By Kucha Jeremiah, CECILIA OGEZI and BLESSING BATURE-AKPAKPAN, Abuja, Patrick Ochoga, Benin City FEMI OYEWESO, Abeokuta, ALO ABIOLA, Ado-Ekiti
The #ENDSARS protests across the country sparked by the activities of the defunct Federal Special Anti- Robbery Squad (F-SARS) unrest has taken a new twist as Anti SARS/SWAT protesters yesterday blocked major road in Abuja, the nation’s capital, and Lagos State.
LEADERSHIP Weekend checks revealed that the protest is no longer about the actions of some rogue cops that violated police procedure.
The protesters who defied the order of the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Muhammadu Bello, on the ban of all protests within the territory pitched their tents on major roads in the city, preventing motorists and commuters from plying the roads.
The directive was issued after a meeting between the minister and other stakeholders on security, including the military, police, Area Council chairmen.
The protesters who were in their numbers barricaded the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way, the road leading to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Air passengers had a hectic day trying to catch up with their flight, while workers and other persons living along the airport road axis were still stocked on the road trying to return home after work.
Some protesters who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend expressed their dissatisfaction over happenings in Nigeria.
Umar Abdullahi, a native of Dan Musa in Katsina State, said he as a Nigerian, he will not support government molesting Nigerians.
He said, “The government instead of channelling their energy to combat insecurity, they molest innocent Nigerians. Instead of tackling Boko Haram, bandits and other security challenges in the country, the government harassed taxi drivers, bike riders aka okada riders, barrow pushers, etc.
“They swore an oath to protect Nigerians but the reverse is the case. On this basis, I support the protest hundred percent.”
A protester who simply gave her name as Eniola said the government should implement all the promises they made not only about police reform but about every sector in Nigeria.
“We were in the ministry of justice about 2 days ago…a lot needs to be done about that ministry. Our justice system needs overhauling,” Eniola stated.
An elderly man, Dele Abiodun, trapped in the gridlock due to the protest expressed support for the protesters.
He said, “This is a nice idea and I support it. It is not just about ending SARS but every form of corruption going on in our nation. Most especially the gap between the poor and the rich needed to be closed. People are suffering and the worst thing is our leaders don’t even understand the extent to which the people are suffering.
“The people that have been ruling us in the last 40 years are the same people ruling us today. The youths must decide. They are not just fighting for themselves but for unborn generations”.
In the same vein, a protester who simply gave her name as Joy said she came to protest because she was on the same page with the protesters that Nigeria is in total mess.
Our correspondents observed that commuters returning from work were held up in traffic as of 6pm because the protesters barricaded Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way, saying there was no movement from either ways and there was no government official to address the protesters.
There was a heavy traffic build from CCECC building down to Moshood Abiola Stadium, while the road was blocked from Dantata bridge down to after Federal Medical Centre, Jabi road and on Galadimawa axes up till after the roundabout.
The protesters were seen preparing sleeping places to pass the night on the road, just as food supplies were made to the protesters as movement to and fro the Airport was grounded.
The protesters said they were continuing their protests across the city to demand justice for all victims of police brutality and killings in the country.
While those among the protesters who were Muslims took time to pray at the protest venues, those who did not join in the prayers stood by to protect them from being attacked.
The protesters carried placards with the following inscriptions: #EndSARS, Stop Police Brutality, End SWAT, among several others.
Some of the protesters, who spoke to journalists at the Gwagwalada-Zuba axis accused SARS officers of profiling youths largely based on appearance, mounting of illegal road blocks, stop and search, arrest without warrant, rape women, extort young Nigerians for driving exotic vehicles and using iphones.
They maintained that despite the disbandment of the unit, they were also demanding for total reform of the Nigeria police, while those police officers accused of brutality are made to face justice.
In Lagos, motorists yesterday groaned over gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a result of protest against the disbanded Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARs).
The protesters carried placards with different inscriptions as they blocked the expressway, causing gridlock.
LEADERSHIP Weekend checks showed that the gridlock which started from Mowe axis of the expressway in Obafemi-Owode local government, Ogun, extending to Magboro end of Lagos axis affected both lanes of the expressway.
Passengers who could not bear with the gridlock were, however, seen trekking as they expressed their displeasure over the situation.
Sodiq Adelekun, a motorist, said he had been in the gridlock for more than five hours, saying he left Ibadan around 8am for Lagos but was still in the gridlock as at 1pm.
“It is a terrible situation, this journey should not have taken me more than one and half hours maximum but I have spent more than five hours in the gridlock. The question I ask is that are we going to continue like this?” He queried, adding that it was high time the youths stopped the protest for the sake of the masses.
Protests Spreads To London, US, Germany, South Africa, Other Countries
The new wave of protests has spread beyond Nigeria to countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Africa, among others, in what could best be described as a full blown social media war on twitter and instagram.
Solidarity protests yesterday continued in London, Washington, Toronto and some other countries around the world.
In Germany and London, Nigerian protesters and some citizens of these countries took the street with placards, dancing to Eeedris Abdulkareem’s song, “Nigeria Jaga Jaga”.
What started in major Nigerian cities as #ENDSARS protest is now making waves in countries like London, France and Germany, with near-daily marches.
The protests in France culminated in a mild demonstration in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Paris, capital of that country.
In Uk, the demonstrators were said to have moved from the Nigerian High Commission in London to Downing street yesterday.
In video footages shared online, they could be heard singing Eeedris Abudulkareem’s song, “NigeriaJaga Jaga” as they demanded for change.
In Germany, the rally was held at Cologne, the country’s largest city, by persons who described themselves as fellow concerned Nigerians and were supported by white Europeans.
1 Killed As Protest Turns Bloody In Edo
In Edo State at least one person has been confirmed dead and scores others sustained varying degrees of gunshot injury on Friday in Benin, Edo state, as hoodlums hijack the #EndSARS protest.
The dead protester was identified simply as Ikpomwosa.
The protest by hundreds of youths which began on a peaceful note at the City centre, later turned bloody, as the hoodlums clashed with the protesting youths.
The hoodlums were said to have suddenly appeared with guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons to attack the protesters.
While some of the protesting youths took to their heels, others stayed back to persuade the hoodlums that the peaceful protest was for all of the youths and that they were not out to fight anybody.
It was further learnt that the hoodlums who were clad in red T-shirts, were saying “why are they disturbing our work,” and in the process brought guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapon to attack the protesting youths.
Some of those who received gunshot injuries in the ensuing violence were later rushed to the nearby Central Hospital, while the body of Ikpomwosa was conveyed in an ambulance through the Reservation Road to the Government House.
One of the injured persons, Abere Godswill, during the attack, said the hoodlums descended on him thinking he wanted to video them while removing the cutlasses from their vehicle
“I didn’t join the protest. I was coming from the bank when I met them on the road. Because I held my phone in my hand, they started beating me saying I wanted to video them. They collected the phone and I had to run for my life,” he said
The youths however, later regrouped after the hoodlums had been chased away and continued the protest.
Meanwhile, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki has condemned the attack on #ENDSARS protesters in Benin City by unidentified hoodlums, noting that a thorough investigation would commence immediately to bring the culprits to justice.
The governor, in a statement, charged the Edo State Police Command to come out in full force to provide adequate security to the protesters, as they were exercising their rights as concerned citizens of Nigeria.
Protesters Paralyse Commercial Activities In Ogun, Ekiti
Commercial activities were yesterday paralysed across Ogun State when angry youths from different parts of the state took their EndSARS protest to the streets in furtherance of their anger against police brutality in Nigeria.
Vehicular movements were also disrupted, particularly in Abeokuta metropolis, when the angry youths under the EndSARS campaign, armed with placards bearing various inscriptions, laid siege to strategic locations in the state capital.
The overhead bridge at the popular NNPC Junction connecting the M.K.O Abiola way, Kuto Garage and the State’s Secretariat in Oke – Mosan also played host to the protesters that filled the top and under the bridge singing various solidarity songs.
LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that several artistes and Nollywood actors which included a Hip Hop artist, Kizz Daniel as well as a veteran Nollywood actor, Yemi Sodium among other celebrities also participated in the protest.
In Ekiti Youths in their large numbers yesterday took to the streets of Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti state capital, in protest against the operatives of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) and police brutality in the country.
The protest paralysed most activities within the metropolis, as the youths continued to register their displeasure at the inhuman actions of the SARS men for ours.
The protesters had massed at the popular Fajuyi park in the early hour of the day and barricaded the major road which caused traffic gridlock in the area.
Motorists heading to the bank road, Adebayo road and Basiri areas in Ado-Ekiti were held up for several hours and forced to take alternative routes to their respective destinations.
They called on the government to begin the process of massive reforms in the policing sector in the country.
Governor Kayode Fayemi while on his way to the State House of Assembly for a state of the state address to mark his second anniversary of his administration stopped to address the protesters.
The youths later took their protest to the state House of Assembly where they became unruly.
The governor who noted that the youths have genuine agitation for an holistic reforms of the police force, appealed to them to continue their demonstration in a peaceful manner and avoid it being hijacked by hoodlums.
Fayemi who had hectic time addressing the youths noted that the government at the federal and the state level had received their demands, saying actions are being taken towards bringing the confidence of the people to the police.
The governor said, “When I was young, I can tell you that I participated in so many protests against the military and I want to say what you are doing now is not against the law because you have genuine reasons for protesting and we know it.
“I will continue to appeal to you to remain peaceful as you are doing now and the government is doing everything possible to address your concerns. You have to show more understanding with the government.”
He assured the protesting youths that an end has come to police harassment and intimidation of innocent persons in the society.