Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Six rights activists were on Wednesday morning arrested by the personnel of the Department of State Security (DSS) in Ibadan, Oyo State, before and during ‘Otoge’ rally, which was staged against the killings and kidnapping in South West of Nigeria
The rally was staged by Yoruba groups that include Yoruba Koya Leadership and Training Foundation, Voice of Reason (VOR), Citizens Right Advancement Movement, Campaign for Democracy, Committee for Defence of Human Rights, Human Right Herald, Amil Cabra School, Rocham, Yusepo, and so on.
Mr. Maxwell Adeleye, Coordinator, Yoruba Koya Leadership and Training Foundation, in a telephone chat with journalists, confirmed the arrest of members of the Yoruba groups that took part in the rally by officers of DSS.
The rally was scheduled to take place in Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara states as part of activities to commemorate the June 12 anniversary.
As soon as the people that took part in the rally were gathering for the commencement of the exercise at the junction of Oyo State Government House and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Agodi, Ibadan, some personnel of DSS came and arrested two among the leaders of the rally. One of the leaders arrested by the DSS was Dr. Tunde Hamsat.
The arrest dealt a great blow to the rally as the it could not start on time. But other participants stayed behind and remobilised themselves. However, the Yoruba groups were about to start the rally when men of DSS ordered them to disperse peacefully and that they would not be allowed to stage the rally in front of the Government House.
Members of the groups complied and decided to stage the rally elsewhere. As they were moving away from the meeting point towards Total Garden, they brought out their placards, the men of DSS, Nigerian Army and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) pounced on the participants and forcefully dispersed them. In the process, the DSS arrested another two members of the groups and whisked them away.
One of the persons arrested during the rally was Akeem Lawal, fondly called ‘Aluta’ of Committee for Defence of Human rights. Two among the participants that ran into Lister area opposite the secretariat of Oyo State Independent National Electoral Commission (OYSIEC), were also said to have been arrested, making a total of six persons arrested.
The inscriptions on the placards they displayed commended President Muhammadu Buhari for making June 12 Democracy Day and condemning the killings and kidnappings in Yorubaland by criminals suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, especially on Ibadan-Ilesha-Akure Road.
But one of the leaders of the rally, Mr. Laoye Sanda, who is the President, Citizens Rights Advancement Movement, said efforts had been made to secure the release of the arrested members of the groups.
He said the aborted rally was organised by the Federation of Human Rights Movement in Oyo State, saying the exercise was put together to demand, among other things the immediate stoppage of killings and kidnapping by herdsmen; he called on South West governors to reject the proposed cattle ranches, demand true federalism, salute Simbiat Abiola, first wife of the late Chief MKO Abiola, as a role model for Nigerian women, demand replacement of Arabic script on Nigerian Army logo, as well as Arabic script on Nigerian currencies with Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba languages.
“We frown at the incipient Arabism in Nigeria and wonder why the logo of Nigerian Army, the N200, N500, and N1,000 currencies should be written in Arabic scripts. They should be replaced by Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba scripts since Nigerians are Africa people. We, therefore, call on our dear President Muhammadu Buhari to order an immediate substitution with these three Nigerian principal languages,” Sanda stated.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer for the Oyo State police command, Mr. Olugbenga Fadeyi, said he could not make comment on the incident because he had not been properly briefed on it. He, however, promised to get details of the development so that he could make an informed comment on the rally.