No plan to arrest protest leaders – FG

THE presidency on Sunday denied giving orders for the arrest of the key leaders of the mass protests against the removal of the subsidy on petrol.

There was widespread speculation at the weekend that President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered the arrest of the convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare; Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana; the former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye; and human rights activist, Shehu Sani, for their roles in the mass protests that paralysed activities in most part of the country throughout last week.

The speculation was further fuelled by a report on an online publication on Sunday that Jonathan had ordered the arrest of the activists.

But Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, told one of our correspondents that the said report was “a lie and only existed in the imagination of the authors.”

The State Security Service and the Police also denied knowledge of any order from the Presidency asking them to arrest the activists.

The Deputy Director, Media and Public Relations, SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said the Service was not aware of such order from the presidency.

“The DSS has no such directive because Nigerians have been protesting and there is no record that we arrested or planned to arrest anyone,” she said.

The Force Headquarters also dismissed the report, saying it did not receive any instruction to arrest the activists.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sola Amore, said he had no knowledge of such a thing.

Both the spokesman for the SNG, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and the Administrator of the Latter Rain Assembly, Biola Adeyoola, said late on Sunday that Bakare had not been arrested.

Odumakin told one of our correspondents that “nothing like that has happened. He (Bakare) is alright.”

“He was in church today. We have been hearing the rumour since around 8.00am but I can tell you that he is not under arrest,” Adeyoola said on the telephone.

She explained that no letter had been received from any security agency, inviting the cleric to be their guest.

Falana, who was also rumoured to have been arrested, responded to our correspondent’s telephone call on Sunday, indicating that he had not been picked up by security operatives.

The Campaign for Democracy president,   Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin,   said on Sunday that the President would become a dictator if he ordered the arrest of protesters.

Okei-Odumakin, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the protests had been peaceful, warning the government not to arrest those organising them.

Condemning the alleged planned arrest, Okei-Odumakin said that it was “a sign of desperation by a regime whose back has been pushed to the wall by the will of the people.

“Even during military dictatorship people had the right to protest, to air their views, not to talk of a civilian government. They should go ahead and arrest.”

The CD president said that almost 20 people had been killed by security agents since the fuel subsidy protests started, stressing that Nigerians would not allow the 20 dead victims to die in vain.

“Whatever we are doing, we are not violent. We conduct our protests in an orderly manner. The whole world is watching. If such a move (arrest) is made it shows Jonathan is returning Nigeria to a pariah state.”

“Jonathan must call his men to order. As a responsible and responsive leader, he must listen to the voice of the people. We are returning to Ojota tomorrow (today).” she said.

Odumakin also vowed that the killers of the 20 protesters would be brought before the International Criminal Court.
by Ademola Oni, Olalekan Adetayo and Adelani Adepegba
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