• As Police avert protests across states
• We won’t back down -Protesters
By Lawrence Olaoye Abuja, Osaigbovo Iguobaro Benin and Uche Nnorom Makurdi
The Presidency has said that the sponsors of RevolutionNow who planned nationwide protests yesterday have failed with majority of the populace shunning their call.
In a statement made available to newsmen by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency said the call for revolution was rejected by even the frontline opposition elements in the country.
The statement noted that millions of people went about their normal businesses indicating the they have opted to defend democracy and the government they voted into power.
Shehu wrote, “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.’’
Meanwhile, several protesters were arrested at the National Stadium in Lagos yesterday after a crowd gathered to begin #RevolutionNow, a series of planned protests against bad governance in Nigeria.
The protesters started to assemble at the stadium in Surulere as early as 8.am, but met a battery of armed police officers who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
More than 20 police patrol vehicles and armoured personnel carriers, as well as anti-riot and civil defence officers and operatives of the Military Joint Taskforce, were stationed at the two main entrance to the stadium.
According to reports, at least nine people were arrested and taken away by the police.
In Abuja, despite a heavy downpour of rain for several hours yesterday, a few protesters defied the rainy situation and assembled in front of the National Human Rights Commission’s office.
The protesters changed “Freedom comes by struggle by struggle” and demanded the release of Mr Sowore.
One of the protesters, who identified himself as Comrade Raphael, addressed the protesters.
“We have gathered here because we know that Nigeria is in danger,” he said.
“We have decided that every part of the country must participate in the Revolution Now protest,” he added.
Another protester, who identified himself as Comrade Ariyo, condemned the government for tagging the protest a violent one.
In Benue, the State Police Command yesterday employed drastic measures to avert any protest in the state as a result of the arrest of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters Omoyele Sowore by the Department of Security Service at the weekend.
Our correspondent reports that the State Police Headquarters located close to the DSS office and also, on the same way to the State Government House, Makurdi was barricaded with Police vehicles and heavily armed officers.
Similarly, an Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC was stationed at the Wurukum round about which connects the north to the south even as siren blaring police cars were seen patrolling Makurdi, the state capital.
Spokesperson of the Command, DSP Catherine Anene told newsmen that they have deployed enough men across the state to forestall any protest, noting that so far there had been no such incident.
“We sent out signals to all the area commands to beef up security in their domain to ensure that no protest take place. As I speak with you, there has been no reported case of any prorest”, Anene said.
In Edo State, a combined team of armed security operatives on Monday took over sit-out centres in Benin metropolis in a bid to prevent civil society members and other Nigerians from embarking on the nationwide protests tagged “#RevolutionNow protest.
The security operatives mounted surveillance on the Museum ground at King Square in Benin and campuses of tertiary institutions as well as some media houses in Benin City, Edo State capital.
Anti-riot Policemen attached to the Command and the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) also laid siege at the premises of the Bendel Newspapers Company Limited (BNCL), publishers of the Nigerian Observer.
The heavy security presence at the various locations, sent jitters down the spines of some civil society members who had showed up for the protest.
“But, they did not harass law abiding citizens or hinder journalists from doing their job,” Our reporter reports.
But, a member of the civil society who pleaded anonymity, said the police and DSS want then to call-off the protest.
Defending the action of the security operatives, the Commissioner of Police, Edo State, Mr Danmallam Mohammed, said there was no cause for alarm.
He said, police acted swiftly to avert breakdown of law and order in line with its mandate as provided in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He stated that arrest has been made in connection with the protest as at the time of filing this report.
Reports said in Ibadan, a combined team of security operatives Monday morning took over the main entrance of the University of Ibadan to preempt the protest.
The officers from the police, State Security Service, Nigerian Army, NSCDC and Oyo State combined security team codenamed “Operation Burst” had, as early as 6;30 a.m. taken over the gate in anticipation of the protest march.
However, the security agents did not prevent movement despite their heavy presence.
Police spokesperson in the state, Olugbenga Fadeyi, in a statement made available to the media yesterday, said the police would not fold their arms and allow any group to cause anarchy in the state.
Mr Fadeyi in the statement described the group behind the planned public action as illegal.
However, the Coalition for Revolution has 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.”