Nigerians on Thursday defied the ban on rally as they took to the streets to protest against tariff hike, corruption, hunger and general insecurity while the country marked its 60th independence anniversary.
There was a clampdown on many of the protesters, who were either arrested or brutalised by security agents.
In Abuja, members of the #RevolutionNow Movement, who protested at the United States Embassy in the Federal Capital Territory, lamented the security and socio-economic challenges in the country.
They demanded the resignation of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over increasing insecurity, hunger and corruption.
The campaigners, led by the convener of the movement, Omoyele Sowore, wielded a big banner with the inscription, ‘Buhari has failed,’ and placards, some of which read, ‘Failed leadership has made Nigeria the poverty capital of the world,’ and ‘#RevolutionNow.’
The protesters, who also included #BringBackOurGirls activist, Aisha Yesufu, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, Henry Shield, Adebayo Raphael and Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigerians, among others, criticised what they described as oppression in the land.
Yesufu, in her remarks, said Nigerians must make the nation work, adding that things were becoming unbearable.
Dare-Atoye stated, “In the last 48 hours, a good number of soldiers have been slaughtered and injured. We are not better than those who have died, so why can’t we come out and protest? The only people enjoying Nigeria are the President and his family. A policeman cannot afford to cater for his family.
“Today, we have passed a vote of no confidence in the president and we want to tell them that this is just the beginning. The revolution of the common man is coming.”
Raphael said Nigerians had passed a vote of no confidence in the Federal Government, adding that “under Buhari, our economy is in shambles; under him, hardship has been redefined.”
Adeyanju said Nigerians were dissatisfied with the security and economic conditions in the country, stressing that “Nigeria is not working.”
He observed that soldiers, policemen and other security agents had taken over the Unity Fountain, Maitama, where the rally was supposed to hold.
The activist appealed to the US to place a visa ban on the Director-General of the Department of State Services for clamping down on protesters in Osogbo.
The campaigners also sang solidarity songs and berated the government for failing to address the insecurity in the country.
Punch correspondents gathered that the protest held at Area one, Life Camp, Jabi, Kuje, Kwali, Kubwa and Lugbe areas.
Protest in Ibadan, Oyo State
In Ibadan, Oyo State, angry youths staged a peaceful protest against what they termed the oppressive rule of Buhari. The youth, who are members of the #RevolutionNow Movement and other groups, said Nigerians were suffering despite promises made by the President during electioneering.
The protesters were forced to change the venue of their protest to a filling station along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as armed policemen took over Iwo Road, which they had planned to use for the demonstration.
About 10 police cars and patrol vans were stationed around Under Bridge, Iwo Road, while major streets in Ibadan were also manned by the police to prevent protests in the city.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of South-West had on Wednesday said the police would not allow any procession on October 1. But the protesting youths said the police might have blocked them from using the popular space, they could not stop them from voicing their displeasure on how the country was being run.
The Chairman of #RevolutionNow in Oyo State, Rotimi Ogunlana, said that the hardship, insecurity, corruption among government appointees, had become unbearable for Nigerians.
Another leader of the coalition, Akin Asifat, said October 1 was not worth celebrating.
Protest in Osogbo, Osun State
In Osogbo, Osun State, armed DSS operatives dispersed members of the #RevolutionNow Movement, arresting 11 of them. The youth, however, regrouped around Olaiya area and marched through major streets in Osogbo, calling for an end to bad governance in the country.
The protesters, bearing a large banner with the inscription, ‘Coalition for Revolution: Stop imposing poverty and hardships on people,’ took off at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, Osogbo, few minutes past 9am and moved round Old Garage Roundabout, singing anti-government songs.
While still moving around Old Garage Roundabout, three vehicles carrying DSS men arrived at the scene and the occupants disembarked and chased the protesters. The banner of the protesters was confiscated.
One of those arrested, Omolola Pedro, a student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, was brutalised by three operatives before he was dragged into a waiting vehicle at the Freedom Park, Osogbo.
Two other protesters were arrested by the operatives, while eight others walked to where the DSS men parked their vehicles and requested to be arrested.
Also at the scene, an operative of DSS, who accused PUNCH correspondent of recording activities of the security men, demanded to see his mobile phone and was about to attack him when a senior officer intervened.
All the 11 protesters were made to sit on the ground and were later moved into the back of a security van and driven towards the state command of the DSS.
One of those arrested, Pedro, later informed our correspondent that all 11 protesters were released by the DSS, adding that the security agents said they were making too much noise while being moved into custody.
At the Olaiya area, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, whose vehicle had stopped for the traffic light, told the protesters that if their efforts would correct the ills in the country, he was in support of their action.
The protest leader, Victor Abiodun, alleged that 20 protesters were arrested, adding that they had all been released.
Protest in Benin, Edo State
In Benin, Edo State, the protesters asked the President to either fix the country or resign.
A spokesman for the group, Kola Edokpayi, while addressing journalists on the premises of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, said the country had become an embarrassment in the committee of nations.
Edokpayi noted that the pitiable state of the nation led to mass movements of Nigerian youths to Libya and other crisis-ravaged countries in an attempt to get to Europe.
He said, “If President Buhari lacks the intellectual capacity, the mental capacity, the spiritual ability to lead Nigeria to the promise land, he should honourably resign.”
Protest in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
The police in Rivers State, however, stopped the protest at the Isaac Adaka Boro Park in Port Harcourt.
Several armed policemen in patrol vans barricaded the protest venue around 9am while members of the group gathered, preventing them from going to the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The protesters, who carried placards with the inscription, ‘Revolution Now in Rivers State,’ however insisted that they would carry out the action on a later date.
The leader of the group, Anaiye King, told journalists that the protest was successful despite the action of the police.
Our correspondent, who monitored the demonstration, reports that several civil society organisations in the state joined the protest, aimed at speaking against bad governance in the country.