It is now obvious that what began as a peaceful protest by Nigerian youths against the negativities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has become a pawn in the hands of hoodlums, no wonder South-West Governors of Nigeria have raised the alarm over the infiltration, destruction and carnage in the region under the guise of #EndSARS protests. CYRIACUS NNAJI writes.
Being the chief security officers of their region, South West Governor’s Forum under the leadership of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, in a statement in Akure expressed concern over the hijack of the protests by some people, ostensibly to execute a destructive design.
Akeredolu in the press statement maintained that “The protests started as genuine, demanding reforms and restitution. The current happenings across the South-West, especially Lagos State, have exposed dubiousness and complicity evidencing malice afore-thought.
“We enjoin our youth to rise to defend our land and people against the diabolical incursions ravaging our space. What do we stand to gain by destroying ourselves? We cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our heritage destroyed, and our people suffer.
“We must engage, constructively, all those whose dubious solutions to a social problem is the descent to anarchy. We appeal to them to ‘calm down’.
“We commend the governor of Lagos State for his administrative acumen. We note his patience and understanding in the face of unwarranted provocation by agents of darkness. We stand, resolutely, with him at this trying period.
“We should not allow brigandage and wanton destruction of lives and property within our walls in the South-West.”
The statement added, “This regression into savagery exposes our land as not only vulnerable but susceptible to vile manipulations by elements keenly anxious to annihilate the South-West and destroy our shared heritage.
“We are deeply concerned with the ease with which public buildings, utilities, police stations and investments of our people have been burnt despite the proximity of security agencies in those areas.
“We call on the heads of all security agencies to be alive to their obligations to defend the country. We charge the relevant security agencies to investigate all cases of violence to identify the culprits.
“We are particularly worried that 48 hours, after the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos by persons adorning military fatigue, there has been no definitive statement from the military authorities on the incident.
“Our anxiety becomes heightened by the categorical denial of the Governor of Lagos State concerning the deployment. No governor has the power to authorise the deployment of military personnel in Nigeria.
“We note, with great relief, the confirmation by the governor that no fatality was recorded at the Lekki Toll Gate incident based on visits to hospitals, mortuaries, both private and public.
“There were no doubt different levels of injury to persons arising from the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Consequently, we insist that full investigation be conducted to ascertain the veracity of the news items liberally circulated by some local media.”
Nigerian youths embarked on a peaceful protest tagged #EndSARS to demand the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit, as well as, other reforms in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). What started out as a peaceful demonstration by thousands of youths, degenerated into chaos after the protests were hijacked by hoodlums.
The hijacked protest is now characterized by the heavy presence of security personnel on the streets of Lagos, mob attacks on security personnel, killings, and vandalization of public and private properties.
The #EndSARS movement dates back to 2017, where Nigerian youths used the hashtag to share their experiences on violence and assault perpetrated by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad. However, the movement only revived in early October, after a video emerged of police officers thought to be members of the SARS unit, allegedly killing an unarmed young man.
Indeed this prompted Nigerian youths to troop to Twitter, calling on the Federal Government for police reform with the hashtag, #EndSARS, #Endpolicebrutality, and many more. The hashtag trended continuously on Twitter as Nigerian youths aired their pain and experiences online.
Saturday, October 3rd, 2020, a viral message broadcast on social media suggested men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS had gunned down a Nigerian youth, snatched his car, and sped off with it. The person who recorded the video can be heard making frantic yells at anyone watching the video to see what had transpired.
As the video spread on Social media, the hashtag #ENDSARS started to garner momentum as more young people demanded an end to the brutal police unit that has for years brutalized young Nigerians.
As twitter raged on, reports indicate SARS officials stopped the young man, pushed him out of his vehicle, shot him, and went away with the vehicle.
As the video spread, several other young Nigerians, particularly those from the tech community recalled their experience and started lamenting on Twitter, escalating into a fury of outburst that eventually morphed into one of the largest youth organized protests in the history of Nigeria.
Sunday, 4th October 2020 as Social media protest raged on, Nigeria’s Minister for State for Labour, Festus Keyamo revealed the young man was not dead and shared a picture of him in a hospital with head wounds.
The Nigerian Police Force, through the Inspector General of Police, announced the ban of SARS members and other Tactical Squads from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties, stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc with immediate effect.
As the protest raged in Lagos precisely 11:49 am, the Lagos State Government announced the imposition of a 24-hour curfew in all parts of the state, with effect from 4 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020. This was due to the hijacked #EndSARS protests in the state, where hoodlums attacked citizens and destroyed properties.
At about 4 pm, the IG of Nigerian Police Force, M.A Adamu, ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of anti-riot police unit, Police Mobile Force (PMF), over attacks on police facilities by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests.
About noon, a police station in the Orile-Iganmu area of Lagos State was set on fire by suspected thugs. Eyewitnesses who shared videos via their Twitter accounts said the reprisal attacks were allegedly fueled by the shooting of one person in that area by policemen.
Lekki Toll Shooting: At about 6.45 pm Tuesday, October 20th, several social media accounts revealedpeaceful protesters were allegedly being shot at by the Nigerian military at the Lekki toll gate holdout.
Lagos State Government had issued a directive to extend the enforcement of its 24hour curfew from 4 pm today to 9 pm, to enable residents stuck in traffic get to their destinations. This was disclosed by the State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tuesday evening via the state’s official Twitter handle.
At about 10 pm, the Lagos State Government orders an investigation into the Lekki Toll Plaza shooting that was allegedly done by men of the Nigerian Army on Tuesday evening. This was disclosed in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, via his Twitter handle and around 11 pm, GT Bank’s branch on Admiralty Way, Lekki, Lagos state was allegedly set ablaze in the middle of the night by hoodlums disguised as #EndSARS protesters. This was disclosed by eyewitnesses around the affected branch, through their respective Twitter accounts.
Lagos State Government suspended all government activities and declared lockdown for 72 hours in view of growing violence in the state. The Governor had earlier visited the injured protesters at the hospitals where they received treatment and also stated via a broadcast that there was no record of fatality in the controversial Lekki Toll Plaza shooting on Tuesday.
Television Continental (TVC) station in the Ikosi-Ketu area of Lagos state was also allegedly burnt down by hoodlums who attacked the building. This was disclosed by some residents, who sent videos on social media. Aside that the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority in Marina, Lagos was also reportedly set on fire by hoodlums involved in the #EndSARS protests.
Thursday, 22nd October 2020 in an interview session with Arise TV, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that the curfew initially imposed for 72 hours could be lifted partially within 24 hours, to allow Lagosians re-stock on food and critical household items.
The Governor also responded to the question on who ordered the removal of the CCTV at the toll gate and the switching off of the light. “Nobody ordered, they were the security of LCC on the ground. I called the security of LCC that night and because of the curfew they took off the installation. That camera that you saw is not a security camera it is a laser camera that picks your number plate… The security camera is still available. The Managing Director of LCC does not have a reporting line to me.”
Sanwo -Olu said he is yet to speak with the President, following the Lekki shootings that occurred on Tuesday evening
Later in the evening by 7 pm, Nigeria’s President Buhari addresses the country in a nationwide broadcast. In his remarks about the protest, the president said he was pained that innocent lives were lost. “All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary.”
Friday, 23rd October 2020, in his speech, President Muhammadu Buhari pointed out that the promptness with which the Federal Government acted in meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protesters seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests. Most critics saw this as a disguised threat against further protests.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the Lagos State government is working towards stabilizing things across the state and rebuilding through verification of victims and has called on youth leaders to provide representatives for a judicial panel.