Protests Rock Abuja on Independence Day Celebration

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Activists yesterday embarked on an Independence Day protest in Abuja shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation in commemoration of Nigeria’s 61st Independence anniversary.

This is as protesters under the aegis of #RevolutionNow and TakeItBack Movement yesterday, stormed the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota, Lagos.

The anti-government protesters, bearing ‘Buhari Must Go’ placards, set up barricades at Lugbe on the International Airport Road and forced commuters to use alternative roads.

They demanded the resignation of the president for enacting anti-people policies and for failing to provide the appropriate response to the country at the time it was facing unprecedented security challenges.

However, the protest was short-lived as the activists, which mainly comprised youth scampered in different directions when policemen stationed along the Airport Road to forestall any possible Shiite protest, arrived at the scene.

The policemen led by ASP Altine Daniel, released several canisters of tear gas to disperse the protesters. It was gathered that many of the protesters were injured while five persons were arrested, roundly beaten by the police for illegal assembly before they were bundled into a police van that was driven to FCT Police Command in Area 11.

Policemen and soldiers manned strategic spots in Abuja yesterday while all roads leading to Eagle Square were condoned to prevent access to civil rights protesters and members of the Shiite sect.

Shehu Shagari Road, the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Secretariat along Ahmadu Bello Way were also barricaded.

In the same manner, there was a vehicular logjam along the Abuja-Keffi Road that trapped many motorists around Nyanya.

The gridlock was occasioned by barricades set up by security operatives to forestall the Shiite protesters, who on Wednesday confronted security operatives in a bloody clash from taking advantage and gaining access into Abuja via the Mararaba-Nyanya axis.

As a result, many motorists spent several agonizing hours in the traffic snarl even though the day was a recognised national public holiday.

Meanwhile, a stirring outing by the different military, paramilitary platoons and the cultural troupe, Abuja held many spellbound as Nigeria commemorated its 61st Independence Day anniversary.

Yesterday’s occasion at the Eagle Square, Abuja, was graced by the Special Guest of Honour, President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, Speaker House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, all the Service Chiefs and the members of the diplomatic corps.

Former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and former President Goodluck Jonathan also graced the occasion.

President Buhari carried out the inspection of the guards while there was a march past in slow and quick time by the Armed Forces and the paramilitary.

Some commissioned officers from Brigade of Guards performed the Armed Forces Colour Patrol, while another platoon from the Brigade of Guards commanded by Lt. Hamza Musa performed the silent drill.

The highlight of the Independence Day celebration was the cultural display by the Adila Troupe, which transited to contemporary entertainment and joint performance with the Military Mass Band.

It was followed by the traditional 21 artillery gun salutes and national salutes before the celebration was called off by the parade commander.

According to protesters in Lagos, they came out to register their grouse against challenges of insecurity, stagnant economy, police brutality, and lawlessness bedeviling the nation.

Ironically, the protest held despite police denial that no such protest was slated to commemorate the independence day celebration.

The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, had on Thursday told journalists that the command was not aware of any impending protests since no letter of notification was sent to the command.

Though he acknowledged the citizen’s right to protest, he opined that the command ought to have been notified so security could be provided to prevent miscreants from hijacking the protest.

At the protest, the teeming crowd were chanting and singing solidarity songs while displaying their numerous placards which spelt out their demands.

The protest was peaceful as the command quickly mobilised and deployed its operatives including the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).