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Tension as #EndSARS protests worsen nationwide

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Tension as #EndSARS protests worsen nationwide

Living up to their promise to keep up campaign seeking justice for victims of police brutality and overhaul of the country’s security apparatus, yesterday, protesters remained on the streets.

From shops, offices and schools, they spilled onto the streets in their tens of thousands, voicing anger and above all, defiance to injustice.

The #EndSARS campaigners also introduced a new trend to the protests with a reasonable number wrapping themselves in the Nigerian national flag in the belief that it would dissuade security agencies from attacking them. They stated that the flag symbolises the sovereignty of Nigeria that must never come under attack.

They are also now mobilising for the massive production of the green-white-green flag to be supplied to protesters nationwide.

The group yesterday called for the resignation of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, over the claim that he has lost control of the force and that there was a need to have a complete break from the past.

The call came amid the revelation that the campaigners had taken over the Twitter account of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) just as Arsenal Football Club Superstar and Gabonese international, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has twitted #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria in support of the protests.

Announcing the takeover of NBC twitter account, an anonymous individual said: “We #Anonymous have taken over all the NG official Twitter account to support #Endpolicebrutality. Expect unexpected. Which government website (s) would you want us to play with? Drop your suggestions under this tweet.”

Meanwhile, the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and Kannywood Artist/Celebrities has kicked against unnecessary heating up of the polity through the continued protests even after the Special Anti Robbery Squares SARS has been scrapped as demanded.

Late Thursday, a yet to be identified government convoy shot live ammunitions at protesters in Jos, Plateau State, dispersing #EndSARS protesters.

In a footage shared on Twitter, protesters who blocked Old Airport Junction leading to Bukuru and Terminus Market were seen being beaten and attacked by armed police men who also shot live ammunitions at some of them.

According to one of the protest leaders, Retnan Daser, a set of police convoy loaded with policemen, shot at protesters around Old Airport Junction in Jos.

“We ran away. We were not attacking anyone, we explained to the drivers plying the road before we blocked it. We were only surprised to see policemen in groups shoot at us, vandalise our speakers and amplifiers. The police beat up the DJ, which made more protesters to come back to rescue him before he would be killed,” he told The Guardian.

“At that point, we thought it was the deputy governor’s convoy, but the Deputy Governor’s office has told us that they were not involved in the attack,” he said.

Unlike the Thursday, October 15 protest in Lagos State that saw violent attacks by thugs allegedly belonging to Baba Alado of Mushin, yesterday’s protest kicked off in a peaceful atmosphere as Islamic faithful gathered at the State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja in Lagos.

Recall that APC Chieftain in Mushin, Alhaji Taoreed Faronbi, popularly called Baba Alado, had in a phone chat denied that he sponsored those who attacked EndSARS protesters in Alausa, Lagos, on Thursday.

Faronbi said any thug caught should be apprehended and prosecuted, as he has no reason to sponsor those who attacked the protesters, just as he has no reason to defend Police brutality. He said those who alleged he was the sponsor of the attackers were political enemies.

As the protests took a turn in Lagos, the protesters occupied Berger Bus Stop, Ojudu Berger, the Third Mainland Bridge, Gbagada-Oworonshoki end of the expressway, Lekki-Epe Expressway Toll Gate by Oriental Hotel, Lekki-Ikoyi Toll Gate, and Allen Junction in Ikeja, among others spots.

In Calabar, the protesters took to the major roads, causing motorists to take alternative roots within the city, chanting and carrying placards with “#EndSARS, stop Police Brutality, we need Police Reform, not name change.”

As protesters moved along the roads, the police were on ground to ensure safety of lives and property.

With the protests continuing across the country, the United Global Resolve For Peace (UGRFP) has urged the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, amend the Act establishing the Police Service Commission (PSC) to reflect current exigencies on the practicality of its functions and purpose, and also to strengthen it to function better.

It also urged the Federal Government to increase the budgetary provisions of the Commission to better serve the public, stressing that retired jurists, security and human rights experts should be appointed as chairman rather than a retired Inspector General of Police (IGP).

According to the peace advocacy group, there was an urgent need to mainstream youths and civil society organisations into the Nigerian policing system through a strategic stakeholder forum to protect against the public.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, Executive Director, UGRFP, Shalom Olaseni, condemned the killing of one Jimoh Isiaq and 10 others in Ogbomosho, Lagos and Abuja, saying the development was a threat to constitutional rights, a reproach on policing propriety and an indictment on failure to protect the lives of the people.

He added that as a peace and conflict resolution organisation, it had always supported peaceful means to cause change or challenge a predatory status quo, adding that, “it will continually lend its voice, wits and advice to the public and constituted authority on conflict mediation, reconciliation and resolution.”

Olaseni said: “The PSC Act is ripe for legislative intervention and must be amended to reflect current exigencies on the practicality of its functions and purpose, and also with a view to strengthening the Commission to function better.

“The Police Service Commission must enjoy adequate staffing and budgetary provisions to better serve the public. As such, its budgets and finances must be independent in input and reflect the need to situate the Commission strategically across the 36 states of the federation for ease of reach and access.”

#ENDSARS protesters in Ibadan yesterday vowed to continue protesting until the Federal Government dropped the idea of establishing tactical units to replace the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The protesters shut down many streets in the city, creating gridlocks and a snail-paced vehicular movement.

As early as 9:00am, they had gathered at the Gate area, which is very close to the Oyo State Government House. Another set of protestors assembled at the Mokola while some were at Challenge area.

In Ogbomoso, it was gathered that the protesters used Friday to pray. At the front of the Oyo State Secretariat Complex, those who converged there blocked roads leading to the secretariat; motorcyclists and motorists were prevented from passing. The development led to traffic snarls in the contiguous roads.

Mohammed Adewale said: “I’ve been here for the past five days. I don’t mind being here for one year, until the government does the right thing. In the true sense of it, SARS has not been scrapped. The one they introduced is just an old wine in a new bottle; they are the same set of people”.

A protester, who refused to mention his name, said: “We want the IGP to resign. I don’t care; I can spend one year here.”

Some of the protesters observed their Jumat prayer on the roads. They even brought food and drinks to take care of themselves; passers-by joined them to eat.

An aerial view shows protesters gathering at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, on October 15, 2020, during a demonstration to protest against police brutality and scrapping of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Pierre FAVENNEC / AFP

Meanwhile, a Coalition of Civil Society Groups has called on protesters to redirect attention and join them in demanding immediate end to killings and destruction of lives in Northern Nigeria.

The coalition, which addressed the media at Arewa House, Kaduna, yesterday, equally asked the Federal Government to deploy same energy used in the disbandment of SARS to end insecurity in the North.

It would be recalled that a section of Northern youths last Thursday launched #EndInsecurityNow campaign in Kaduna, taking to the streets and marching to the state House of Assembly.

The coalition, led by Yusuf Amoke, said: “We have witnessed a huge protest and demonstrations for citizens’ right all across the country, notable is the #EndSARS protest that has not only attracted the physical participation of notable personalities in the sporting and entertainment and other industries but has also witnessed virtual participation of notable international personalities and organisations.

“This unison in demand and mobilisation strength, coupled with the listening tendencies of the government, has resulted in the scraping of the unit of the police force. The brutality of SARS in some parts of the country was too much to bear, and therefore condemnable in strong terms.

“The government should use similar energy and responsiveness as used in ending SARS to end insecurity in the North. Government should redeploy members of the defunct SARS to some volatile northern states to help contain the insecurity as requested by the governor of Borno State and other Northern leaders.

“On a permanent basis, government should deploy security personnel on the Kaduna – Abuja highway to ensure safety of citizens.

“Government should improve on the welfare of our security personnel with assurance for better life for them and their family for efficiency and effectiveness.

“To our fellow comrades, we call on them to be calm and civil in expressing our concern in order not to allow jobbers to take advantage of the situation and plunge our already fragile country into anarchy as we appreciate the government for accepting the demand of the people by ending SARS.

“We equally call on all genuine comrades to put an end to the #EndSARS struggle since our demands have been met and join us in calling to end to insecurity in the North,” Amoke said.

The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, accused Kano State Government and secret police of disrupting its regional mass protest in Kano.

The groups insisted that beyond the wave of orchestrated attacks on them, the protest would resume today (Saturday) with full force to drive home their demands.

Addressing journalists in Kano, the national leader of the group, Balarabe Rufai, declared that, “the targeting of Kano State and singling it out for attacks on #EndInsecurityNow protesters is part of a mega clandestine plot by the Kano State Government and the nation’s secret security service aimed at provoking a retaliation from the CNG possibly leading to general unrest with subsequent attacks to be perpetrated in other northern states.”

The CNG led by Abdullazeez Sulieman had last Wednesday directed members of the groups and students unions to embark on peaceful protest across the 19 northern states beginning from last Thursday.

The decision, the spokesperson of the group revealed, was to expressed displeasure over the wave of insecurity in Northern Nigeria among other critical social and developmental challenges bedeviling the region.

Prior to the sudden obstruction by alleged thugs, the #EndInsecurityNow protesters filed out in their numbers with placards bearing inscriptions like ‘End Boko Haram now’, ‘Stop Kidnappings’, ‘No to Rape’, ‘Stop killings in the North’, ‘The North is Bleeding’ and “No Security no Education no Education no Security.’

The group, therefore, resolved to hold the Kano State government and the leadership of the nation’s secret security service responsible for any attack and disruption of public peace henceforth.

The group plans “to unequivocally repudiate all attempts to suppress the northerner’s inalienable right to freedom of association and expression as guaranteed by Nigerian laws and several international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.”

The Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, lent his support to the state government’s position as earlier presented by his deputy, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, on Tuesday, as well as the decisions of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum on the matter

The governor, who described the protest as a solemn moment for the country, called for prayers and a minute silence for the victims of extra-judicial killings in the nation.

The governor, who was accompanied by his deputy, Hon. Mrs. Ezeilo, commended the protesting youth for their peaceful conduct and urged them to remain law-abiding.

The youths, who had earlier marched round some streets of the state, blocked entrances to the Government House.

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, charged the state’s Police Command to provide adequate security for youths expressing their displeasure against police brutality through the #EndSARS protests.

In a statement, the governor urged the youths to be safe, orderly and comport themselves, reassuring that consultation was ongoing to ensure that their yearnings would be conclusively addressed.

Obaseki noted that the protests were legitimate and deserve attention, commending the Nigeria Police for accommodating most of the concerns by the young people.

“Your agitations with the #EndSARS protests are legitimate and deserve attention. We appreciate the effort by the Nigeria Police to accommodate most of these concerns. More consultation is ongoing to ensure that your yearnings are conclusively addressed.

“We urge men of the Edo State Command of the Nigeria Police to do well to respect the rights of youths to peaceful assembly and provide adequate security for peaceful protests.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Edo State, however, condemned the molestation of youths participating in peaceful protest in Benin City by thugs.

A statement signed by the party’s publicity secretary, Chris Nehikare said: “We were bewildered to hear that the moribund EPM faction of the APC allegedly unleashed its thugs on Edo youths, intimidating, brutalising and wounding many in the Kings Square area of Benin City as revenge for their rejection during the gubernatorial polls that took place on September 19, 2020.

“Their behaviour is even more vexatious especially when it is juxtaposed against the reason for the protest. Their ignorance is frightening and should be an embarrassment to their sponsors!

“We call on the police authorities to fish out the thugs responsible for this dastardly act and urge the Police to provide security for the protesters at all times. Anything short of this will amount to enabling these undesirable elements.”

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