The Department of State Security Services (DSS), Nigeria’s self-styled secret service, has again stood in the way of northern youths publicly expressing their grievances over the ravaging insecurity and bloodshed in the region.
On Friday, a contingent of youths, under the aegis of Concerned Northern Nigerian Groups, had protested, demanding an immediate end to the continuous loss of lives of innocent citizens to terrorism and banditry.
Two days earlier, a lorry heading south was waylaid along the Garin Bawa area of Sabon Birni by a contingent of bandits with guns. Dozens of passengers in the lorry were burnt alive by terrorists loyal to Bello Turji, a terror kingpin in the state.
The passengers were “roasted in fire like barbeque”, spurring public outrage. Following the incident, enraged youths stormed the streets of the northern region to protest the bloody attack on innocent citizens.
FIJ gathered that the protest was to call the attention of the authorities to the fact that the northern part of Nigeria was bleeding.
“We said we were tired of burying our women, children, and men,” Zainab Ahmad, one of the protesters in Kano, told FIJ. “We bury hundreds of people on a daily basis, yet there is no action, not even ‘sorry’ from our leaders.”
‘THERE’S NO INSECURITY IN KANO’
On Saturday, Zainab announced her withdrawal from the protest, after she was invited to the Kano office of the DSS. The operatives of the secret service had threatened to arrest the young activist if she continued the agitation to end insecurity in the state.
Although Zainab was not the leader of the protesters, she was invited by the DSS because she is a “very popular female activist here in Kano”. She noted that there are other state coordinators of the peaceful protests in Kaduna, Bauchi, Kano and many other northern states.
“In the evening of Friday, I received a call from DSS that my attention was needed in their office and I complied,” she told FIJ. “They asked me why I decided to join the protest and I explained everything to them, but they said there was no insecurity in Kano.”
Agitated Zainab argued that the protest was not only about Kano, but the agents forced her to give up the agitation.
“So, they demanded that I dissociate myself from the protest because of the political situation in Kano State,” she said. “They also said some people could take advantage of the situation to hijack the protest.”
ANOTHER PROTESTER INVITED BY DSS
For mobilising youths to protest against insecurity and bad governance in Kaduna, Ibrahim Birniwa, another young activist, was invited by the DSS operatives in the state.
Birniwa had posted on Facebook, wondering when northern youths would stage a major protest against President Muhammadu Buhari.
“What are we waiting for?” He asked.
But on Saturday afternoon, he was grilled by the operatives of the secret service in Kaduna for participating in the “#NorthIsBleeding” protest. He would later delete the agitative post on his Facebook page.
A TREND IN THE NORTH
Adnan Mukhtar, a writer and media advocate in Kano, told FIJ that it is the tradition of the DSS to victimise youths protesting against insecurity and poor governance in the state. He recalled how he was threatened by the operatives in 2017 for planning to stage a protest against bad governance as a student leader.
“Same people making noise on social media refused to block the road to join the protests,” Mukhtar quipped young northerners criticising Zainab for withdrawing from the protest. “The young woman has done her part; what of you?”
He revisited Zainab’s experience with the secret police officers, who had threatened to hold him responsible if the protest he was planning turned bloody.
“When I was organising a protest in 2017 with some of my friends who were student activists, I was invited by the DSS,” he told FIJ. “Unfortunately, the majority of my friends that were part of the organisers ran away.”
He noted that he was forced to dissociate himself from the protest when he saw that his co-protesters had been scared away by the news of the DSS intervention.
Several calls placed to Peter Afunaya, spokesperson of the DSS, were declined. He did not also respond to a text message sent by FIJ, requesting to know the rationale behind the intimidation of the young protesters.
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