Police fire tear gas in ‘Democracy Day’ protests

The police on Saturday shot teargas to disperse protesters in the Gudu area of Abuja and Ojota area of Lagos as the country marked Democracy Day on June 12.

Nigerian police were reported to have fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in Lagos and the capital, Abuja, with incidences of arrests and injuries.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Lagos and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. The protesters carried banners and placards saying “Buhari Must Go”, calling for reforms.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Lagos, said the protest march in Lagos “started peacefully and in an organised fashion, with demonstrators chanting pro-democracy songs”.

“The police were deployed in large numbers here in Lagos and in other parts of Nigeria in anticipation of trouble on this day,” he added. “When the demonstrators breached the first line of defence of the police, the second and the third, the police started firing tear gas at them and journalists at the scene. Later, there were live rounds fired in the air.”

In Abuja, a similar scenario played out as the protesters gathered as early as 7am (06:00 GMT).

A detachment of police and army broke up the crowd using tear gas, AFP news agency reporters at the scene said, adding that some journalists were harassed by the security forces.

The Unity Fountain in Abuja, which is a popular venue for protests in the nation’s capital, had been shy of protesters as of 8:15am.

However, at the Millennium Park just opposite the fountain, a few individuals wearing branded T-shirts with the inscription ‘I Stand With Buhari’ had pooled together.

They were reportedly to later embark on a road walk to mark Democracy Day.

Police had said the protests were unauthorised and AFP reporters said they saw several people being detained.

Officers were also seen smashing mobile phones confiscated from protesters, some of whom criticised the government’s decision to suspend access to Twitter after the social media platform removed a post by Buhari.

Similar protests were held across the country on Saturday. There were also pockets of protests in Ibadan, Osogbo, Abeokuta and Akure, all in southwestern Nigeria.

In Oyo,the Democracy Day protests held at Mokola, Ibadan amid heavy police presence. As at 10am, the protest was peaceful as protesters continued to trickle into the venue.

In Ondo, young people also gathered at the NEPA roundabout in Akure, Ondo State. Reporters also observed protests in Osun state.

Meanwhile, protesters failed to converge at the August 27 stadium in Damaturu, Yobe on Saturday.

The protesters had been expected to converge at the stadium before taking to the streets as part of a nationwide protest tagged ‘Buhari must go’.

However, as of 9am on Saturday, our correspondent observed that no single protester had arrived at the venue.

Buhari, a former general first elected as president in 2015, has been under pressure over growing insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation, home to more than 200 million people.

Security forces are battling an armed uprising in the northeast, a surge in mass kidnappings and attacks by criminal gangs in the northwest, and a rise in separatist tensions in the southeast.

The government also triggered an outcry a week ago when it indefinitely suspended Twitter in the country, saying the platform was used for activities aiming to destabilise Nigeria.

Saturday’s demonstrations were called to coincide with “Democracy Day”, marking the anniversary of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola’s election as Nigerian president in 1993.

 

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