By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Armed Policemen of Lagos State Police Command yesterday, arrested no fewer than 14 protesters and four journalists during an anti-fuel and electricity tariff hike protest and forcefully dispersed the protesters at Ojuelegba area of the state.
The protest was organized by leaders of the Lagos Chapels the Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, National Conscience Party of Nigeria, NCP, and Campaign for Workers Democratic Rights, CWDR, to protest the recent hike the in the pump price of Petrol, increase in electricity tariff and perceived de-registration of some political parties including SPN and NCP.
Those arrested were National Youth Leader of SPN, Chinedu Bossah, SPN’s National Executive member, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Dagga Tolar, Christopher Harry, Abisoye Kosoko, Tunde Yusuf, Akande Abiola, Ayo Ademiluyi, Ifeanyi Onwunalu, Davy Fidel, Adetunji Gbenga, Usman Khadijat, Moshood Oshunfurewa and Taiwo Alao.
The Journalists were Ifeoluwa Adediran of Premium times, Abiodun Ayeoba of Saharara reporters, Awoniyi Oluwatosin of Objectv media and Daniel Tanimu of Galaxy TV.
The peaceful protest which took-off at the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, sub-national secretariat, Jejuosho, Yaba, was without incident until the protesters got to Ojuelegba.
At Ojulegba, the policemen, it was gathered, from Area C swooped on the protesters from different directions including those following them from Tejuosho, and surrounded the protesters.
One of the leaders of the protesters, and Chairman of CWDR, Rufus Olusesan, told Vanguard that the leader of the policemen ordered the protesters “to surrender their protest materials including posters, handbills and banners, but we refused and told them that the constitution guarantees us the right to peaceful protest.
The policemen started cocking their guns, threatening to shoot us and ordered us to seat on the floor. That was how 14 of us and four journalists were arrested, crammed in a Police van and taken to Area C. From Area C, our arrested colleagues including the four journalists were taken to Police Headquarters, Ikeja. It was at the Police headquarters that the four journalists were released.”
Vanguard gathered that the arrested protesters were accused of breaching the state social distancing protocol of COVID-19 and had been taken to Oshodi office of State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation.”
At the time of this report, it was gathered that police officials were preparing to arraign the protesters.
Condemning their arrest, umbrella body for Pro-Labour civil Society organisatios, Joint Action Front, JAF, demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
JAF in a statement by its Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, among others, said its attention had been drawn to illegal arrest of comrades from SPN, and others by police and security operatives of the Area C Command.
Journalists who were covering the event were also arrested alongside the leaders and members of SPN for protesting this morning against fuel price hike, electricity tariff and the deregistration of SPN. JAF hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of all the arrested comrades and the journalists who did no wrong exercising their legitimate and constitutional rights of expression and protest.”
Similarly, SPN in a statement by its National Chairperson, Abiodun Bamigboye, said “SPN condemns the unjust arrest of members and journalists for protesting against anti-poor policies by the Buhari Government.
We demand for immediate release of all arrested protesters. We demand an end to violation of human rights under Buhari government. The SPN strongly condemns the brutalisation and arrest of members of our party and journalists by officers of the Nigerian Police Force.
The arrested SPN members and leaders were on a peaceful protest today in Lagos to demand immediate reversal of the obnoxious increase in electricity tariff and fuel price by the Buhari/APC government, and for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to respect the judgment of the Appeal Court by relisting SPN and other political parties.
The arrested people include the National Secretary of the SPN, Chinedu Bossah, National Youth Leader of SPN, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, SPN National Executive member, Dagga Tolar, and about 11 others, as well as four journalists with Galaxy TV, Saharatv, Premium Times and Objectv. Cameras and phones of the journalists have been seized and destroyed while all arrested were physically brutalized.
“We demand the immediate release of all arrested, public apology from the police and payment of medical bills and other damages to those arrested. The unjust arrest today again reveals the despotic character of the Buhari/APC government and further betrays its anti-democratic and anti-masses character.
While the government is launching attacks on economic rights of the working and poor people, it, at the same time, wants to deny them democratic rights to express their minds. It also exposes the desperate attempt of the Nigerian ruling class to ensure Nigerians are shortchanged and denied of a genuine political voice like the SPN.
Obviously, the Buhari government knows that its rule is no more popular, given serial attacks on the living conditions of the people, mismanagement of the economy, and massive corruption going on in the government.
Earlier before the kick-off of the protest at NLC office in Yaba, leaders of the protesters had berated the hikes in pump price of petrol and electricity tariff, saying among others, “We call on the mass of the working people to reject in its entirety the recent increases of fuel price and electricity tariff by the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
Despite privatizing the power sector in November 2013, the government has invested over $20 billion and still plans to spend another $6 billion while the power companies have failed to invest but continuously steal from the people through outrageous estimated billing, sale of prepaid meters at exorbitant prices, poor electricity supply and incessant tariff hike.
“The full weight of the labour movement is needed to challenge this anti-poor regime and resist these attacks. We call on the leadership of the two labour centres, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, to mobilize for a 48-hour general strike as the beginning of a series of sustained mass actions to resist these attacks and neo-liberal policies.
What the working people of Nigeria are up against is an entrenched system of class exploitation called capitalism. What has been missing and still needed is a mass working people’s political alternative with a programme of how to defeat the entire capitalist system beyond winning one or two concessions.”