By Femi Adeniyi

October 20, 2020, is a date that will be forever entrenched on the national pages of Nigeria. #Endsars campaign might have come and gone, but we cannot deny that it is an event that will continue to linger in the minds of the majority of Nigerians.

The #Endsars campaign started with the publication of a petition by convener Segun Awosanya.   It was signed by 10,195 Nigerians and submitted to the National Assembly to scrap the police unit.

In October 2020, Nigerians turned the online campaign to protest which they used to protest police brutality in the country

While we must salute the conscious efforts of the honest Nigerian youths who sought to make a change for the better good of all, we must also agree that it is the constitutional right of citizens to have a peaceful rally or gathering, however, we must bear it in mind that history has taught us that many of these movements always metamorphosed into a rowdy affair and becomes disruptive leading to narratives which speak no good.

Counting down to 20th October, reports have it that Nigerian youths are planning a memorial protest in honour of those who lost their lives at the Lekki toll gate shooting in 2020,.  Based on this development, it is important that we take a critical look back at the incident, consider its implications, as well as the aftermath of the movement, turned riot.

What began as a peaceful protest was eventually hijacked by hoodlums and this led to the loss of lives and wanton destruction of property, despite the presence of security agents and imposition of curfew in the state, the hoodlums carried out their actions unchecked. Many buildings were burnt, with properties destroyed and looted.

According to the Lagos police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, about 17 police stations were burnt by hoodlums in the state.

These stations include Idimu, Igando, Layeni, Denton, Ilenbe Hausa, Ajah, Amukoko, Ilasa, Cele Outpost under Ijesha, disbanded SARS office under Ajegunle, Ebute-Ero, Mushin (Olosan), Ojo, Ajegunle, Ikotun, and Ojodu. 

Properties found within the premises of the police stations, including vehicles, were also destroyed, while valuables, including weapons, were carted away by the criminal elements.

The oldest court in Nigeria, the Federal High Court at Igbosere, Lagos was razed down by hoodlums. Many case files were burnt in the fire, while others were carted away. Valuables, including desktop computers, air conditioners, refrigerators, chairs and others were also carted away by the hoodlums.

Also, the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu was also attacked during the violence, the Governor’s family house was also burnt down while the headquarters of Television Continental [TVC] was also burnt to the ground.

The hoodlums extended their attacks to the Lagos State bus terminals at Oyingbo, Yaba and Berger. Several buses at the Oyingbo terminus were set ablaze, while some parts of Yaba and Berger bus terminals were torched by the criminals.

Mutiu Yekeen who is the Head of Corporate Communications, Primero Transport Services (PTS) Ltd, owners of BRT Buses, said the company lost over N100 million in six days resulting from the protest, which has had the nation’s economic capital ravaged, while the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI, 2020) disclosed that Nigeria lost more than N700 billion in economic value since the EndSARS protests started.

The economic loss suffered by Lagos State and Nigeria at large cannot be fully quantified, and we cannot afford to have a similar experience again. The nation is at a critical time of rebuilding and we need to collectively protect and preserve our assets.

The Executive Governor of Lagos State must be commended for the proactive steps taken by him to address the situation, restoring normalcy and rebuilding the state’s economy.

This is a visible trait of a Governor who will never allow any setback to discourage him from fulfilling his mandate.  Also, we must give credence to the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government for ensuring that one of the major aims of the movement was achieved and this is the scrapping of the Anti-Crime Police Unit, SARS, thus, this is a mission accomplished for the youths and all Nigerians at large.

Even as some youths intend to celebrate a memorial in honour of those who lost their lives during the struggle, history has shown that even the most honest and pure of intentions can be hijacked by unscrupulous elements.

The #EndSARS protest started as a genuine and progressive movement, but it was soiled by hoodlums. Also, the youths need to tread with caution so that no death is recorded again. Lives are irreplaceable and they must, by all means, ensure that they guide themselves and their activities against any and every factors that may militate against peace in our society.

We must also have it in mind that investigations are still  going on to determine and unravel what really happened during the incident and thus we must patiently allow the law to take its due course. The youths must also bear in mind that they are the future of this nation, hence they have a major role to play in the shaping of the nation’s future.

 They must ensure that they are in the vanguard of complying with the provisions of law and order in the society,  Anarchy is never a solution and will never be, there are always better ways of going about issues.

Nigeria is ours, and in our drive to push for a better narrative, we must be careful so that we do not fall victims to the traps laid by unsuspecting agents.

•Adeniyi lives in Lagos

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