October 21, 2021

ENDSARS: Crackdown, as protests rock Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Ilorin

ENDSARS: Crackdown, as protests rock Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Ilorin

*Protesters tear-gassed, journalist arrested as car procession passes through Lekki Tollgate

*Tear-gas fired at hoodlums, not protesters — Lagos CP

*Security operatives block protesters from marching to NASS in Abuja

*Police disperse #EndSARS protesters in Ilorin, as soldiers, police dehumanise journalists, disperse protesters in Enugu

*Journalist arrested, arraigned in OsogbolNo proof any protester was killed at Lekki Toll Gate — Lai Mohammed

*#EndSARS victims deserve justice, one year after — Amnesty International

ENDSARS: Crackdown, as protests rock Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Ilorin
At the memorial yesterday.

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Kingsley Omonobi, Demola Akinyemi, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Dennis Agbo, Jane Onozure, Luminous Jannamike, Shina Abubakar & Juliet Umeh

There was heavy police crackdown on activists, musicians, and Nollywood actors and actresses, who thronged the Lekki Toll Gate, yesterday, in commemoration of the #EndSARS protests which culminated in the shooting  that took place in the area in October, last year.

This is even as protesters who stormed the streets of Abuja were stopped by security agents from marching to the National Assembly to express their frustration at failure of the Federal Government to meet their five-on-five demands articulated last year.

Similarly, protesters in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, were dispersed by the police.

In Enugu, a combined team of security personnel, made up of the Nigeria Army and the police, dehumanized journalists who were on duty to cover the processions by a coalition of civil society organisations and dispersed the youths who converged for the protest. 

A similar situation played out in Osun State.

But the Federal Government at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, insisted that Lekki Toll Gate massacre was a hoax, just as global rights group, Amnesty International, called for prosecution of security operatives who allegedly injured and killed peaceful #EndSARS protesters in a crackdown that ended with the Lekki toll gate shootings in Lagos last October.

However, following the crackdown on protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, two persons, including a journalist, were arrested by men of Lagos State Police Command deployed to the toll gate days earlier.

The protest, which started peacefully at about 8 am, turned violent at about 11:10am after men of the state police command fired tear-gas at the protesters, many of whom brandished the Nigerian flag in the bid to stop the protest.

The Police had insisted at the start of the protest that nobody would be allowed to gather, prompting the protesters to embark on vehicular procession between the Tollgate and Lekki Phase One.

The firing of tear-gas set protesters scampering for safety, as commotion set in, with people falling over themselves running for safety.

Celebrities lead memorial protests in Lagos

Top Nigerian celebrities, including Mr. Macaroni, Charles Oputa, also known as Charlie Boy, rapper and son of human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN,  Falz, Nollywood actor, Segun Arinze, among others, were all seen in their moving cars. Charlie Boy was on his super bike.

Despite heavy police presence at the venue, most of the protesters were all in their moving white buses and personal cars with Nigerian flags in their hands, moving gradually round Lekki Phase One and the next U turn, expressing their feelings to the media.

Speaking to Vanguard, a member of Omoyele Sowore’s RevolutionNow Movement, Kehinde Steven, said: “We are here today to stand against injustice.

It is not about ending of SARS, a lot has happened in the last one year, we have ended police brutality to an extent.

“We are here today to ask Buhari’s government to step aside. APC and PDP have failed us, so Nigerian youths are not only asking for #EndSARS but also restructuring and a better government.

“Buhari promised us change, since 2015 and now, he has done nothing.

“Nigerian youths are here today to honour the departed souls that the Nigerian armed forces killed last year October. 

“We are here in solidarity with  the departed souls, we are also here to stand for our rights and liberty, that’s why Nigerian youths came out en mass, not only in Lekki Toll gate but all over Nigeria.”

Another protester who identified her name as Temilola Olayemi, said: “We are not fighting the government but injustice. We need good government.”

Lead counsel to some of the protesters last year, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, said  in his remarks: “The protest is successful so far. I would have loved these guys to be on foot.

“They have done well and some people have come down, this is the spirit.

“It is important to inform Nigerians that this democracy, the one we call the Fourth Republic, was born on the blood, sweat, tears and bones of people.

‘’Babangida, Abacha, Shonekan were not prepared to go, they were forced to go and it was people that protested. A lot of people died and many were victimised.

“Now, we have the democracy and a civilian government which participated in street protests against a sitting government is now trying to intimidate us.

“We will be bastards if we allow that. It is their duty and it is our responsibility to ensure that we continue to agitate against suppression.’’

One of those arrested claimed to be a journalist, while the other was seen carrying a placard.

The police had reportedly warned that anyone seen at the toll gate without an ID card will be arrested.

The arrested journalist told newsmen that he works with LegitTV and that his phone, driver’s license and other documents were taken away from him.

Speaking from a Lagos State Task Force van where he was kept by the police, the journalist, who identified himself as Abisola, stated that he lost his ID card in transit.

Car procession mobilised through e-flier

Mobilising youths for yesterday’s protest on Tuesday, rapper Falz and comedian Mr Macaroni had shared an e-flier to announce a car procession to mark one year anniversary of the protests that led to the disbandment of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police.

In the flier posted on their verified Instagram handles, they had said the car procession would be held in honour of the victims of police brutality in Lagos and other parts of the country.

“In memory of those who died that day and those we have lost to police brutality, we will: drive through the toll gate from 8-10 am; blast our horns in unison as we drive through and wave our flags,” the leaflet read.

“Innocent Nigerian citizens waved flags and sang till they were shot at, injured and killed. We must never forget.”

Both celebrities had, however, appealed to persons interested in the procession to stay guided and stay in their vehicles throughout the parade, as well as in groups for safety reasons.

“We’re rolling up in cars tomorrow (Wednesday) to drive through the toll gate.

“We know their way, so a procession of cars is the safest option to minimize police harassment. We will stay in our vehicles throughout,’’ the fliers had read.

They said protests’ll end by 10am — Lagos CP

Speaking to journalists shortly after, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu,  said the protesters told him they were going to end the demonstration by 10 am, adding that any protest beyond the agreed time was constituting a nuisance.

Odumosu said tear-gas was fired at hoodlums who wanted to hijack the protest and not protesters.

He said: “Between 8am and 10am, anything after 10 am is a nuisance.  I discussed with them and they said they will end the protest by 10 o’clock. Any other person doing it now… that’s nuisance…. that have guns, the ones with machete, hammer, are they protesters or miscreants?

“The protesters are free; they have done their thing and left. Any other person remaining are the miscreants, hoodlums that want to capitalise on that to attack innocent people and start robbing people. We will not allow that.”

The CP also confirmed the arrest of a journalist, adding that he ordered his release as soon as he was able to identify himself.

Adeyanju, Sowore lead Abuja protests

In Abuja, some protesters, led by founder of RevolutionNow Movement, Omoyele Sowore, and activist, Deji Adeyanju, stormed the streets in commemorative protest.

The protest began at the Unity Fountain, as the protesters bore a big banner with inscription, ‘’We never forget 20.10.20.  #EndSARS memorial.’’

From the Unity Fountain, they proceeded to the National Assembly to continue their protest but were stopped by security agents, comprising policemen, soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, who mounted a barricade.

Security agents stop Abuja protests

The security operatives, who were armed with guns and whips, also blocked the road with their cars.

Protesters who were asked to go back could be heard saying “protesting is our right, we are not thugs”.

After a dialogue of over one hour between the security operatives and the protesters, no progress was made.

The police stood their ground and refused the onward movement of the protesters to the National Assembly. Eventually, the protesters were forced to turn back and head towards the Unity Fountain.

Pro-government groups hold counter-protest

Shortly after the #EndSARS protesters left the Unity Fountain, another group of protesters who are supporters of government staged their own protest in Abuja, saying the claim of shooting at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos last year during the #ENDSARS protest was a hoax.

It was learned that the pro-government protesters stormed the Unity Fountain ground around 10:30am.

They berated the #EndSARS memorial protesters for being too critical of the Buhari government and security agencies.

Bearing banners with inscription, such as ‘’#EndSARS was an insurrection against the state’’, the pro-government group also accused the #EndSARS protesters of presenting Nigeria in a bad light before the world through their mass action in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities in the country.

They further alleged that the #EndSARS memorial protest was a ploy to instigate an unlawful change of government.

“We have come here because we found out that some miscreants hiding behind #EndSARS have planned to come here to hold #EndSARS memorial. We are here to set the records straight. If there was a massacre, where are the bodies?” A leader of the group said.

Police disperse protesters in Ilorin

In Ilorin, Kwara State, policemen dispersed #ENDSARS protesters who gathered in front of MAMTESS supermarket at Taiwo Isale to begin their protest.

Vanguard reliably gathered that the protesters had agreed to gather opposite the supermarket with the intention of going to Post Office,Challenge areas and then Government House to meet Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

One of the organisers, simply identified as Comrade Jamiu, confirmed to Vanguard that they had hardly taken off from Taiwo Isale when the fully armed anti-riot policemen dispersed them.

“The police dispersed us when we were about taking off,at Taiwo Isale,’’ he told Vanguard.

He had earlier said in an interview that they were determined to confront the police during the protest ,only to backoff when they were dispersed.

He, however, said they were plotting to regroup at another place he didn’t disclose to resume the protest.

The police had on Tuesday, taken positions at strategic areas in the city, plotting to disperse the protesters when they gather.

By yesterday morning till press time, fully armed policemen were seen at Post Office, Challenge and Unity areas where protest usually take place in Ilorin.

Operatives brutalise journalists in Enugu

Also in Enugu State, a combined team of security personnel, made up of the Nigeria Army and the police, on Wednesday, dehumanized journalists who were on duty to cover peaceful processions by a coalition of civil society organisation and youths commemorating the one year anniversary of the EndSARS protest in Enugu.

BBC reporter, Ebere Ekeopara, told Vanguard that she and her cameraman were ordered by a riot police team in 14 security vans to sit on the bare floor, while their camera, microphone and other working equipment were confiscated by the operatives.

Similarly, leader of Enugu Youth Organization, Mr. Success Obum, said they were equally maltreated and arrested but said they were later released after interrogation.

Efforts to get the reaction of the state police command at press time yesterday proved abortive.

In the same vein, a coalition of civil society groups, Workers and Human Right Defenders, was equally frustrated from holding a memorial procession in honour of victims of police brutality.

Convener of the coalition, Comrade Osmond Ugwu, said the owner of a private facility they wanted to use was intimidated by the police not to allow them use the facility.

Ugwu, who is a member of Enugu State Judiciary Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and other Related Extra-Judiciary killings, lamented that the panel is yet to conclude it’s sitting, one year after it was inaugurated.

He disclosed that the committee received 147 petitions but adopted only 64, adding that the chairman and secretary of the panel did not allow other members of the panel to discharge their mandate.

“The chairman and secretary frustrated us. No investigation was made, we were stampeded at the panel and we never heard from any witness, the chairman did not allow us invite any witness.

‘’We only moved from adoption to conclusion. The chairman and secretary of the panel did not allow us apply the law on how to carry out the function,” Ugwu revealed.

He further disclosed that indicted police officers never appeared before the panel.

“In other words, over 40 petitioners were not given fair hearing. Some petitions, such as the ones sent via email were never brought before the panel. The governor directed the secretary to do the right thing but he never did. I was denied access to over 120 petitions.

“The panel is yet to submit its report, whereas we were given August 2021 deadline to do that. The secretary refused to tell us when the panel will wind up after he claimed to have obtained extension of time.

‘’So much money provided for the panel is unspent. The petitioners were never communicated, which made them unable to appear before the panel. We were given papers to write reports without investigation,” Ugwu disclosed.

In his remarks, Executive Director of Civil Liberty Organization, CLO, Com-rade Ibuchukwu Ezike, said he expected the attitude of the Nigeria police to have changed since the country’s return to democracy, but regretted that this had not been the case.

“It is for us to rise as a people to reclaim what belongs to us since the politicians have failed to secure the rights of citizens. The police can no longer rely on the Public Order Act because it is no more, so the best thing for Nigerians to do now is to reorganize themselves.  The same intimidation during the military regimes are still there with us, even in democracy.”

Protesters dispersed in Osogbo

In Osun State, Police dispersed protesters commemorating one year of EndSARS protest in Osogbo, the state capital.

This is even as a State Correspondent of Daily Post, Sikiru Obarayese, was arrested on the instruction of the Divisional Police Officer, Dugbe, CSP Oyegbade Akinloye, at Freedom Park area.

He was brutalised and bundled into a police van by about six policemen and driven into the divisional office at Dugbe, Old-Garage, Osogbo.

Obarayese said 12 police-men descended on him at the station, beating him with gun butt, after which they insisted he must write a statement.

He said:  ‘’But I refused. One Inspector Charles wrote the statement in my name and asked me to append signature on it, but I also refused. I sustained injuries on my wrist, knees. I also lost my earpods worth N15,000 in the process.

“Surprisingly, they took me to the court under one hour, because I was arrested around 1:09pm and arrived court at exactly 2pm, to be arraigned before a magistrate’s court for daring to video the protest.”

Meanwhile, Police invaded Oke-Fia area in about eight vehicles and an Amoured Personnel Career to disperse the peaceful protesters.

The protesters, under the aegis of #EndSARS Movement, stormed streets in Osogbo, Osun State capital, to protest what they described as “civilian dictatorship” in commemoration of the 2020 EndSARS protest.

The protesting youths, led by Comrade Victor Lijofi, displayed placards with inscriptions, such as “We are practicing civilian dictator-ship, not democracy’’;  “Stop excessive borrowing, reduce cost of governance”; ‘’#EndSARS Memorial, what has changed,’’ among others.

They group moved through Ita-Olokan, Oja-Oba, Gbaemu junction to Freedom Park at Old Garage.

Also another group, Osun Civil Society Movement, organised a dialogue in commemoration of the #EndSARS protest with speakers from various spheres of life.

At the event, tagged “#EndSARS, One Year After; Issues, Regrets and Lessons”, Chairman, Nigeria Union Journalists, Osun Council, Comrade Wasiu Ajadosu, urged government to address issues raised by the protest before it escalated to another protest, saying such step could help to check anarchy in the country.

Journalist arrested, arraigned

Meanwhile, at about 2:30pm, the Daily Post correspondent, Obarayese, was docked before Magistrate A. O. Daramola for allegedly making video of policemen and assaulting DPO Oyegbade during the protest.

Obarayese, who was arrested at Old-Garage while other journalists fled the scene during the protest, was docked on two counts bordering on breach of peace, by making video of the DPO and assault, contrary to Sections 249(5) and 356 of the Criminal Code Cap 34. Laws of Osun State.

However, Obarayese pleaded not guilty to the count pressed against him, while the police prosecutor, Inspector Adeoye Kayode, informed the magistrate that the police were withdrawing the charge against the journalist on the intervention of the Commissioner of Police, Olawale Olokode.

The presiding magistrate, A. O Daramola, granted the request and struck out the case.

Injured 2020 protesters join memorial march in Benin

In Benin, Edo State, hundreds of youths also took to major streets to mark the first year anniversary of the EndSARS protest without the interference of the police who only provided protection for the protesters.

The protesters converged on the Oba Ovonramwen Square, popularly called Ring Road, with placards bearing various inscriptions demanding for automatic employment for the victims of the protest in the state.

They also demanded immediate implementation of the report of the judicial panel set up by the state government, requesting that all those still in detention as a result of the 2020 protest should be released unconditionally.

Security personnel drawn from the Nigerian Police, Department of State Services, DSS, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, and members of local vigilante were on ground to ensure peace.

Members of the Public Works Volunteers, PUWOV, were also at hand to control traffic, while the peaceful march lasted.

It was an emotional sight when two of the victims, a fashion designer, Miracle Ailenokhoriah who has been bedridden as a result of gunshot to his right thigh, and  Stephen Asekhame, whose left leg was amputated as a result of gunshot from soldiers in Auchi during the protest joined other protesters.

Asekhame who is from Uhonmora, Owan West Local Government Area of Edo, said he was amputated after he was hit by a bullet during the protest.

“During the protest last year on the 19th of October 2020, we in Auchi decided to hold our own peaceful protest, on that day and during the protest, soldiers ran into us and I was hit by a bullet that led to the amputation of my left leg.

“I was a student then but now I am a graduate and I am supposed to go for service next Sunday.

“I presented my case before the panel through my lawyer, but till now, we have not heard anything from the panel,” he said.

Lekki massacre a hoax, Lai Mohammed insists

However, as protesters gathered nationwide to mark the day, the Federal Government insisted that the claimed massacre of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate last year was a hoax

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who gave the verdict at a briefing he addressed in Abuja to mark the #ENDSARS anniversary, described the alleged massacre as phantom, adding that the claimants of massacre also failed to show up at panels raised in 28 states to give evidence about those reportedly massacred.

Mohammed said: “At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.

“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none.

‘’No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?

“Sadly, the champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand. Recall, gentlemen, that after bandying different figures, Amnesty International finally settled for about 12 people killed.

‘’On its part, CNN went from 38 people killed to two, to just one, after a supposed global exclusive even when the network had no reporter on ground at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.

“On Monday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was set up by the Lagos State government after the #EndSARS protest wrapped up its sitting. During the sitting, CNN was summoned but it never showed up, thus missing a great opportunity to prove its allegation of massacre at the toll gate.

‘’Also, Amnesty Interna-tional had a golden oppor-tunity to convince the world, but it rather opted for issuing meaningless press releases.

“In its latest attempt to grasp at straws and redeem whatever is left of its battered credibility on this issue, CNN has continued with its baseless report that soldiers shot at protesters

“In a report currently running on the network, CNN brazenly and unashamedly held on to its flawed narrative, relying on an unidentified mother whose son was reportedly shot dead at Lekki, but without convincing evidence of who shot him dead.

‘’The same CNN that tweeted on October 23, 2020, that 38 people were shot dead at Lekki is now struggling to convince the world that one boy was killed at Lekki. What a shame!

“The testimony of ballistic experts before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos contradicts the tales by the moonlight by Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and their ilk.

“The experts, in their testimony, said inter alia:

‘’The team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the five medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters (emphasis mine) at Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30-20.34hrs).

‘’That the GSW (Gun Shot Wounds) injuries (4 in number between 19:05 and 19:45 hrs), which were examined by the team, can be safely identified as being discharged by either low velocity caliber and/or artisanal/12-gauge firearms (artisanal firearms are locally-fabricated weapons).

‘’What is, however, certain is that had the military personnel deliberately fired military grade live ammunition directly at the protesters; there would have been significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries recorded. This was clearly not the case.

“The ballistic experts are not alone in reaching that conclusion. In its 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. State Department wrote:  On October 20, 2020, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

“Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end.

“Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s Report and no other organization was able to verify the claim.”

The minister declared that with the preponderance of evidence against any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, the government stood on its earlier position that there was no massacre of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos as claimed by some people.

The minister said:  i) The military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th  2020, and there was no massacre at the toll gate. The only ‘massacre’ recorded was in the social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.

‘’ii) Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and others like them should apologize for misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate and for portraying the Nigerian military, police and other security agencies in bad light.

‘’iii) CNN acted unprofessionally by relying on unverified, and possibly-doctored social media videos, as well as other open-source information, to conclude that a massacre took place at the toll gate. ’iv) The Federal Government remains proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the #EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action that saved lives and properties.

‘’v)  The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the #EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the Human Rights Organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre,’’ he said.

The minister also announced that the federal government, in conjunction with the state government, had already taken steps to address the issues thrown up by the #EndSARs protest and the recommendations of the panels raised to examine them.

According to him, these issues include payment of adequate compensation to police brutality and the prosecution of culpable police and security officials as well as the drastic reform of the police system in Nigeria.

Prosecute security men that killed Lekki protesters — Amnesty Int’l

Meanwhile, global rights organisation, Amnesty International, AI, yesterday called for the prosecution of the security operatives who allegedly injured and killed peaceful #EndSARS protesters in a crackdown that ended with the Lekki toll gate shootings in Lagos last October.

The organisation, in a statement issued in Abuja, said the protesters deserved justice over the torture and violence they endured during the street demonstrations, which it described as unacceptable.

AI’s Country Director, Mr. Osai Ojigho, knocked the Federal Government over its failure to fulfill its promise of police reform, saying the impunity by the security forces in Nigeria had continued unabated.

Ojigho said: “One year after peaceful #EndSARS protests ended in a brutal crackdown by Nigerian security forces in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country, no one has been brought to justice for the torture, violence, and killings of peaceful protesters, while reports of human rights violations by the police continue, Amnesty International said today.

“An investigation by the organization found that Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 people on October 20, 2020, at Lekki toll gate and Alausa in Lagos.

‘’Amnesty International was able to establish that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, providing cover for the police to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.

‘’The organization also found that detained protesters were tortured and refused or denied immediate access to lawyers.

“A year on, despite the gravity of these human rights violations, not a single member of the security forces has been prosecuted, while judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by officers have made little progress.

“President Muhammadu Buhari must fulfill his promise of reforming the police to end the reign of impunity Nigerians have been protesting against for many years.

“Failure to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters on 20 October 2020 is yet another indication that Nigerian authorities lack the political will to ensure accountability for these atrocities, and end police brutality.

“Under the pretext of restoring order, horrific injuries were inflicted on hundreds of people and at least 56 people were killed, among them dozens of young people lost their lives as Nigerian security forces used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters across the country.

“It is unacceptable that despite overwhelming evidence, the government continues to deny the use of live ammunition on protesters at Lekki toll gate exactly a year ago.”

Vanguard News Nigeria