The Nigerian government, fearing mass protests against its blatant rigging of the April state and national elections, attempted to clamp down on any sign of active opposition at the Mayday rallies held across the country. Activists were arrested and opposition political material confiscated from them by security forces.
In Lagos, there are newspaper reports that up to 80 people were arrested, many by the State Security Service (SSS), a secretive body left largely unchanged since military rule ended in 1999. The day before the rallies, Nigeria’s police chief threatened that "Any procession that takes place without a police permit will be dispersed forcefully, it will be tear-gassed and if greater force is required, we will use it."
Up to now the SSS are denying that they are holding anyone and thereby refusing all requests by lawyers to see those who have been incarcerated.
These arrests are just the latest example of the repression that has accompanied the elections described by the European Union’s observers as "not credible".
A week before the state elections, the Lagos Daily Independent reported that the SSS had raided offices across the country of the Transition Monitoring Group, the largest NGO checking elections since 1999,
Days before the presidential election, the SSS invaded, at gunpoint, the Abuja studios of AIT, a leading TV station, and stopped the transmission of a documentary on Nigeria’s politics and confiscated the original recording.
Urgent action is needed to protest at these arrests which have been widely reported in the Nigerian press.
Nigerian embassies and high commissions need to be flooded with condemnations of these seizures and demands for the immediate release of all those who have been detained.
Financial support is also needed for the DSM as in many areas the security forces confiscated large numbers if copies of Socialists Democracy, the DSM paper, and leaflets from anyone trying to take them onto the May 1 rallies. Please use the link on this website.
The following appeal has been issued in Lagos by the Campaign for Democracy and Workers’ Rights in Nigeria.
Release the detained activists now
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) demands the immediate release of Segun Ajayi (Dagga Tolar), the Publicity Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Wale Okuniyi of PRONACO, Chinedu Bosah, member of CDWR and DSM, and Emeka Anene, also of DSM, who were unlawfully arrested yesterday at the May Day rallies in Lagos and Akwa, Anambra State by the men of the State Security Service (SSS). Dagga and Wale were arrested in Lagos while Chinedu and Emeka were arrested in Akwa.
We also demand the immediate release of Emma Ezeazu, the General Secretary of the Alliance for Credible Election (ACE), arrested on Monday, April 30 over the apprehension by the SSS that the organization might be planning a mass protest on May Day. He is still being detained as at press time.
We condemn the heavy militarization of the venues of the May Day rallies across the country by the various state apparatus of repression at the behest of the federal government. The armed security agents mounted barricade at the entrance of the venues and arrogated to themselves the rights to vet the materials being taken in for the rallies. Indeed, in some states like Osun and Edo workers and pro-labour activists were locked out of the venues.
This reprehensible and repressive action of the security agents was part of the despotic measures aimed at suppressing the possible legitimate mass protest against the just concluded 2007 elections or selections described as a complete farce locally and internationally. This characteristic despotism of the Obasanjo government, which further confirms its lack of commitment to genuine democratic culture, is a throw back to the era of military absolutism with its associated abuse of the fundamental rights of people to freedom of expression, among others.
The government has become so panic and grown goose pimples over the inevitable mass backlash against its rigged and manipulated elections. This is why, besides the unjust arrest and unlawful detention of pro-democracy activists, the security agents have resorted to impounding materials denouncing the abracadabra elections.
We strongly assert that Nigerians have fundamental rights to peacefully protest against any anti-people action of the government, let alone the Obasanjo government orchestrated massively rigged and manipulated election to impose its clone on Nigerians in a do or die manner.
We call on labour, the press, pro-masses organisations and individuals, nationally and internationally, to condemn the unlawful arrest and detention of the aforementioned pro-labour, pro-democracy activists and demand their immediate release. We also call on labour and pro-masses organizations not to be cowed by the repressive and despotic action of Obasanjo government. There should be Day(s) of Actions to include rallies, industrial strikes, peaceful protests, to press home the demand for the cancellation of the farce called 2007 election and an end to anti-poor, neo-liberal economic reforms of the government. The struggle against the rigged and manipulated election should be linked with daily struggles of workers and poor masses for functional education, electricity, decent jobs, living wages, water, health care, good road, food and other basic needs of life.
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