© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
#RevolutionNow: Nigerians protest arrest of Sowore, others in Abuja amid heavy security presence
NIGERIANS gathered at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, on Wednesday morning to protest the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, and others who have been recently arrested.
The protest took place in the presence of security personnel. During one of his speeches, human rights activist Deji Adeyanju said the people need to know the level of intimidation the protesters are dealing with.
“When it’s time to go to Sambisa forest now, they will start crying,” he teased. “They will say the ammunition is not enough. They will go to their religious leaders to pray that they don’t want the transfer. But when it is time to intimidate comrades, you will see their big chests. They will start changing their voice.”
Our reporter noted the presence of 15 patrol vans parked close to the protesters, including ones from the Nigeria Prisons Service, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and Rapid Response Squad. Also present were a bus from the FCT Fire Service and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).
About 500 metres south of the park, opposite the Federal High Court, two vans and one APC were also stationed.
Towards the end of the gathering, six additional police patrol motorcycles arrived.
“Greatest of the greatest Nigerian people, please can we put our hands together,” Adeyanju said sarcastically once he noticed the overwhelming presence of the security paraphernalia.
“We just received six new bikes. They just joined us from the force headquarters. Please, can we put our hands together and celebrate them? We celebrate the police. We celebrate our security people. Oh, they are working. They are fighting crime all over Nigeria. There is no longer insecurity in the country.”
Adebayo Raphael, an Abuja-based human rights activist and development consultant, while addressing journalists described the system of government Nigeria currently practises as a democratic dictatorship.
“Nigeria has now turned into a festooned scar. In this country, we are no longer safe. In this country, we are no longer free. And in any country which practises democracy, where one of us is not free, then all of us are not free. If the freedom of one of us is taken, the freedom of all of us has been taken away,” he said.
“And so we must make it very clear to tyrant Buhari and all his cronies that we the people of Nigeria will not be cowed, that the voices of dissent in this country will not be subjugated, that our clamour for freedom will not wane, that it wouldn’t matter whether they mobilise one hundred people against us or they mobilise thousands of people against us, we will stand regardless of our numbers to say enough is enough. We will stand regardless of our numbers to condemn tyranny in every way possible.
“Stephen Kefas has been arrested. Sowore has been abducted. Jones Abiri has been abducted. So many others that we don’t even have their names. But you can see that despite these state-sponsored abductions, some of us are still here today. This is to show you the resilience of those they call Nigerians.”
He added that the activists and protesters will not give up until “the country is free” and all the arrested citizens are released, while the crowd repeatedly chanted “yes!” in agreement.
The Middle Belt Forum’s Deputy National Organising Secretary, Ndi Kato, also assured that the protest will be sustained in spite of the “campaign of fear unleashed”.
“We will come out whether bullets are flying. We will come out even if our friends are disappearing. We will come out knowing we may be the one to disappear tomorrow. Every day, we will come out,” she said.
“Today, you are alive. Tomorrow, you may not be. And people will move on because we are used to it. People will move on because no value has been placed on the life of any Nigerian. Your life is worth nothing as long as you are Nigerian.”
Kato appealed to the government to grant freedom to Abubakar Idris ‘Dadiyata’, Stephen Kefas, Sowore, as well as all who have been unlawfully detained in various states but whose cases do not have national coverage.
On Saturday, August 3, Sowore was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) following planned demonstrations in 21 states on August 5. They accused the human rights activist and 2019 presidential candidate of “threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country”.
On Thursday, the Federal High Court granted an ex-parte application by the security agency, filed under the Terrorism Prevention Act, to detain him for up to 45 days.
Kefas, a Kaduna-based journalist, was arrested in May by officers of the Rivers State Police Command for sharing an article, dealing with the death of Kajuru monarch Galadima Maiwada, on Facebook. And Idris, a PDP member popularly called ‘Dadiyata’, was allegedly abducted from his home by DSS operatives in August. His whereabouts and the circumstances leading to his disappearance remain unclear.