By Gabriel Dike
The Nigeria Police on Wednesday in Lagos arrested over 35 Joint Action Front (JAF) and some civil society members protesting against recent Federal Government fuel price hike and increase in electricity tariff.
The arrested protesters were taken to Ojuelegba Area C Command in Surulere in over seven police vans and vehicles.
Among those arrested are JAF National Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, JAF Deputy Chairperson, Achike Chude, National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Taiwo, former President, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, National Secretary of SPN, Chinedu Bosah, Abdulsalam Olugbenga, Tiamiyu Olalekan, Dagatola and many activists.
The fuel price hike and electricity tariff protest started at 10.05am from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) office at Yaba with the protesters carrying different banners and placards.
Policemen in about five vans attempted to stop the protest which was resisted by JAF and other civil society members. The security personnel obstructed the protesters by blocking the road with their vans to prevent them from reaching Ojuelegba.
After argument on the right to protest on the street without police permission, the security personnel started to arrest the leaders of the organizers of the protesters. Some of the JAF and civil society protesters asked the police to arrest everybody and later surrounded themselves to the police.
During their arrest and also been taken to Area C Command, the protesters song the solidarity song and raised the placards high while in the police vans.
Some of the arrested protesters told Daily Sun that the police harassed them and forcefully collected the banners and placards.
Before arrest at Ojuelegba, JAF General Secretary, Abiodun Aremu and other civil society members asked Nigerians to resist the increment in fuel price, Value Added Tax (VAT) and electricity tariff.
One of the arrested activist, Mr. Olugbenga said ”the police claim we did not get permit for the protest, but when Ugwummadu told them that we don’t need such for protest as enshrined in the Constitution of the country under the fundamental human rights, supported by the authority of the Court of Appeal, they couldn’t help but to release us. Though, some of us were rough handled and wounded before they eventually make arrest.
”Some media from the nation was also rough handled, dragging his phone from him for taking pictures, but was later left alone.”
He said at Area C: ”The area commander that lead the team initially seek audience from us, and Aremu as the leader of JAF engaged him, but while the discussion was on, some of his men started harassing and even threatened with gun. The area commander retracted back and made some few calls (probably to the CP) and immediately after that, asked his boys to take the banners from us.
”I was holding the main banner with another comrade, but out of fear, he left the banner and moved back. It was probably because I resisted the hijack of our banner that made them rough handled me, and dragged me into their vehicle.”
Last week, police disrupted a similar protest by the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) at Ojuelegba, arrested 18 protesters and four journalists.