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New twist, as #EndSARS protesters reject SWAT

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…Armed thugs attack protesters in Abuja, Lagos

…Sanwo-Olu appeals, says govts currently addressing demands

…#EndSARS protest, reflection of leadership failure – Okowa

…Motorists, commuters stranded, lament as protests trigger traffic gridlocks

…#NotoSWAT protests rock Warri

…Awkuzu SARS under lock as protesters paralyze Awka

…Police have killed 10 #EndSARS protesters – Amnesty International

…#EndSARS founder, Segalinks dissociates self from protests

…Change things for the better, BankyW tells FG

…I support youths’ peaceful protest as they ‘speak up’ — Pastor Adeboye

By Vincent Ujumadu, Festus Ahon, Jimitota Onoyume, Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Bose Adelaja

LAGOS The agitation for Police reforms continued nationwide yesterday, with the #EndSARS protesters this time also calling for an end to the Special Weapons and Tactics unit, SWAT, whose creation was announced by Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, on Tuesday.

The IGP had said SWAT would immediately take the place of the now-disbanded SARS to tackle violent crimes in the country, but the #EndSARS protesters would have none of this, contending that the new unit was SARS in another form.

I could swear the Police already had a SWAT team. Google to make sure and found this tweet from September 2019, one of the protesters tweeted yesterday.

Another protester also sent tweets of a SWAT personnel sitting with a  machine gun at the entrance of Rivers State collation centre in Port Harcourt on February 26, 2019, backed by pictures.

The Police, however, countered this argument with what they described as five facts about  the new tactical team ‘SWAT. They are:

No personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the Tactical team

  • Operations of the new Tactical team will be strictly intelligence-driven
  • Members of the new Tactical team will by no means embark on routine patrols
  • Members of the new Tactical team are barred from indiscriminate and unlawful search of phones, laptops, and other smart devices.
  • Operatives of the new Tactical team must be free of any pending disciplinary matter, especially those touching on misuse of firearms and abuse of human rights.

The protests which entered the eighth day yesterday spanned Lagos, Abuja, Awka, Warri, Abeokuta and other parts of Nigeria where it had persisted.

This came on a day Amnesty International in its twitter handle, said no fewer than 10 #EndSARS protesters had been killed by the police since the protests started.

Hoodlums attack protesters

However, the thousands of protesters who defied yesterday’s downpour to join the nationwide protests in Alausa, Ikeja area of Lagos were taken aback as some hoodlums hijacked the process, attacking protesters and road users.

The incident occurred at about 4pm as the protesters marched in-between Alausa and Lagos/Ibadan Expressway.

The early morning downpour did not, however, dampen the spirit of the protesters, as  they mobilized and countered the hoodlums, and apprehended four in the process.

Speaking with Vanguard, one of the protesters, Seun Abioye, said the attackers caught them unawares as the hoodlums numbering 15 came from nowhere to disrupt the protests.

It was gathered that before the protesters could comprehend what was happening, the hoodlums had succeeded in snatching cash, smart phones and other personal effects. Protesters ran helter-skelter.

Recovering from the shock of the attack, the protesters regrouped and gave the hoodlums a hot chase.

While some of the hoodlums were able to escape, four were not so lucky as they were apprehended and handed over to the Police.

Narrating his experience, one of the protesters, Abdulahi Kazeem, said the attack came at a time they least expected it.

He said: “We had all relaxed since the Police were monitoring the protests, alas! The Policemen stood aloof and watched the scenario. If we had not launched a counter-attack, many of us would have landed in the hospital.”

According to him, the hoodlums came with matchets, cutlasses and broken bottles to attack them, thereby disrupting the peaceful protests.

Carnival-like protests

The protests, which started at about 10:00am, was more of a carnival.  Protesters at Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja, rendered the National Anthem to kick-start the business of the day, as they were entertained by some Disck Jokeys (DJs).

While the protest was on, some Nigerians reached out to the protesters in cash and kind. National Coordinator of Education Right Campaign, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, said the protests won’t be called off until their demands were met.

“We are tired of fake promises by the government and we shall ensure the promises made during these protests are kept,” he said;

Similarly, protests were held in VGC, Lekki and Sangotedo, as major roads in the axis were blocked by the protesters who were supported by popular musicians, artistes and songwriters in the state.

As at 11am, the gridlock caused by the protest had stretched from the Admiralty Way to Abraham Adesanya, Lekki Phase 1 and environs.

Also, the alternative route witnessed influx of vehicular activities due to blockage of the major roads and shut-down of the toll gate on Lekki-Epe expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi bridge.

Govt must concede right to freedom of expression

Notable rights activists, such as Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, threw their weights behind the protesters.

In a chat with Vanguard, Adegboruwa said: “The very first thing government must concede to Nigerians is the right to peaceful protests. Never again should we live in a country where citizens cannot assemble freely to express themselves. Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution are very clear on this.

READ ALSO: #ENDSARS: Gov fumes as one is killed in Oyo, dep gov attacked in Ogun

“Once there is a particular policy that the people are not satisfied with, then they must be allowed the right to free speech without the usual govt response of police harassment and the bogus charges in court.

“Once the rights to freedom of expression and association are gained, we don’t need to keep waiting on any particular organization or entity to organize peaceful civil disobedience, as is done in other climes.

Aluta continua, victoria ascerta.”

The protest spread to Agbara, along Badagry Expressway, Apple Junction, Festac, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Ogba, Iyana Iworo, Iyana Ipaja, Berger, Ijegun, Igando, among others yesterday.

Thugs attack Abuja protesters too

Similarly, in Abuja, some thugs also attacked protesters and vandalised vehicles in the process.

The thugs, who were armed with cutlasses, invaded the protest venue at Berger junction about an hour after the #EndSARS protesters had convened.

They harassed the protesters, including passers-by, destroying vehicles parked in the area.

At least five cars were destroyed, while an unconfirmed number of the protesters sustained injuries.

The protesters, however, regrouped within minutes and gave the hoodlums a hot chase, following which one of them was caught and beaten to near-death, with life-threatening injuries inflicted on his head and limbs.

One of the protesters alleged that the attackers were sponsored, saying “the police failed to stop us and now they are sponsoring thugs. This is just the beginning.”

Anjuguri Manzah, a spokesman of the FCT police command, did not immediately respond to enquiries regarding the incident.

The protesters said they were not only now kicking against SARS but also the SWAT team the IGP said would replace the disbanded unit.

Protests spread to Warri

In Warri, Delta State, hundreds of youths stormed the streets, demanding immediate disbandment of the Special Weapons and Tactics, unit of the Police,   SWAT..

The protesters, who marched from Refinery Road through Warri-Sapele Road and other major roads in Uvwie and Warri South local government area, said there was no difference between the disbanded SARS and the newly formed SWAT.

The protesters carried placards with several inscriptions denouncing the newly formed SWAT and the disbanded SARS.

The protest was peaceful, though their action   caused   long vehicular traffic on several major routes in the oil rich city.

Some of the protesters who spoke to newsmen, said the protest was all about getting the Police to sit up, adding that there is urgent need for Police reform that will enhance efficiency of the institution as a law enforcement agency.

Felix Oghenerume, one of the protesters said: “This is about having a sane Police institution. We cannot do without the Police but the Police should be responsible.

“SARS, abused its role. And we fear SWAT is just another name for SARS.    There is urgent need for Police reform,” he said

It would be recalled that an #EndSARS protest had held in Ughelli, headquarters of Ughelli North Local Government Area last week    where a Policeman was allegedly killed and his rifle taken.

SARS office in Awkuzu locked

In Awka, Anambra State, the defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS,   headquarters at Awkuzu in Oyi Local Government Area, regarded as the most notorious in terms of brutality, was under lock yesterday, even as #ENDSARS protesters paralyzed activities in Awka.

The protesters, who caused traffic gridlock in the Anambra State capital gave names of 12 persons who they claimed, were brutally murdered by Awkuzu SARS operatives within the past few months. They listed Onitsha, Oraifite, Ozubulu, among others, as places where they were killed.

Although the usual beehive of activities associated with Awkuzu SARS had disappeared, some of the operatives were seen sitting in front of the office.

It was gathered that those being detained before the dissolution of SARS were yet to be freed, just as several confiscated vehicles were still seen around the office.

One of the people whose relations were in detention at the time of the dissolution, said nobody had briefed them on what to do, adding that he rushed to the place soon after the announcement of the dissolution, but said there was nobody to attend to him.

Awka grounded

Meanwhile, the #SARS protest brought economic activities in Awka to a stand still for several hours as the protesters used vehicles to block some of the major roads.

One of the protesters, Mr. Johnson Okemili, who stood on top of one the vehicles, listed 12 names of people, mainly youths, who they claimed, were killed by operatives at Awkuzu SARS within the past few months.

According to him, the victims were murdered on mere trumped up allegations of either being armed robbers without taking them to court, or being yahoo-yahoo boys.

He said: “One of my friends lost his life because he asked why he was being harassed by SARS operatives. They kicked him and tortured him until he became unconscious and did not recover from it. “I don’t know if they do not like people who look good or seem to be doing well in their businesses at youthful age.”

He said it was not enough for the IGP to dissolve SARS and replace it with another outfit, arguing that it was just the name that had been changed.

10 protesters killed so far, says Amnesty International

Also yesterday, Amnesty International said  the police had killed at least 10 persons since protesters took to the streets last Thursday to protest against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

Revealing this in its Twitter handle, the human rights watchdog said:  “So far, Nigerian Police have killed at least 10 people since the start of protests against callous operations of SARS,” the body said.

I support youths’ peaceful protest as they ‘speak up’   Pastor Adeboye

The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has supported the Nigerian youths in “speaking up” for their rights.

Pastor Adeboye, in a short tweet on his verified Twitter account, wrote that: “Our daughters will not be able to prophesy and young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive.

“I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they “speak up” to #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS #ENDSWAT.”

The Nigerian youths, against the backdrop of inhumane activities of members of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, have hit the streets of major parts of Nigeria on a peaceful protest, which has forced some actions from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

Family of dead protester demands justice

Similarly, relations of 55-year-old Ikechukwu Iloamauzor, who was allegedly killed by a stray bullet during Tuesday’s protest in Lagos against police brutality, yesterday called for justice over the incident.

Igwe Emmanuel Ugwu, traditional ruler of Ibagwa Nike Community in Enugu East Local Government Area, LGA, of Enugu State, made the call at a news conference in Enugu.

The monarch said Iloamauzor, who was married to his younger sister, Ngozi, died after he was reportedly hit by a stray bullet during the EndSARS protest in Surulere, Lagos.

He said  news of Iloamauzor’s death “came to us as a rude shock”.

According to him, the deceased, who worked as a driver, was said to be conveying his boss to an event when the incident happened.

“I received a call from his boss on Tuesday that they ran into a traffic jam caused by a protest by youths calling for the disbandment of the Special Anti Robbery Squad and police reform.

“The man said that due to the delay in vehicular movement caused by the long procession of protesters, his driver stepped out of the wheel and leaned in front of the car.

“It was while standing there that a stray bullet hit him in the neck, leaving him dead,” the monarch, who spoke on behalf of the deceased’s family, said.

Noting that the family was impressed with Lagos State government’s intervention in the matter, Ugwu said: “However, we want a thorough investigation into the incident. We are crying for justice.

“We want the Inspector-General of Police and Federal Government to know that the victim of the October 13 incident in Surulere is from Enugu State. We want the family to be fully compensated to be able to take care of the people he left behind.”

Also, younger brother of the deceased, Tobias, said  his late brother was the bread winner of their family and described his death as a big loss.

It was reported that the deceased hailed from Amofia Ibuzor Amaokwe in Udi LGA of the Enugu State.

#EndSARS founder, Segalink hands off protests

In a similar vein, Segalink, the founder of EndSARS agitation, has hands off any protest going further, after alleging that politicians and commercial criminals have hijacked the protest for their selfish ends.

In series of tweets yesterday, he warned that the youths would be endangering their lives, if they insist on protesting after the government has agreed to all their demands…

The tweets read: This is the symbol of the cult group that wants to hijack the genuine advocacy targeted to objectively engage govt on behalf of the people to fix our 90-year old institutions and save the lives of our youth. They want to own it & weaponize it against the state. @PoliceNG

We have strictly maintained that the #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG advocacy is not a protest even while we maintained that citizens have the rights as empowered by the constitution to demonstrate their discontent. It is obvious that once protest is ignited hijackers will infiltrate.

Since we started the advocacy in 2017 until 2020 before they hatched the protest, no Nigerian has died based on the #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG advocacy but since the protest started we have been recording deaths and this hurts as we’ve never exposed citizens to undue risk.

We made progress with the PoliceReform Bill and the Police Trust Fund bill without seeking governors and billionaires. It was organic, transparent and objective. There were no sinister plans to weaponize anything against anyone. But for these ones, the lives mean nothing.

Our organization remains committed to the people without strings attached. We remain self-funded and seek no grants. We will not sell our soul and risk human lives because of greed and lust after power. I’m not interested in 2023. Be careful out there. This is a game.

We have played our role and done the needful. SARS has been ended as demanded and the Police Reform is in gear beginning with the assent to the Police Bills as facilitated. Some of the demands however activated will take time to materialize. Don’t be kept on the streets unduly.

We remain on course. Our dialogue of years with the authorities can’t be derailed and the movement cannot be hijacked no matter how much they try. Your genuine need to express discontent via protest is being exploited now. This is why they want to keep you in harm’s way.

I hope at this point the authorities will do the needful and make a believer of the people so as not to allow these opportunists endanger more lives even after demands are met. These headlines could have been fine if the issues were not exploited by these lots.

‘Businesses need not bleed because of protests’

@Mbuhari Businesses need not bleed while we agitate for better policing. The people don’t need to suffer more. This should end now. The exploitation of the idleness of Nigerian youth is an assault on their dignity with the commercialization of this protest. This is not Nation Building.

The hands of Nigerian “George Soros is all over this and I implore Nigerians to be mindful. This is no longer an organic protest and you deserve to be kept safe. You have been used once before and they are trying again. Another concert is brewing. Be wary.

This is not about any individual but your safety is paramount. My warnings may fall into dead ears again but at least I tried. Protest is your right but you should know when you are being used. The struggle continues and goverment will be held to account without any ulterior motive.

There are thousands of hashtags groups and organizations can deploy to launch their protest but if you must use anything relating to #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG it must be in compliance with the vision of the platform as spelt out.

EndSARS protests reflect leadership failure  — Okowa

Meanwhile, as youths continue to sustain the #EndSARS protest across the country, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, has held that the protest was a reflection of leadership failure.

Okowa, who stated this while  addressing #EndSARS protesters in Asaba, said the  youths had every right to organise themselves to protest whatever they felt was wrong in the society.

Insisting that there would not have been need for the protests if Nigerian leaders were accountable to the people, the governor announced the establishment of a five-man Police Complaints Committee with two representatives of the youths as members.

Okowa said: “I want to appreciate all of you for ensuring that we are conducting a very peaceful protest, there can be nothing better than peace and that gives me a lot of feeling that our youths can be better organised.

“I’m glad you have gathered yourself nationwide to protest this injustice as regards #PoliceBrutality. I do know that through the social media we are able to organise ourselves but I can see a lot of maturity in your organization and I must commend you for that.

“On our part as leaders we do acknowledge the gap and that we have failed even as parents. Even in my very own home when my children spoke concerning this protest I realised that they were as pained as you and that is the same pain that every Nigeria youth is going through.

“As leaders, this protest has also brought to the fore that we have failed ourselves. Your voice have been heard loud and clear, SARS has been banned but I assure you we are not keeping quiet.

“When I commended the IGP for disbanding SARS, I did acknowledged that it was not enough, there is need for further reform and re-orientation of the entire Police Force.

“The issues of adequate remuneration, training and discipline of the Police Force must be looked into critically in the reform process. It is about reformation of the entire police and it is about ensuring that our nation is peaceful.

“We do realize that the police have a role to play in ensuring Democratic governance but they must be played in such a manner that is in favour of civil defence, but unfortunately some of them have put the name of the Police Force in bad light.

“I plead that you organize yourselves better in the best interest of our nation Nigeria where youths will be able to go out without being harassed or exploited by the security agencies.

“I appeal to you to counsel others to remain peaceful and be law-abiding even as you go about your daily activities.

“Having made your voices heard and having made our elders to realise that we have failed as leaders, please give us some time to work things out with key stakeholders.”

He assured that government at all levels would engage the Police authorities and other stakeholders to meet their demands.

Speaking earlier on behalf of the protesters, Mr Emmanuel Udezua told  the governor to prevail on all stakeholders to end #PoliceBrutality, lamenting  that Nigerian youths were in pains.

Udezua said: “on behalf of the youths of Delta we have come to express our anger and grievances at the incessant molestation of youths by the police nationwide.

“We want a better Delta and better a Nigeria where youths can go about their normal activities without the brutality of the police. Stop the exploitation and the oppression of youths. Use your power everywhere you can to end this for us.’’

vanguardngr.com

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