In the early hours of “New Year Day”, five RevolutionNow activists were arrested by the police at Gudu, Abuja, for organising a peaceful candlelight protest. Sanyaolu Juwon a leading youth organiser of the African Action Congress party, tells the story of their arrest and detention. The “Gudu 5” (Omoyele Sowore, Sanyaolu Juwon, Michael Adenola, Emmanuel Bulus & Peter Williams) are on an illegitimate trial. Stand up to demand all charges against them be dropped.
At about 11:00pm on 31st December, we gathered at Lokogoma junction in Abuja and then proceeded to Gudu, for a peaceful protest to demand for good governance, end to police brutality, environmental justice and a permanent end to the turmoil and bloodletting in the country. Similar actions of the Revolution Now campaign were taking place in Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa, and Edo.
As we were ending the demonstration at about 1:00am in the New Year, three loaded vehicles swooped on us. They were filled with heavily armed and mean looking men, as though coming to battle notorious terrorists and bandits. But we were armed only with placards, banners, and our facemasks. They hit us repeatedly with their guns and then bundled us into the trunk of one of their trucks. We were chained to the vehicle like hardened criminals.
The National Chair of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore who had been filming the protest and was heading to his vehicle saw what was happening. He rose to our defence and was also beaten up, with his nose broken.
After beating all of us mercilessly, they sprayed a very peppery chemical substance on our eyes and faces, that made even breathing almost impossible. When I managed to challenge this unruly wickedness despite being chained down, one of the officers held me and the other started spraying this substance directly into my eyes again and did not stop despite seeing how I struggled to gasp for breath.
The pain was so intense that I could barely open my eyes for about two hours and my entire body felt unbearably hot for more than four days.
From Gudu, we were moved to the detention facility of the Special Antirobbery Squad (SARS) at a police station called Abattoir — a detention facility notorious for torture and extra-judicial killings. Upon our arrival, they unleashed more beatings on us before we were dragged into a cell.
The only warm reception we received was from other inmates who accorded us great regards and kept talking about how they appreciated our relentless struggles for the poor. They went out of their way to get us mats and blankets to sleep on instead of the bare floor the police asked us to sleep on. A number of these inmates were being kept in custody illegally, without being charged to court.
We were initially denied access to our lawyers, families, and friends, during this ordeal. We also had to declare a hunger strike before we could get access to books.
For the next 3 days we were caged like animals in a cell within the cell and this was to be our home until Monday when we were taken to court, where we were denied bail. We were then remanded in Kuje prison and each kept in solitary confinement. We were denied access to doctors, even though we had sustained injuries from the earlier beatings. Food prepared and brought to us by comrades were also not allowed.
We were taken back to court a few days later handcuffed and in a Black Maria. The magistrate refused to grant us bail. But this time around we were ordered to be remanded at the Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) until Friday, 8th January.
The magistrate also ruled that we be granted medical attention, access to books and specifically for Michael Adenola, a third-year law student, access to internet facility to participate in his classes which had commenced online on 4th January. But there was no internet access at the FCIID head office!
We met Emmanuel Akuma, a young pharmacist facing charges of treasonable felony, for criticising Maj-Gen Buhari (retd.) on social media, at the station. He had been tortured and made to sign a self-incriminating “confessional statement”. He was denied any access to a lawyer, and his family.
The police refused to take us back to the court as scheduled, keeping us locked up for three additional days. A few inmates were brought from the Abattoir station to where we were during that period. They informed us that forty inmates being illegally held at the notorious station had been immediately released after we left. According to them, this was because the police feared we may expose their unjust incarceration.
On Sunday, it became clear that the police were not keen on taking us to court the following day. It was fear from the mobilisation by AAC members for a protest to demand our release that made them change their minds. We arrived at the court on Monday 11th January to the cheers of a mass of people who were already demonstrating in front of the court.
We were released with stringent bail conditions. This included our restriction to Abuja, the federal capital. Sowore was also ordered to henceforth report at the office of the registrar of the FCT high court every Monday and Friday.
It was clear to us that the purpose of our brutalisation, arrest and 11-day detention at three different prison and detention facilities respectively was to punish us and break our resolve to mobilise the masses for revolutionary struggle. But nothing can deter us, our commitment is unshakeable. In the words of Leon Trotsky, “neither threats, nor persecutions, nor violations can stop us”.