#EndSARS: FG mulls crackdown against protesters

*We’ll not allow anarchy in Nigeria – Lai Mohammed

*Kicks off Operation Crocodile Smile in the S/East

*Kill protesters, face ICC –Falana warns Govt

*Catholic Bishops, IPOB, Arewa Youths, right groups flay FG’s action

By Chesa Chesa, Hassan Zaggi, Myke Uzendu, Willy Orji, Daniel Tyokua, Abuja, Steve Oko (Umuahia), and Maurice Okafor (Enugu)

The Federal Government is plotting a massive crackdown against the #ENDSARS protesters, according to statement by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, who late Saturday night warned that government will not allow the country to be thrown into anarchy.

This is as Nigerians youths who are organizing vowed not to end the protest until all their demands have been met.

President Muhammadu Buhari in an attempt to end the protests, over the weekend embarked on talks with identified leaders of the protesters. He also met with the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) to seek ways to end the impasse.

However, to prove that they are undeterred, the #ENDSARS groups have maintained their decorum, distributing food items to protesters, clearing all garbage generated, and lending support to their less privileged members, in addition to members of the family of those felled by bullets of security agents during the protest.

Alhaji Mohammed, on Saturday on a late-night Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) news programme, “Weekend File”, which discussed “EndSARS Protest: The Way Forward,” monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said government would not fold its arms and allow miscreants disrupt current democratic process.

He said that Saturday’s alleged assassination attempt on the Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, while addressing protesters in the state “was a clear confirmation that the protests had been hijacked by hoodlums and people with ulterior agenda”.

The Minister noted that while the original conveners of the protests might have meant well, it was obvious that they were no longer in control of the initiative.

He said: “Peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy and that is why the Federal Government in the last 11 days has treated the protesters in a very civilised manner.

“But, if you look at what happened to the governor of Osun State, it has gone completely beyond peaceful protest against excesses and abuse of power by the police.

“There is nowhere in the world where a government will fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.

“We are no longer dealing with #EndSARS, but a volatile situation that can lead to anarchy if the government does not take some very firm steps to protect the lives and livelihood of innocent Nigerians”.

He accused the protesters of blocking roads and highway, stressing that workers are finding it difficult to get to their offices, while several Nigerians are stranded on the roads.

He claimed that the protest is smokescreen plotted to undermine the administration and destabilise the country, claiming that “all the demands by the protesters had been met by the government”.

To provide proof of his claims, the Information Minister said that on Oct. 11, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) dissolved SARS formations across the 36 states and the FCT, adding that “President Muhammadu Buhari, on Oct. 12 addressed the nation, stating that the disbanding of SARS was a first step in the comprehensive reform of the police”.

*Kill any protester, face ICC, Falana, group warn Buratai

Following the announcement by the Nigerian Army to commence Operation Crocodile Smile in the South-East zone, Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) and ASCAB, a rights group, have threatened to drag the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen Tukur Buratai to the International Criminal Court, (ICC) at the Hague if any of the #ENDSARS protesters is killed.

The group urged the Federal Government to withdraw plans to use soldiers to quell the protests.

In a statement by Femi Falana and the Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB), they urged President Buhari not to invite soldiers to resolve what they termed “a purely democratic issue that calls for dialogue and constructive engagement”.

ASCAB insist that “protests have common features across the world as seen in Hong Kong, United States, (US), France, South Africa, Belarus and even in Sudan,” adding that in no instance were soldiers deployed to suppress the protesters.

*Group opens online radio station, makes all DSTV, GO-TV channels available to public viewing for free

Meanwhile, unknown persons who claimed to be members of the #ENDSARS protesters have floated an online radio station called “Soro Soke”.

One of the anonymous coordinators of the protest said the station would help them effectively coordinate the protest nationwide to avoid infiltration.

A link to the radio had already gone viral on various social media platforms. The radio was busy broadcasting live reports of missing and found #EndSARS protesters on Sunday via its link

Soro Soke, a Yoruba sentence which translates to ‘Speak Up,’ had last week become a mantra of the #EndSARS campaigners after protesters in Lagos urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ‘Soro Soke’ whilst addressing the youths.
Soro Soke is also a metaphor for all Nigerians to speak up against bad governance and resist corrupt leaders.

*Buhari meets NASS leaders

As talks continued, President Buhari on Sunday met with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to brainstorm on ways to address the ongoing #EndSARS street protests across the country.

The parley also focused on how to implement the protesters’ five-point demand.

After the meeting at the president’s official residence in Abuja, the Senate President, who confirmed this to State House Correspondents, said they met to decide on an expeditious manner to implement the demand.

Lawan said: “The essence of coming to meet Mr. President is to review the situation and see the role the two arms of government should play in ensuring that the five-point demand are properly addressed.

*No SARS personnel will be part of new Tactical Team – IGP

Meanwhile, the IGP has reassured that no personnel of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) will be part of the new Police Tactical Team being set up to handle extreme exigencies.

He further assured that the new tactical team will operate within very high professional and ethical standards, rule of law and dictates of best international policing practices.

He gave the assurance in a statement signed by the Force Spokesman, Frank Mba, in Abuja, Sunday.

The statement disclosed that the IGP has concluded plans to partner with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other development partners for the training of the Tactical Team.

The training will commence today, Monday, October 19, 2020, at the Police Mobile Force (PMF) Training School, Ila Oragun, Osun State, and the PMF Training School, Ende Hills, Nasarawa State.

According to the IGP, “officers selected for the training are young, smart and energetic officers who have acquired not less than 7 years working experience with clean service records and are physically fit to withstand the rigours of SWAT training and operations.

*Catholic Bishops back protest, call for total reform of the country

On their part, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has lent support to the Nigerian youths in their nationwide protests.

The Bishops in a statement by its President, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, the Archbishop of Benin-City, described the protest as “a call for justice and peace in Nigeria”.

He said that the protests indicate that “Nigerian youths are tired of suffering from the brutality and injustices perpetrated by officers of the SARS and the police in general”.

The Bishops said there is hardly any Nigerian family that had not directly or indirectly encountered the crude and inhuman activities of SARS officials.

“The cries of our children protesting against the brutality of the SARS that manifests in extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrests, profiling of youths as criminals, the invasion of their privacy by searching phones and laptops without any warrant or any just cause, and the incarceration of many of the youths in the SARS custody without trial, are all cries for justice.

“We the members of the CBCN have followed the protests with keen interest and call on the Federal Government of Nigeria once again to listen to the cry for justice so that peace can reign in our country,” he said.

*Operation Crocodile Smile, plot to suppress agitation, says IPOB, YOV

Meanwhile, two pressure groups, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Yoruba One Voice (YOV) have claimed that the sole aim of resuming Operation Crocodile Smile is basically to halt the ongoing #ENDSARS protest across the country.

The two groups made the assertion in a joint press statement made available to The AUTHORITY.

The statement, signed by Mr. Christy Ekama, a Principal Secretary to the Directorate of State of IPOB and Mr. Zachaus Somorin, Director of Communications, YOV notes “with shock and dismay the plan by the Federal Government to deploy the Armed Forces under the guise of “Operation Crocodile Smile” with the sole aim to quell the popular #ENDSARS protests across the country.

“The protests are a clear testament to failure of leadership. We fully endorse the #ENDSARS protests. We commend Nigerian youths for again rising to the occasion to redirect the drifting ship of state”.

The group warned the Federal Government to rescind its decision to deploy the Armed Forces among it’s alleged plan to truncate the protests as it remained legitimate, while use of force contravenes the international law.

*Arewa Youths lament worsening insecurity

On its part, a platform of northern Nigerian youths, Arewa Agenda, has lamented rising insecurity in the country, especially in the north.

The media advocacy platform and publication of young writers from the 19 northern states, believes that the #EndSARS protest is a great opportunity to challenge the system to address teething developmental issues.

Its Convener and Managing Editor, Mohammad Dahiru Lawal, at a press briefing in Kano on Sunday, said they have keenly observed how Nigeria’s anti-police brutality uprising and associated protests took various twists and turns by a single tweet early in the month.

Lawal, while commending the Federal Government for being prompt in addressing some security challenges, said based on feelers, especially among the youths and elders, there is palpable fear that some of the campaigns may have sinister motives.

He noted: “We are concerned about the possible escalation towards a more violent situation, where innocent lives and properties will end up bearing the brunt, especially in view of the fact that uprisings have never augured in some instances across the continent.”

Calling on young people never to relent in championing the cause of equity and justice, he further urged them to avoid the temptation of succumbing to devilish intents in capitalizing on the protest for ulterior undertakings.

*CSOs demand publication of Govt White Paper, justice for victims of police arson in Abia

Also, civil society and human rights groups based in Abia State under the aegis of Abia Civil Society Network (ACSON), have demanded the publication of Government White Paper on the burning of houses in Aba by some police personnel, since last year.

The group also demanded justice for the victims of the attack, insisting that those behind the dastardly act should be made to face the law.

ACSON in a press statement captioned “Police Brutality and Chaos in Aba on October 2nd, 2019″, condemned the fracas that ensued during which both officers of the Police and civilians were killed.

The statement jointly signed by Amaka Biachi, ACSON Convener; Chuka Okoye, Secretary; and Cassius Ukwugbe, Co-convener, insisted that the report of the incident should not be swept under the carpet.

“Several residential buildings were razed and children and women abused and rendered homeless in Oko-Jombo area of Ngwa Road, Aba”, they said.

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