THE police in Lagos on Saturday dispersed protesters seeking the secession of Nigeria’s South-West region from the country.
The protesters had defied heavy police presence to gather at the Gani Fawehinmi Park at the Ojota area of Lagos in the morning.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu had arrived at the venue with his men before the protesters.
Odumosu was addressing journalists when placard-carrying protesters, who chanted different secession songs for the Yoruba Nation, began to trickle in.
The police commissioner said he was at the venue with security officials to guarantee law and order in the state.
Odumosu said though the protesters had promised to engage in a peaceful protest, he refused to grant them permission to hold the rally because of the monumental destruction and killings that were recorded in the state during last year’s #EndSARS protest.
“We are just being security conscious and proactive. Recall that on Thursday, I listed reasons why this rally must not hold.
“We learnt that some miscreants had perfected plans to seize the opportunity to cause mayhem in the society.
“Though the organisers of the rally made frantic efforts to say it would go peaceful. You and I know what happened during #EndSARS protests. #EndSARS started peacefully, but up till now, Lagos State has not been able to get out of the destruction that happened during the #EndSARS.”
No sooner had Odumosu left the venue than his officers dispersed the protesters with water cannons.
The ICIR did not independently verify reports that shots were fired at the protesters by the police. It was also alleged that the police sprayed hot water on the protesters.
The protesters, however, regrouped at the Ojota Bridge for further action.
The police also reportedly arrested some of the protesters, who were carried away in their vans.
A leading figure among the secessionists Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, was not among the protesters. Operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) had attacked his house on Thursday.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has been clamping down on secessionists lately, after months of what many described as anarchy in Nigeria.
Whereas Ighoho’s whereabouts is yet unknown, the Nigerian government claimed it extradited the leader of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu two days before it arraigned him at a Federal High Court on Tuesday, June 29.
The court remanded him in the custody of the SSS and adjourned his case till July 26 and 27.
Kanu faces an 11-count charge of treason, treasonable felony, terrorism, and illegal possession of firearms.
He jumped bail in 2017 and fled Nigeria.
On Thursday, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said that the Nigerian government had been on Kanu’s trail for two years.
The Nigerian government believes Kanu is liable for recent attacks and killings allegedly orchestrated by IPOB and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network, in the South-East.
The government also said on Thursday that its preliminary findings showed that prominent Nigerians collaborated with Kanu. It vowed to apprehend and bring them to book, no matter highly placed.
His arrest has raised concerns among many Nigerians, especially people of South-East extraction – a region he is pushing its secession from the country to become an independent country known as Biafra.
But, the clampdown on secessionists has attracted criticisms from Nigerians as many claim the Buhari government, which has variously been accused of clannishness, left bandits, killer herdsmen and kidnappers in the North to tackle self-determination agitators in the South.
The SSS reportedly invited an Islamic cleric, Ahmed Abubakar Gumi, a retired soldier who is widely believed to be the spokesperson for bandits and kidnappers in the North.
Nothing has since been heard about Gumi’s the invitation by the secret police.