycott the protest in the state.
Gov. Wike said that Rivers State is not party to the protest and whatever illegal agenda it sought to pursue.
The governor said: “Rivers State does not subscribe to what the RevolutionNow protest represents and Rivers State is not part of the protest.”
He directed security agencies in the state to arrest anybody involved in the protest and also take all necessary steps to prosecute such persons. The governor advised parents to ensure that their children were not misled by agents of the march to participate in the illegal protest.
“All council chairmen are directed to be at alert. If they suspect any illegal gathering, they should report to the security agencies for immediate action,” he said.
Also, in its bid to forestall any breakdown of law and order, the Benue State Police Command drafted its personnel to strategic points in Makurdi, the Benue State capital and major towns of the state.
Stern looking police officers were sighted carrying out stop-and-search check points mounted at the state command headquarters roundabout, High/Level roundabout, Wadata area of the town while an armoured personnel carrier, was stationed at the popular Wurukum Roundabout.
The state however, did not record any protest match by any group, but the increased presence of policemen at major points in the town created apprehension among residents even though commercial and business activities went on without hitches.
Reacting, the Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, Catherine Anene, said the security beef up is a proactive measure taken by the command to forestall any breakdown of law and order in the state.
Meanwhile, some journalists including the Cross River State correspondent of The Nation newspapers, Nicholas Kalu, have been arrested at the Cultural Centre, Calabar venue of the #RevolutionNow protest in the state. Online editors, Jonathan Ugbal, Jeremiah Archibong were also arrested.
When contacted, the state Chairman of the NUJ, Victor Udu, condemned the arrest of Nicholas Kalu and called for his immediate release.
“I condemn the act totally. The journalist is just doing his job. He did not go there with any weapon; he went there with his jotter and pen and nothing more, except with the intention to serve the public by disseminating balanced report to the public.
“We call for his immediate, unconditional release, as he has committed no crime by carrying out his duty as a journalist,” he said.
In the meantime, reactions have continued to trail the nationwide #RevolutionNow protests slated for Monday. While some kicked against the development, others called for the arrest and prosecution of Omoyele Sowore, the brain behind the protest.
Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) in his reaction, accused President Buhari’s administration of being allergic to criticism, allergic to plurality of worship and allergic to opinions.
Ozekhome, who quoted various sections of the constitution, questioned the rationale upon which the government relied on in labelling the protest called by Sowore as treason.
“Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state with a view to removing the president or governor of a state or joining hands with international elements to overthrow the government.
“Those sections state the conditions before you can overthrow a person for treason. The question is: Where are the arms and ammunition that have been displayed by Sowore and other members of the peaceful civil society group? Rather, what has this government done against herdsmen who carry automatic weapons, killing Nigerians and pumping their chest to identify themselves?”
On his part, the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, challenged the Department of State Services (DSS) to name the foreign collaborators sponsoring the #RevolutionNow protest across the country.
While warning against blackmailing innocent Nigerians abroad by the DSS, Frank in a statement in Abuja, said the security agency should not allow itself to be used against some perceived political enemies.
However, the leadership of the Democracy Watch Africa has frowned at the planned RevolutionNow protest and the need for caution to avoid overheating the polity in Nigeria.
The umbrella body of over 30 civil society organisations in West Africa said the planned protest is a grave wrong and must be viewed from the prism of treason against the Nigerian nation as there are from all indication no justification whatsoever to warrant such a despicable act under whatever guise.
Josephine Okpara, President of the group, who gave the warning at a rally held in Freedom Park, Lagos on Monday, in reaction to the planned protest also demanded the expulsion of Amnesty International from Nigeria.
Opara, who accused Amnesty International of inciting the planned revolution, added that its presence in Nigeria has caused more harm than good through their nefarious activities.
‘’Amnesty International has a history of causing disaffection and misgivings in all the countries they have offices, and the case of Nigeria is not any different as evident in their yearly reports and public statements that have been critical of policies of the government of Nigeria in instances too numerous to mention’’, she added.
On its part, the Civil Rights Movement of Nigeria (CRMN) in a swift reaction has called on the Federal Government to prosecute Sowore, and others connected with treasonable felony.
Speaking while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday the CRMN, a coalition of about 30 civil groups, said that inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, August 5, amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism.
According to CCRMNs President, Aaron Dutoye, Sowore had a clear blueprint designed by the major opposition party to overthrow the government, having failed to legitimately do so at the last elections.
To serve as deterrent to others with similar intent of causing havoc, the group, therefore, advised the Department of State Services (DSS) to immediately arraign Sowore for treason.
CRMN further urged the DSS to secure a court order to keep Sowore in its custody once he is arraigned given the gravity of the crime he has committed and the potential instability his release could pose.
However, the Coalition for Revolution, one of the organizers of the RevolutionisNow protest, on Monday, vowed not to back down on its five-point demand.
The co-convener of the group, Kunle Ajayi, said this at a press conference on Monday in Lagos while stating the position of the movement.
He said: “We want to state that the coalition for revolution will continue. We want to inform our comrades that were attacked all over the country today that we have just begun.
“We want to tell President Buhari that your bullets and armoury will continue to fail you because Nigerians did not vote for you to shoot them. Nigerians voted for what you lied you will give them, change. ”
“After you lost elections three times, you protested in this country. Your supporters not only protested like we are doing today, but they protested with matchets and bullets and killed a lot of people in this country but we will not go that way.
“In 2011, you supported the Arab spring, commended the Egyptian police for not allowing themselves to be used against the people and you called for a revolution in Nigeria and this is what we are doing today.
“GMB has shown that he is a military dictator and tyrant and has shown he tricked Nigerians to come back to be a selected president.
“Nigerians should stand up and defend the five-point demand of the coalition movement which includes demand for an end to insecurity and systemic corruption.
“We demand the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore that was arrested for saying another Nigeria is possible. We demand for the release of all our comrades arrested today across the country including Gabriel Ojuba the convener of United Action for Democracy and Victor a reporter with SaharaReporters.
“It is a pity that the Nigerian police have allowed itself to be used against the same people that went to the barricade to fight for their welfare.”
The Daily Times recalls that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, on Saturday issued a statement warning that anybody who came out for the protest on Monday would be treated as one who has committed treason against the state. The police claimed that the sole aim of the movement was to topple the government.