Some of the protesters hired by embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki to protest his corruption trial are disaffected because the N1000 per day they were promised has not been paid for a few days.
A key player in the staged protests told SaharaReporters participants were recruited and paid N1000 per day to demonstrate their solidarity with Mr. Saraki, who is charged with false declaration of assets. He added that the fees had not been forthcoming for a few days, leading to disaffection among the rented protesters.
The source said he was one of a few men tasked with mobilizing poor or unemployed youngsters to mount protests against the senator’s trial. “We arranged for [recruited] for these, food vendors, sachet water sellers, mai-barrow (truck pushers) and mai- boiler (scavengers). They no longer went to their normal businesses because we were paying them N1000 each,” the source said.
He accused Mr. Saraki’s aides of suddenly cutting off the cash to pay the demonstrators. “As you can see, all of them [the protesters] are sitting over there angry because they have not been paid for some days now. They are not happy. I have appealed to them but they remain adamant and even go to the extent of destroying the placards and banners that we gave to them,” said the source.
Our correspondent found torn pieces of posters and banners strewn all over the ground while some of the angry protesters were seen under the tree looking downcast.
Our correspondent talked to some of the disgruntled protesters. Asked if they knew who Mr. Saraki was or the crimes for which he was being tried, several of them said they had no idea.
“All I want is the money they promised to give us every day,” one dismayed protester who identified himself simply as Sule, said.
Our source said he was among several contacts contracted by the senator’s aides to rent protesters. He told SaharaReporters that one of the recruiters was almost manhandled one day when the people he hired accused him of collecting as much as N3000 per head and paying them only N1000. He said some of the protesters are armed with such weapons as sharp knives and cudgels, adding that some of them also carry “charms.” Last week, the police arrested one protester after spotting a weapon on him. Our source said the protester was released after the group leader who recruited him pleaded with the police on his behalf.
One protester decried the fact that they stayed in the sun all day but were not paid at the end of the day. He insisted that they must get paid their arrears. The protesters sometimes stay out in the sweltering heat from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., often without food or water.
Our source disclosed that Mr. Saraki’s aides had initially provided two 18-seater buses to transport hired protesters from the outskirts of Abuja.
In a related development, an editor of a major newspaper based in Lagos told our correspondent that Mr. Saraki’s bid to shape the media’s coverage of his trial has had little effect. “The senator’s media team has been working round the clock to bribe editors here in Lagos and in Abuja in order to influence the reportage of his trial. But I know that most of the media executive turned down the offer as they don't want to be caught up in any mess.”
SaharaReporters had earlier revealed that Mr. Saraki’s media team had held a meeting with various judicial correspondents at a garden near the International Conference Center in Abuja. Each correspondent was given N50, 000 to ensure that they would not carry negative accounts of the trial.
However, today Mr. Saraki media team issued a statement claiming the government witness could not give an accurate account of his "AMEX" account, the press release was already being passed off as a real story by some media outlets.