- Protesters demand release of Sowore, others
Chiemelie Ezeobi and Sunday Ehigiator
The #RevolutionNow coalition Wednesday simultaneously held a peaceful protest in Lagos, United Kingdom and Italy against the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore, Adebayo Olawale and Agba Jalingo.
Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general election and founder of Sahara Reporters, was arrested for allegedly planning to convene a nationwide protest tagged: #RevolutionNow.
Despite his arrest on the scheduled date, the protest held in some cities in Nigeria, including Lagos.
It was however marred as it was hijacked by hoodlums and invasion by the police, leading to the death of one and arrest of many.
While Sowore was arrested on August 3, Olawale was arrested on August 5 for allegedly participating in #RevolutionNow protest; and Jalingo, a journalist, who was arrested on August 22, has since been charged with treason.
The protesters in UK took their grievances to the Nigerian High Commission, while those in Italy stormed the Nigerian Consulate to make their demands known.
THISDAY gathered that the protest would also hold today at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United State.
According to the group, the protest was part of the global action to demand the unconditional release of those detained without trial.
Although the protest was peaceful in UK and Italy, in Lagos was almost marred when policemen from the state command laid siege at the premises of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Ikeja.
The protest demanding Sowole’s release was billed to kick off from CDHR premises at about 10a.m. yesterday but the deployment of 50 policemen in 10 trucks put a temporary stop to that.
As at press time, the protesters were finally able to carry on their peaceful protest at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
A top CDHR official, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, said the security operatives stormed the premises at 7a.m.
In a statement signed by the group’s Co-convener, Olaseni Ajai, he noted that the police invasion of the protest venue was a signal of darker days ahead.
According to him, “Early in the morning, the police and other security forces invaded the national office of the CDHR and Sahara Reporters Offices, in another desperate attempt to forcefully stop the planned peaceful agitation against the detention of activists without trial.
“The CDHR is a human rights organisation and the Sahara Reporters is a media agency. That their offices could be invaded and sealed in this gestapo- like manner this morning in anticipation of a protest only confirms that the civil rights fought for over the years are crudely being removed by the government.
“The right to speech, associate, protest and even to think is no more guaranteed under this neo-regime.
“However, our agitation for the immediate release of Sowore, Jalingo, Olawale (Mandate) and all others currently being held in Buhari’s detention centres, and for the revolutionary transformation of the country continues.”
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, debunked allegations that the command deployed police to forestall the protesters.
He said: “I am not aware that anyone wanted to protest and police prevented them. What I am aware of is that we had a deployment of police around Lagos.
“The police were primarily deployed to forestall breakdown of law and order across the state, and not to stop any protesters as alleged.”