• 40 protesters arrested, 11 released, in Lagos, Osun
• Activists march in Oyo, Edo, Lagos, Osun, Rivers, others
• IPOB’s sit-at-home order partial success in S’East, Rivers
• Gowon, Jonathan, others join Buhari to mark anniversary
• SERAP flays attacks on journalists, peaceful protesters
Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary was yesterday marked with mixed feelings. While Aso Rock, the seat of presidential power, was making comely speeches and throwing banters, major states of Southwest, South South, Southeast and Federal Calital Territory (FCT), Abuja recorded protests, most of which culminated in a brush with security agents, especially the Police and the Department of State Service (DSS).
President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his national broadcast to mark the occasion, expressed commitment to enthroning firm democratic values in the electoral system. Apparently basking in the euphoria of the seamless outcome of the recent Edo State governorship elections, Buhari said he was poised to strengthen institutions to make them stronger in protecting national interest.
PROMINENT among those that attended the 60th Independence Day celebration were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), and former President Goodluck Jonathan. They were the only past Nigerian leaders that joined President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Eagle Square to celebrate the anniversary.
Also at the event were former Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya (rtd), and former Vice President Namadi Sambo. The former leaders accompanied the President to sign anniversary register to mark the end of the ceremony, which held amid military fanfare.
Top members of the Buhari administration, members of the diplomatic corps, among other invited guests also witnessed the ceremony. At the commencement of the event, Buhari, joined by the Commander of the Guards Brigade in an open van, inspected a guard of honour mounted by officers and men of Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, and paramilitary organisations. The day was also marked with display of traditional dances, in addition to performances by military and civilian artistes.
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The highpoint of the ceremony was the Nigerian Air Force display of fighter aircraft, which was however moderated due to bad weather around the Eagle Square.
The fly past by Nigerian Air Force was led by two Agusta helicopters, both actively involved in combat operations, one of which bore the banner of the theme of the celebration.
The helicopters were followed by three Alpha jets used for combat operations in ECOMOG, Northern Mali, and Niger Delta operations, among others. The air force officials at the venue explained that the fly past was not as elaborate as planned because of low clouds at the Eagle Square.
Twenty-one (21) gunshots were fired by a detachment of men of the Nigerian Army Artillery Regiment to bring the event to a close
But the president’s assurances and message of socio-political and economic revival was not enough to forestall #RevolutionNow Movement from holding pockets of protests in capital cities of Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Edo, Rivers and other states, leading to arrest of at least 40 activists in Lagos and Osun states. A few others sustained injuries as DSS and the police sought to stop the protests.
FOLLOWING the dramatic protests, Lagos-based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday condemned attacks on peaceful activists and journalists covering the protests.
It said there was physical assault on a photojournalist, Olukayode Jaiyeola, by men of the Lagos State Police Command. During the incident, Security agents reportedly arrested over 30 protesters.
In the melee that followed the attack, Jaiyeola, who was part of journalists covering the October 1 protest, was brutalised at the Maryland area of Lagos.
The incident happened around 12 noon, when a policeman, Innocent Adadu, allegedly hit Jaiyeola’s head with a baton. Jaiyeola’s colleague, Deji Lambo, a reporter who was at the scene, said Adadu hit Jaiyeola with such force that the photojournalist collapsed immediately, with blood gushing out of his injured skull.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, in a statement, said Nigerian authorities should immediately stop persistent attacks on protesters and journalists and end repression on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Eleven members of the #RevolutionNow movement were also arrested by the DSS in Osogbo, Osun State capital, during a peaceful protest against what they described as harsh policies implemented by the President Buhari-led government.
The peaceful protesters of Coalition of Revolution (CORE) movement told journalists that they were brutalised by heavily armed security operatives. Officials of the secret police had been on the trail of the protesters when they gathered at the Old Garage area of Osogbo in the morning.
The protesters, who later gathered at the popular Olaiya area to continue their march against the situation in the country, were dispersed, arrested and brutalised by the DSS. They accused the operatives of beating and arresting 11 members of the group during the protest. The arrested members were later released.
One of the arrested protesters said that they were pushed out of the DSS’ vehicles as the operatives took two of their phones, money, placards and other items.
Speaking for the group, Owoeye Olaoluwa, a member of “Take it Back Movement,” condemned the recent hike in price of petrol and electricity tariffs and called for reversal.
“We are here to say that the porous regime of Buhari should resign with immediate effect, and we are not calling for it with double-minded hearts. We are calling for immediate resignation because we cannot continue with this act of indiscipline; we cannot continue with this act of corruption. We cannot continue with this act of fuel hike; we cannot continue with this act of electricity hike.
“We are (calling for) immediate and unconditional release of the materials that have been taken such as our phones, money. We are also calling for probe of the battery regime, the DSS head; we are saying that he should withdraw his neck from this unruly act that they perpetrate against Nigerians. They should do that within 24 hours, or else, they are going to see us on the streets again,” Olaoluwa added.
IN Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, protesters, under the aegis of #RevolutionNow, staged peaceful march, demanding good governance and end to insecurity.
The protesters staged activities at the Mokola area of the state capital before heading towards Sango axis. At Mokola, they were gently dispersed by police officers manning the area. They carried placards bearing various inscriptions such as “Nigeria is sinking, we need to stabilise the ship, it is an emergency,” “They are killing our gallant soldiers in a war created by some corrupt leaders to enrich themselves,” “Oga Police, it is your job to protect, not to intimidate, protesters, we are all affected,” “Sack all service chiefs, provide standard weapons,” Boko Haram sponsors must be brought to book,” “Provide standard weapons and increase salary of all recruits fighting on the frontline,” “ Prioritise facilitation of our campuses more than the National Assembly,” and others.
Leader of the protest in the area, Comrade Gabriel Ogunlana, who spoke with The Guardian, said: “We are here to embark on this landmark protest organised by #Revolution Now under the leadership of Comrade Omoyele Sowore and on behalf of the people. We are marching out to register our grievances against challenges facing citizens of Nigeria. At this point in time, we are resolute. We demand quality healthcare, quality education and adequate security for all. We want a working system devoid of subjugation. We demand a system where no Nigerian will be subsumed. We are demanding a country where nobody will be a second-class citizen. Tell them that the situation of the country demands the intervention of a good system devoid of corruption.”
THE situation was not any different in Benin, the Edo State capital, as activists, comprising members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSO), converged at the Benin City Kingsquare to decry the state of the nation under successive governments and the current leadership of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Convener and President of Talakawa Parliament, Kola Edokpayi and President, Network of Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (NOCSON), Barr. Abraham Oviawe, in their separate remarks, lamented the unfriendly policies of successive governments in the country citing failed promises resulting in failure to address the nation’s woes.
Edokpayi, who noted that government had failed to meet the yearnings of the masses, accused President Buhari of insensitivity to the plight of the common man.He expressed worry over hike in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol, as well as the alarming rate of unemployment and poverty in the country. They called for a reversal of what he described as “draconian policies” of government.
The protesters who brandished placards with inscriptions such as, “End Poverty in Nigeria now,” “The poor have rights too,” Kill Corruption Dead” and “Make Nigeria Poverty Free,” urged government to address all issues militating against quality leadership and development.
Edokpayi said Nigerians were dissatisfied with the ailing country under successive governments and called on the APC-led federal government to wake up to its responsibility, and take the welfare of Nigerians seriously considering that, after 60 years of independence, the country should enjoy dividends of democracy.
Rivers residents protest, say Nigeria in mess at 60
MEANWHILE, there was visible anger on faces of Rivers State residents, yesterday, as the country celebrated its 60th independent anniversary.
Instead of the usual green and white colour marking national events like Independence Day celebration, many residents wore black clothing and marched through the streets describing Nigeria as “a mess at 60.”
The Guardian observed that others adhered to the ‘Sit-at-home order’ declared by the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as most of the shops in Ikoku, Mile 3 and Mile One markets remained closed.
Civil Society Organisations, activists and ordinary citizens also gathered at Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt, for a peaceful protest to Government House, but were prevented from getting to the Brick House by officers of the Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Police Force. However, speaking at the park, one of the activists, Ken Henshaw, said, citizens were tired of the country as a result of insecurity, poverty, insurgency; the reasons different ethnic nationalities wanted to pull out of the country.
“What kind of country is this? Everyone wants to pull out and the country is daily sliding into anarchy and chaos due to insecurity, hunger, and insurgency. At what point do we stop this mess, and if we don’t act now, when do we act?
“Nigeria is a mess at 60, we need to rise up, it’s 60 years of ineptitude, destruction, pollution, corruption, 60 years of deadness,” he stated.
Similarly, the member representing Degema/ Bonny Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Farah Dagogo, described Nigeria’s Diamond Golden jubilee celebration as “60 years of abject poverty, lamentations and crude form of modern slavery for the people of the Niger Delta.”He accused federal and state governments, as well as oil multinationals of subjecting the people “to the most inhumane living conditions ever imagined.”
He said since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, old Rivers State (now Bayelsa State) in 1958, the people of the region had regrettably been the worse for it.
He said the ‘paltry’ 13 per cent derivation revenue for oil producing communities had not been judiciously utilised by both past and present governors who have turned it to free money, while the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) “has become a corrupt vessel recreated to pander to the whims and caprices of politicians and influential Nigerians who are in the habit of planting Board and Management staff for themselves.”
IT was partial success for the sit-at-home order declared by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in parts of Anambra State as majority of traders in markets and streets refused to open shops.
The governor, Willie Obiano, had, ahead of the Independence anniversary celebration, said the event would be low-key in the state. The Guardian visited the popular Ekwueme Square, where the event had always been marked and discovered it was a ghost of its former self as no event held there.
The usual public gathering that attracted participation of public servants and other groups was not in place.
The Guardian, on visiting Agbaedo Nnewi, Main Market, Onitsha and environs, discovered that traders completely shut down the markets. The ever-busy Onitsha-Awka Expressway recorded skeletal vehicular traffic.
At Eke-Awka Main Market, a handful of traders who shut their stalls were hanging and idling around while speaking excitedly about the near total compliance with the order.
Emeka Ibegbunam Okafor, one of the traders, told The Guardian that he was not sure if the reason why many of the shops which had remained closed up till 11 am was due to early morning down pour, which forced the traders to remain at home or in obedience to the order.
At the Old Market and its adjourning New Market road, it was discovered that the ever busy Emeka Ofor plaza, Ejison Plaza, Bright street main market were ghost of themselves as they were completely locked down and deserted.
In a Facebook post, one Pastor Vincent Mbonu Osakwe, reacted this way: “Yes, Nigeria is no more playing the role of a nation or a country. A nation plays the role of a home to its indigenes but Nigeria has (purportedly) allowed strangers to come in through the government in power, embarked on alleged killing spree of the indigenous people.
“And if we keep silent, the world will wake up one morning and all the indigenous people in Nigeria will be killed as the Fulani in Africa want Nigeria as a home. The former president of America, Hussein Barrack Obama initiated this.”
Reacting to the event, the spokesman of IPOB, Emma Powerful declared the sit-at-home as a success and appreciated all those who obeyed the sit at home.
In a statement signed by Powerful, the group’s Media and Publicity officer, on behalf of the IPOB’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, said: “Today’s Sit at home order issued by the global movement of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on 1st of October 2020 is totally successful in so many states and cities in Biafraland.
“All states in Biafraland complied with the order, Abia State, Rivers state, Ebonyi State, Anambra State, Imo state Delta state and other states in Biafraland.
“The compliance level is to showcase our readiness for the speedy coming of Biafra freedom and independence.
“There are empty markets, roads, no vehicles on the road of Biafra and Biafrans all over the world are on the streets of their respective countries where they find themselves with our brethren from Oduduwa nation.
“We thank our people in South Africa, USA, Canada, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Australia and other countries of the world for their resoluteness and declared to the world over that we are no longer interested in Nigeria. The whole world must understand that IPOB cannot go back to Nigeria.
“This is our joint outing with Oduduwa nation across the globe, therefore everybody must understand and be sure that the disintegration of this British bondage called Nigeria will be dissolve in peace,” the statement added.
The Guardian monitored the compliance in South Africa where members of IPOB and Oduduwa staged peaceful protests on the streets of South Africa, yesterday, when they requested the South African government to support Oduduwa Nation and Biafra Nation in their quest for self-determination.
Some of their placards read: “South Africa we want to go home but you must support our call for referendum,” “We are tired of Nigeria we want United Nations supervised Referendum,” “Self determination is our legitimate right,” “Nigerian government stop killing indigenous people,’’ and “A call for referendum is not a call for war, let us determine our collective existence through referendum.”
SERAP flays attacks on journalists, peaceful protesters
SERAP expressed concerns about Nigerian authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent and growing repression and restrictions on the ability of the press to cover protests. “This is not consistent with the attitude of a government celebrating 60 years of independence.”
According to SERAP, Nigerians have every reason to peacefully protest repression, and the government of President Buhari has constitutional and international obligations to allow them to do so safely.
Nigerian authorities, the group said, must immediately and unconditionally release those still being detained simply for exercising their human rights.
According to SERAP, “Nigerian authorities have the duty to ensure safety of journalists covering protests and to guarantee the right of the public to seek and receive information about these protests.
“Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Nigeria has ratified both treaties,” the group added.
SERAP further called on the international community and the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to publicly condemn these violations and to hold Nigerian authorities to account for systematic violation of human rights, including rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Wike calls for return to true federalism
RIVERS State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the decision to blatantly jettison fundamental principles of negotiated constitutional regional autonomy by the Federal Government shortly after independence had continued to cause instability in Nigeria
The governor said the country’s development would remain stunted without strong institutions that would promote devolution of power. Wike made the assertion during the celebration at Government House, Port Harcourt. He said it was time for Nigerians to confront core political and economic issues that hamper sustainable growth. According to him, to put Nigeria on the path of progressive growth, the rule of law, a fraud-proof electoral system, an effective neutrality of law enforcement agencies and independence of the judiciary should be put in place.
“We may gloat in the limited progress that we have made since independence. It is true that we have achieved relative expansion in access to education, healthcare and the socio-economic infrastructure. But if we fail to give consideration to the serious challenges preventing us, we cannot build a free, fair and just nation that will command the total loyalty of all nationalities.
“Let us therefore, resolve to take the right step to institutionalise the necessary constitutional and political systems that will enable us to build a free, sovereign democratic and functional nation,” he said.