By Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru, Ola Ajayi, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Ishola Balogun, Bose Adelaja, Peter Okutu, Luminous, Omeiza Ajayi, Jannamike, Alemma Aliu, Tordue Salem, Femi Bolaji & Shina Abubakar
Heavy shooting by some persons identified as thugs heralded yesterday’s #EndSARS protests at Alausa area of Ikeja, Lagos.
This came as the protest continued in states such as Edo, Ebonyi, Oyo, Osun, Abuja, Taraba, among others, which had been in the forefront of rejecting the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and its immediate replacement, the Special Weapons and Tactics unit, SWAT.
This is even as protesters in Abuja yesterday stormed the National Assembly to register their rejection of SARS and SWAT, asking the Federal Government to meet all their demands.
Their presence at the National Assembly came 48 hours after a failed attempt to meet the lawmakers, following the assault on them by soldiers who stopped them from accessing the complex.
In Lagos, the protesters as usual, regrouped at Alausa to commence their daily routine, unknown to them that some thugs had lain in wait for them.
The thugs had struck earlier on Wednesday, injuring some of the protesters who, however, regrouped to launch counter-attacks on the hoodlums who fled the scene but not without suffering some damage.
At least, four of the thugs were overpowered by the protesters who handed them over to the Police, as other managed to escape.
If Wednesday’s attack by the hoodlums was sudden, yesterday’s was even more surprising as scores of the thugs stormed the usual converging point of the #EndSARS protesters in a BRT bus and some cars, shooting sporadically.
The protesters fled in different directions, as they were chased by their attackers. It was learned that not a single security agent was on hand to repel the thugs who had a field day.
Although no casualty was recorded, some of the #EndSARS protesters suffered injuries and were taken to undisclosed hospitals.
‘Govt sponsored thugs against us’
Some protesters alleged that some people in government mobilized the thugs to attack them, though the state government immediately dismissed such insinuation.
One of the protesters reacted on his Twitter handle: “Mr Governor @jidesanwoolu , you said we were free to protest peacefully and that no harm would come to us. Now look at what is happening right in your territory! It happened yesterday (Wednesday), it is happening today (yesterday). We are being attacked!! Kudos sir!!! #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria.”
But dismissing the insinuation in a swift reaction yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said in a statement: “The attention of Lagos State Government has been drawn to some unverified reports in the social media alleging that the government sponsored thugs to disrupt the #EndSARS protest
“Such wild allegations were obviously concocted by enemies of peace and orderliness to whip up sentiments against the government, which has been doing everything possible to resolve the crisis by identifying with the youths in their efforts towards police reforms.
“As a government, we will never encourage thuggery or any act of violence that may put the lives and businesses of Lagosians at risk.
“We are strongly committed to ensuring that our youths, who have taken to the streets to air their views, are well protected.
“This should be a sober time for us all as we struggle to reverse the negative effects of COVID-19 on our economic and social lives, even as the experts are warning that a second wave is likely if we shun the safety guidelines we have all agreed to embrace.”
Omotoso clarified that “the bus in question was on its normal operation when it ran into a group of protesters. The passengers, who felt endangered, rushed out of the bus.
“They returned to continue their journey after the charging crowd had left.”
The commissioner recalled that Governor Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Femi Hamzat had been preaching peace and appealing for calm.
He stressed that the governor also addressed the protesters twice – at the Lekki Toll Gate and at the House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja.
Omotoso added: “He even carried a placard and marched with the youths after assuring them that he felt their pains and that it was legitimate for them to protest.
“Besides, the Governor visited the President to tender their five-point demand. He ensured that all the protesters arrested by the police were released unconditionally.
“The enemies of progress, who are not happy that Lagos is not on fire, are the ones fueling the infernal lies that the government was sponsoring thugs to attack our protesting youths.”
The government therefore, called for the co-operation of all “in ensuring that the crisis is put behind us as soon as possible.”
Lagos NURTW boss disowns attacks
Also dismissing insinuations of any involvement in the attack on the protesters, chairman of the National Union of the Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in Lagos State, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo), describe the allegation as blackmail.
In a statement, Akinsanya said he had on October 11 issued a statement in support of the protest, saying, “I wonder why people will link the event in Alausa to me.
“I was surprised when my aides brought to my attention what people were tweeting on the issue. I couldn’t have been involved in such act because I support the quest to reform the police force. How will I do such when my brothers and sisters are among the protesters?” he said.
According to him, no sane member of the union will join people to attack the protesters because it is for the good of everybody.
He said: “Today being the anniversary of my first year in office, I deliberately cancelled the idea of celebration due to the situation in the country and to lend my support to the protest.
“As a good citizen who abhors violence, I wonder how people will link me with the violence that took place in Alausa. I always warn my people not to involve in violence and whoever does, I will personally hand over the person to the security agency. I didn’t send anyone to disrupt or attack the #EndSARS protesters. We all want the police force to be reformed. We all want better welfare for our police officers.
“We all want our police officers to stand shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts in any part of the world. This will definitely translate to security of lives of our people in the country.”
He warned members of the union to avoid any act capable of tarnishing the image of the NURTW.
Peaceful protest in Lekki
The protest was, however, peaceful in other parts of the metropolis, especially the Lekki-Epe and Lekki-Ikoyi toll gates where it took the form of a carnival.
Hip-hop music star, Banky W, who was also present at the Lekki protest, said: “The protest has taken a life of its own because there is no leader, which is a good thing. Everybody here is a leader. The people want justice.
“You can’t say there is reform in the Police when policemen are still killing protesters. Where are Jimoh Isiaq’s killers? Why are national Assembly members earning so much when they say Nigeria is broke?”
Another hip-hop singer, M.I. Abaga, said: “On thugs attacking protesters, this is the game they have always played but things are different now, no one is intimidated. What government should realize is that people want to see action. Until we start seeing killer policemen paraded, jailed, these protests will not stop. This protest could be off tomorrow but the flame will never go away.”
Protesters block Ugbowo in Benin
In Benin City, Edo State, #EndSARS protesters blocked the ever-busy Lagos-Benin expressway at Ugbowo, causing gridlock that spanned over two kilometres.
Among the protesters were student union leaders of the University of Benin who were seen coordinating the demonstration. Some stranded commuters also became part of the protesters.
Some policemen who came to the scene, stayed away from the protesters who conducted themselves peacefully for the almost five hours it lasted
President, Students Union Government of the university, Comrade Egwu Benjamin, said: “We are adding our voice to what has been happening across the country and we are demanding an end to SARS. We are saying end SARS and they are giving us SWAT. What we are saying is that we want police reforms.
“The government can do better; it should bring in more intellectuals into the police. More graduates and other intellectuals should come into the police, more persons will become interested. We were told Nigeria is the giant of Africa but now I can’t say that. What we are saying is end SARS, end SWAT and give us a reformed police.”
A traveller, who simply identified himself as Osarobo, said he couldn’t help but join in the protest, adding that he was consoled by the fact that it was for the right cause.
“I may be stranded right now but I am not frustrated because this is an overdue cry to reform the police force and not just SARS. Let police be well paid and see whether POS won’t stop on highways,” he said.
In Oyo State, thousands of protesters paralyzed Ibadan, hijacking some government vehicles, popularly called “Ajumose Buses” which they used as they marched through major streets in the city, swelling in number by the minute.
Motorists had a rather hectic time as all roads were blocked by the angry youths who neither attacked anyone nor vandalized property.
All link roads that motorists could use to detour were also blocked; most of them were heard complaining about their plight.
A motorist, Mr Akinwole Seye, advised the Federal Government to do something urgent to address the issues raised by the youths to prevent the situation from degenerating further.
Vehicles were also hired by the protesters for musicians to pass messages across to the public on the reasons for their protest.
Youths, thugs clash in Osogbo
In Osogbo, Osun State, suspected hoodlums clashed with youths agitating an end to police brutality, disrupting the protesters from staging protest in the state capital.
The hoodlums emerged from Alekuwodo area of the state capital around 9:30am, brandishing different types of cutlasses and heading towards Olaiya junction, the regular stage for the protests since last week Friday.
However, the protesters in a bid to avoid casualties, dispersed their members from the road and left for their various homes.
Meanwhile, protesters at Oke-Fia junction were almost attacked by the hoodlums on the grounds that they had disturbed commercial activities in the state capital for days.
A protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they decided to stay off the road to avoid being labeled violent, adding that with the confrontation in the morning, hoodlums could turn the daily peaceful protest into chaos.
The protester added that he was surprised by the manner the hoodlums attacked them, considering the fact that the protest was in the interest of everyone.
Protesters demand gov’s presence in Abakaliki
In Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the protesters were seen blocking the road leading to Old Government House, Ebonyi State Police Command, State High Court, even as they insisted that Governor David Umahi or his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe must address the object of their protest.
The protesters were lead by personalities, including a popular Nollywood actress, Angela Okorie who insisted that they (the crowd) would not listen to the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Stanley Okoro-Emegha.
Two days ago, the protesters who came in a small number, were addressed by the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace who advised them to come back the following day to meet the Deputy Governor.
But, returning yesterday in a very large crowd, the youths insisted that since Umahi was not on seat, his deputy should address them.
Speaking to journalists in Abakaliki, the Nollywood actress demanded for a functional administrative system in the country where the plights of Nigerians would be easily addressed without any form of delay.
She said: “End SARS, end SWAT, reform the police, end police brutality, pay the police well. They are under-paid, that’s why they are angry and resorting to brutality.”
Taraba youths join protest
The situation was not different in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, where the youths were joining the nationwide protest for the first time.
One of the conveners of the protest, Kenneth Jande, said the country would rather want a total reform of the police, adding that the protest was in solidarity with other youths across the country standing against police brutality.
He said: “This is a very rare occurrence in Taraba State but we cannot say because we are not experiencing it here, it does not concern us.
“We also feel there is a need for a well-trained and specialized unit of the force that is sufficiently funded and armed to tackle specific situations such as armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, and others. “On the hike in prices of sachet water and transportation, Jande said, the youths were saddened.
“Most of the youth here are students and they are concerned because schools are reopening.
“We are all aware of the effect of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the economies of most families.
“How do we expect people to cope with these hikes? Life is simply becoming unbearable for the people and it is important that these issues are addressed,” he said.
Siege on N-Assembly in Abuja
In Abuja, the protesters laid siege to entrance of the National Assembly in their hundreds for several hours, calling on the Federal Government to meet all their demands.
Obianuju Iloanaya, who was one of the protesters, demanded for justice for her brother, Chijioke Iloanaya, who was last seen in SARS custody in 2012, saying she was convinced a SARS gang wasted him.
With tears flowing down her cheeks, Obianuju sought justice, even as she said that anything short of that would not be sufficient.
They alleged that the thugs who attacked them on Wednesday were sent by the Police, and asked the National Assembly to assure them that vehicles. damaged in the attack were fixed by the Police.
They had earlier on Tuesday, tried to access the National Assembly to table their grievances before the leadership of NASS but were attacked and repelled by soldiers.
Go home, let govt implement your demands — Lawan
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, yesterday asked those protesting against the actions of SARS to go home and allow the government to expeditiously implement their demands.
According to Lawan, it has become very imperative for the protesters to put an end to their actions since the federal government has proscribed the dreaded SARS.
Speaking during yesterday’s plenary, after the upper chamber was briefed by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi North, on the intervention by the leadership to wade into the matter, Lawan said the National Assembly would ensure that the five demands made to the executive by #EndSARS protesters were implemented.
The Senate President had on Wednesday, asked Senator Abdullahi and the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South, to meet with the protesters and report back to the chamber.
Lawan said: “Nigerians have the right to peaceful demonstration when they feel very strongly about issues. The government has responded, SARS has been disbanded. All the five demands of the protesters have been accepted. Since such demands have been accepted, we should be allowed to take action to actualise them.
“I believe that when protesters’ demands are met, their goals should have been achieved. Therefore, there’s need for our compatriots to go back home and give government the chance to quickly and expeditiously implement those demands.
“Both chambers of the National Assembly have identified with the protests that they are legitimate and the demands are legitimate. The next vital stage is for the protest to stop, because the initial reasons for the protests have been accepted as facts and government is trying to do everything possible.
“I will urge government, including us, to ensure that those demands are implemented as quickly as possible.”
Earlier, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi while giving details of the meeting between the Senate delegation and the protesters yesterday, said: “We met with the protesters, with a view to pacifying them and also extending our commiseration over what happened.
“They explained that in the course of their peaceful demonstration, they were accosted by some hoodlums who they alleged were directed by the police to attack them; and how they were able to weather the storm and assemble at the National Assembly to inform us of their travails.
“We sympathized with them and received verbally the complaints they wanted to submit to the National Assembly.
“They complained of damage to their vehicles, and some physical injuries that some of them sustained. Fortunately, there were no major injuries or even violent death.
“We implored them to submit a catalogue of their complaints and the damage or injuries inflicted them, so that these can be conveyed to the appropriate authorities for interventions.
“Today, the Minority Leader as we arranged yesterday was there on the ground to receive the catalogue of complaints. Unfortunately those complains are not ready, so whenever they are ready, the leadership is going to compile and submit them to the appropriate authorities for attention. I just wanted to inform my colleagues, so that we put this particular issue on record.”
Keyamo’s driver killed during protest
Similarly, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said yesterday Yohanna Shankuk, his driver was killed by a vehicle avoiding #EndSARS protesters on Wednesday in Abuja.
Keyamo, who disclosed this in a tweet, said the incident occurred at Berger roundabout in Abuja.
The minister said Shankuk was walking to his (Keyamo’s) office when a vehicle taking a one-way lane ran him over.
According to him, the driver of the vehicle saw advancing protesters, made a U-turn and took a one-way route back.
“I regret to announce that my driver, Mr. Yohanna Shankuk, died yesterday in Abuja as a result of the protests.
“A vehicle that saw advancing protesters at Berger roundabout, made a U-turn, took the one-way back and ran over him as he was making his way on foot to my private office,’’ Keyamo wrote.
Twitter boss, Dorsey, backs #EndSARS, mobilizes donations
Also, Jack Dorsey, the Chief executive of Twitter, has joined the push aimed at disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery, SARS, and putting an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Jack urged all concerned to make donations via Bitcoin in support of the cause which has seen many Nigerians take to the street in protest.
The Twitter CEO’s call is one of several made by various international groups, organizations, and celebrities from around the world.
FCT minister invokes COVID-19 rules, bans protests
Meanwhile, irked by the continued wave of #EndSARS protests in the nation’s capital, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, yesterday activated the relevant provisions of the COVID-19 regulations to announce a ban on further protests in the territory.
The minister announced the ban during a meeting of the FCT Security Committee to review the security situation in the territory, with a view to addressing identified challenges.
Chief Press Secretary to the minister, Anthony Ogunleye, in a statement, said the meeting, which was chaired by Malam Bello, had in attendance, the Permanent Secretary, FCTA, Mr Olusade Adesola, heads of the various security agencies and military formations in the FCT, senior members of staff of the FCTA, representatives of religious and traditional institutions as well as Area Council Chairmen.
The statement read: “For the avoidance of doubt, the COVID-19 guidelines regulating public gatherings recommend physical distancing, temperature checks, the use of facial coverings, among others.
“Clearly all these guidelines were flouted by the protesters. Consequently, the committee directs that due to the dangers posed by COVID-19, all street demonstrations, protests and processions will not be allowed anywhere within the FCT.”
Protests have exposed stinking police underbelly — Gbaja
Also yesterday, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said that ongoing #EndSARS protests have exposed the under-belly of the nation’s stinking policing system.
According to him, the challenge before the federal government now is how to reform the Police to meet the yearnings of the protesters.
Gbajabiamila, who stated this at the inauguration of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee in the House .also called for reforms in all statutes of the country.
He said: “Over the last week, thousands of our nation’s young people have been on streets day and night protesting the inhumane and brutal abuses of human rights by the Nigeria Police Force, particularly the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
“In addition to whatever other changes that may be caused by these protests, they have exposed the stinking underbelly of our nation’s policing system so that we now understand better why our federal police is often unable to effectively respond to the localised manifestations of insecurity across the different parts of our country.
“The simple truth is that we have a police that doesn’t have the trust of the people, and a policing system that doesn’t make for productive partnerships between the police and the communities they serve.
“However, for those of us who are out there, we must be careful not to lose the plot. The Inspector-General of Police has heard you and he has spoken. The House has spoken, even before now, and continues to speak.
“The President has been unequivocal and spoke clearly. It is now time to sit back and see what happens. I believe the hand of God is on this nation. I also believe that where you find the hand of God, evil forces will kick.
“The point has been made, and government in all its layers has responded. Let us sit back and see if government does what it has committed to do, which I have all assurances. And as your speaker, I pass these assurances on to you.’’
The speaker also called for new ideas to revamp the system and make the country better, advising that new methods be adopted in tackling the seemingly intractable problem of insecurity in the country.
“Overcoming our overwhelming national security challenges now requires of us all that we be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas. Neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented.
“The work of drafting the constitution of a free republic is never finished. As our country continues to grow, adapting to new realities and overcoming challenges, the laws that govern us must also change.
“It is in a bid to achieve for ourselves and our children, a more perfect nation, that we gather every so often to review the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“First, to identify those areas where the laws of our land have not lived up to expectation, and then act expeditiously and conscientiously to fix whatever gaps may exist and address any concerns that may arise.
“We are commencing this constitutional review process at a time of great and ongoing upheaval in our country. New challenges emerge daily from every corner. Some of these challenges are of our own making, and others we could not have foreseen or been prepared for.
“Whichever may be the case, the Nigerian people look up to us as a government to proffer solutions that work, to do the heavy lifting of writing new constitution, one better suited to our current aspirations and reflecting our vision of the future.
‘’Recent global developments have exposed all our systemic weaknesses so that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that things are on an even keel and slow progress is enough to get us to where we ought to be yet are still so far away from.
“This 9thHouse of Representatives has since committed to the cause of reform. Our commitment must neither waver nor wane on the matter of thoughtful and fair overhaul of our nation’s constitution.
‘’The reality of our current circumstances, and the now certain knowledge that only us can save ourselves imposes on us an obligation to act with greater determination and all the urgency this moment calls for.
“Colleagues, the ongoing evolution of our nation’s democracy requires of us that we continually review and update the rules of our engagement. Every election season exposes significant gaps in the process that if left unaddressed, threaten our democracy.
‘’Electoral reforms are a matter of our nation’s future, and the process of setting out systems and protocols for managing how we choose our leaders and representatives begins with the Constitution. We must keep this in mind as we begin this process.’’
Army’s warning directed at miscreants — DHQ
Meanwhile, Defence headquarters said yesterday that the warning by the Nigerian Army to subversive elements to desist from anti-democratic acts in the country was directed at miscreants, criminal elements and those wanting to use opportunity of peaceful protests to cause problems.
Major General John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, who stated this at a briefing, said: “The subversive elements are not the same as protesters. You are aware the demands of the protesters have been met.
“There are those who want to subvert the protesters or government. They want to derail the objectives of the protests.”
He recalled that in some instances during the protests, some persons were throwing stones, damaging people’s property, breaking cars.
According to him, these can be attributed to the subversive elements, not the protesters. “There are people waiting to cause problem, those that do not conform to society, the miscreants, insurgents, and hoodlums,” he clarified.
Recall that the Nigerian Army had in a statement signed by Col Sagir Musa, Acting Director, Army Public Relations, titled “Nigerian Army Remains Resolute to the Peace and Stability of the Nation,” stated that it was ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order, warning that it was ready to deal with any situation decisively.