Members of the #RevolutionNow movement demanding good governance in the country on Wednesday protested in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Ogun states.
The leaders of the movement, who said the protest was held to mark the first anniversary of the group, stated that security agencies arrested no fewer than 91 protesters..
However, the country’s mounting debt profile featured in the anniversary as two of the movement’s conveners, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday evening, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), must halt further borrowings in order not to mortgage Nigeria’s future.
The group also advised the President to stop killings in the North-West and the North-East.
Recall that a co-convener of the group, Omoyele Sowore, was arrested in August 2019 for planning the #RevolutionNow protest.
The Federal Government accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime of Buhari and subsequently detained him for over 100 days.
He was released on December 24, 2019 on a condition that he should not join mass gatherings or protests.
But despite Sowore’s absence, members of the movement protested in Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta and Osogbo.
In the FCT, the group staged a protest at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja, on Wednesday morning, carrying banners with various inscriptions such as, ‘Yes to living wage;’ ‘Free Lance Corporal Martin now;’ ‘N2.2 billion per kilometre for fence is unacceptable,’ and others.
But the rally was disrupted by security agents, who assaulted the activists and arrested them.
Those arrested were taken to the Eagle Square for arraignment before a mobile court, but they were released after the presiding Magistrate Idayat Akanni failed to show up.
But speaking on the demands of the coalition in an interview with The PUNCH, a co-convener, Deji Adeyanju, said the campaigners were concerned by the mounting Chinese loans.
He stated, “We are absolutely concerned by the Chinese loans and the revelations from the National Assembly that the sovereignty of our country is being ceded to China. It is most regrettable and sad. In fact, we are perplexed.
“Every sane Nigerian should be concerned and bothered about this development and we are telling the President to immediately halt further borrowings.”
Politicians can loot Chinese loan, movement warns
Adeyanju argued that it might be difficult for the nation to repay the loans which he said might be looted by the political class, citing the revelations on the alleged multi-billion naira looting at the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Adeyanju noted, “The more loans we take, the more our currency is weakened and the harder it would be for us to service the loans because the debt management office is complaining that we can barely service the interest rates.
“And what are the loans being used for? In a situation where the loans were being taken so they could be looted in the NDDC or used to renovate a 27kms perimeter fence of the University of Maiduguri at a cost of N64bn makes no economic sense.”
“There is no way you look at it and you would not be bothered. We should be looking inward instead of going on a borrowing spree. We must collectively call on the President to stop borrowing as it would further destroy the economy. The mindless looting that is being superintended by the current President needs to stop.”
60 protesters arrested in Abuja – Co-convener
He said no fewer than 60 members of the group were arrested in Abuja.
“Our demands are very simple: they should end insecurity in Katsina, Sokoto, Southern Kaduna and in the North-East; the killing of our troops and the rising death figures must be stopped,” Adeyanju insisted.
Speaking to The PUNCH, another co-convener, Baba Aye, said, “We are not okay with the debt profile of Nigeria. When you talk of an economy that works for the masses and not a few, issues of debt profile and the Gross Domestic Product to debt profile apply to it.
“The issue of loans is bad because it is the working class that always bears the cost of repayment. We really don’t need most of these loans if certain economic measures are put in place. For instance, tax evasion is still a big issue in this country.
In a separate statement signed by Aye and Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, the coalition said the #RevolutionNow protests would continue until the objectives are achieved.
It added, “Our demands remain: an economy that works for the masses; no to an economy which throws 90 million people into poverty, while just five people own N11tn; an effective and democratic end to insecurity, poverty, discrimination, repression by government and manipulation of ethnic differences by the rich elite are the roots of perpetual insecurity.”
Addressing the protesters earlier at the Unity Fountain, a lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, said there was a need for a leadership change, noting that Nigerians must take their destiny in their own hands.
He said, “Our demand today is there is a need for us to have a revolution.There is a need for us to have a change of leadership, leaders who have a clear focus, who have the passion and the welfare and interest of the people. This cannot be achieved by the charlatans in authority.
“There is a need for us to allow people who are determined, who have the interest of people to take over the leadership. That is why we are saying no to the APC (All Progressives Congress) and the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), no to all these rascals in political authority.”
But the #RevolutionNow protesters arrested by the joint security personnel at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, for allegedly violating the COVID-19 health protocols.
While the activists assembled at the fountain, the Joint Task Force on Enforcement of COVID-19 Restrictions swooped on them, forced them to lie on the ground and subsequently whisked them away.
The team comprising soldiers, policemen, Air Force, Federal Road Safety Corps and Security and Civil Defence Corps officers took the protesters to a mobile court sitting at the Eagle Square where they were to be arraigned for COVID-19 restrictions order violation.
However, Magistrate Idayat Akanni, who was to preside over the case had several other cases in another court and did not sit, prompting the security operatives to release the protesters.
An official of the FCT Ministerial Task Team on COVID-19, Ikharo Attah urged the protesters to comply with the health protocols for the good of all.
He said that the protesters violated the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 guidelines on physical distancing, noting that most of them did not wear face masks.
But the General Secretary of United Action for Democracy and leading member of the #TakeItBack movement, Kunle Ajayi, complained that they were arrested for demanding a better country.
Agba Jalingo, 18 others arrested in Lagos
In Lagos, a journalist and activist, Agba Jalingo, and 18 other protesters were arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command during the protest in Ikeja.
Jalingo’s driver, Clement Laruba, confirmed the development when one of our correspondents called Jalingo’s number to get further updates on the protest.
Laruba stated, “He left his phone with me and went to protest in Ikeja. He has been arrested by the police. I am his driver, he was with those protesting during the #RevolutionNow protest. I am currently on my way to the Area F Police Division in Ikeja.
“The protest started around 9am but I stayed where the car was parked while he left for the protest. But he later called me with someone’s number to inform me that he had been arrested.”
The PUNCH gathered that protesters, under the aegis of the #RevolutionNow movement, stormed the under-bridge area of Ikeja early on Wednesday to protest the deplorable state of the country.
During the protest, which lasted for four hours youths, old men and women, carried placards and chanted solidarity songs as they repeatedly went around the roundabout located under the bridge.
As they were protesting, men of the state police command, who were said to have laid a siege to the Allen Roundabout, suddenly advanced towards the direction of the protesters and released teargas canisters to disperse them.
An eyewitness, who identified himself simply as Rasaq, said some of the protesters ran into the Computer Village while the policemen gave them a hot chase.
Notably among the personalities involved in the protest around Ikeja-Along was Agba Jalingo.
In a viral footage, Jalingo, while leading some of the protesters along the axis, was heard saying, “No matter how they arrest us, no matter how they chase us, we will not be afraid of their Black Marias, we will not be afraid of their rifles and teargas.”
Jalingo, who spoke to one of our correspondents at the Area F Police Division, Ikeja said they were protesting against bad governance when the police arrested 19 of them.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, did not take his call.
Responding to a text message from one of our correspondents on the alleged police attack, Elkana promised to get back after getting “briefs across the state.”
However, one of the arrested protesters, who identified himself simply as Samson, said, “everyone of us have been released. Agba Jalingo has also been released and was taken away in a vehicle. We were told we are not guilty and we’re later released.”
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