The police in Lagos on Thursday arrested four journalists, alongside 14 protesters, during a peaceful protest at the Ojuelegba area of the metropolis.
The police officers said they were acting according to an “instruction from above.”
“We are doing our work, that is the instruction given,” one of the police officers who pushed reporters into the police van said.
The arrested journalists are PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Ifeoluwa Adediran; Abiodun Ayeoba of Sahara Reporters; Daniel Tanimu of Galaxy TV and Awoniyi Oluwatosin of ObjecTV.
Despite the reporters showing their identity cards, the aggrieved team led by an officer identified as T.J Fatai, said the arrested journalists alongside the protesters had to be taken to the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja, as this was the instruction.
The three male journalists were manhandled by the police.
The protest which was organised by the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) over the recent increase in fuel price and electricity tariff, and the deregistration of the political party garnered the support of passers-by, traders, and motorists along Yaba to Ojuelegba, where the protest held.
The protest which initially took off at the Tai Solarin Statue, Yaba bus stop around 9:30 a.m. was disrupted by the police.
The group, however, reconvened at the Nigerian Labour Congress, at Yaba where they called on the Ayuba Wabba led NLC to organise a warning strike nationwide against the state of the nation.
Speaking during the protest, Chinedu Bosah, the National Secretary of SPN said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refused to obey a court order which directed SPN and 22 other political parties to be re-registered.
He said the party in power is trying all it can to muzzle opposition.
“If there is any party to be de-registered in this country, it is the APC and PDP, these are the parties that have brought hardship, joblessness and sufferings on the Nigerian people,” he said.
Another leader of the group identified as ‘Comrade’ Bayo said the present government has failed to deliver on its promises for the Nigerian people.
“This government of APC and Buhari came to power deceiving Nigerians that he meant well for us, but five years down the lane, we have seen that he never meant well for the people. Under his government, he continues to increase our burden and we say no to that.”
While the protest progressed from the NLC house at Yaba inward Ojuelegba, police officers had mounted a barricade at Ojuelegba to prevent the protesters from moving into the highway. Not less than four police vans were parked at the junction with officers numbering up to 15.
As the protesters drew near the police officers, some of whom were holding guns, they were undeterred and kept chanting solidarity songs. Seeing the increase in support for the protesters near Ojuelegba under bridge, the officers resorted to arresting some of their leaders.
However, the arrest did not come easy as the protesters kept shouting at the top of their voices, now, with support from other citizens.
“Round them up, arrest them,” the police officer who led the team said, while the protesters kept sharing fliers.
After a prolonged confrontation with the protesters, the police was able to arrest a number of them, while journalists and other protesters followed them to the Area C Police Command where the arrested protesters were taken.
The visit by journalists and others to the command was short-lived as the team leader, Mr Fatai, ordered the seizure of cameras and phones and arrest of journalists using them.
The surprised journalists, alongside the protesters, were transported to the police command, Ikeja in the police vehicles.
“You cannot use your phones for security reasons when you get to the command, you will explain that you are journalists,” Mr Fatai defended his actions.
After a long wait at the police command, the journalists were freed by the police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi.
While journalists were set free at the command, the 14 arrested protesters were transported to the Lagos State mobile court, Oshodi where they faced a magistrate.
Some of the arrested protesters include Dagga Tolar, an SPN member; Hassan Taiwo Soweto, the National Youth Coordinator; Chinedu Bosah; the National Secretary, Ayo Ademiluyi, the legal counsel for the party, and several others.
They were arraigned on a one-count charge “for conduct likely to cause public disorderliness”.
Mr Soweto told PREMIUM TIMES that they all pleaded not guilty and the prosecutor then withdrew the case.
“The case was struck out and 14 protesters released. We were placed under caution, but we remain undaunted,” he said.