By OUR CORRESPONDENTS
The ongoing #EndSARS protest took a gory dimension yesterday with many persons killed in the process across the country and over 200 cars set ablaze in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The protest against police brutality propelled by the angry youths, which has gone global, practically shut down the country as workers in both private and public institutions abstained from work.
The protest which started peacefully in most parts of the country however turned bloody in the federal capital territory (FCT), as well as Kano, Edo and Lagos States where many were killed and others injured in controversial circumstances.
As the protest turned violent, three hoodlums were beaten to death while attempting to disperse #EndSARS protesters who blocked the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way, the road leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the protesters marched through the expressway along Kuje junction when the hoodlums suddenly emerged from the bush and attacked them.
The protesters who were in their large numbers overpowered the hoodlums and beat three of them to death.
As of the time of filing this report, one of the hoodlums was alive but efforts to get the police to convey him to hospital for medical help failed, as one of the police officers was heard saying that he would not want to get involved.
The police officers who disguised in mufti said they saw when the hoodlums passed with cutlasses, woods and other dangerous weapons and wondered why the hoodlums decided to go against the protesters.
He said, “You see now; three of them are dead”.
A passerby who contacted someone in the Air Force Base Sauka to see if medical assistance could be given to one of the boys that was alive said that the person he contacted declined, but suggested that the patient should be taken to Gwagwalada.
Meanwhile, from Kuje junction to Giri, there was heavy traffic build up. Movement to and fro the Airport was disrupted and aircraft passengers were affected.
Also, movement from Gwagwalada axis as well as Kuje was brought to a standstill.
Still in the Federal Capital Territory, the #EndSARS protest at Apo legislative quarters turned violent as not fewer than four persons lost their lives in the process and over seven cars set ablaze.
Speaking with an eye witness in a telephone interview, Mr. Samuel Gebechukwu from Tyre plaza Apo, said the protest started around 1:30 pm at Apo Round About, and the aggrieve youths started setting cars ablaze, killing one person at the roundabout.
He said most of the protesters who were well armed with knives and other weapons, burnt down cars at Kabusa junction and blocked Apo Primary school junction.
According to him, there was no access road, no safety guaranteed, adding that the melee lasted for over three good hours without police intervention or any other security personnel intervening.
“As I am speaking now, no fewer than four people are lying dead at the Apo Primary School; there is fear in the area as people are afraid of what will happen next,” he said.
It was gathered that the #EndSARS protesters shut down Bwari-Dutse Expressway.
The protests which show no sign of abating soon saw the Bwari/Dutse road totally blocked, while commuters were forced to go back home while car owners were stranded.
Also In Lagos the #EndSARS protesters attacked and injured nineteen policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Command at Adekunle, Yaba area of Lagos State.
According to the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO) Olumuyiwa Adejobi, a Superintendent of Police, the incident happened when the protesters violently descended on some policemen around the area.
He said that ninety seven policemen, who were being conveyed to their various beats on routine relief duties across the state, came across the violent protesters who started shouting “No Police, No Police” stoned them leaving 19 of the policemen critically injured.
He said four police vehicles were damaged, adding that the policemen, who scampered for safety, were eventually rescued and rushed to the Police Clinic at Panti, Yaba, for medical Attention.
Amid the civil unrest, Lagos State government has directed all pupils/students in public and private schools to stay at home following the tension generated by the #EndSARS protests.
The state commissioner for education, Folasade Adefisayo who issued the directive on Monday stressed that the safety of the pupils/students, parents, and all staff working in schools was paramount in this critical period and as such necessitated this move.
She advised parents to keep an eye on their ward and not allow them to be used as willing tools in the hands of those who might want to hijack the protests to unleash mayhem on society.
The commissioner also encouraged schools to utilise other means of distance teaching and learning including radio, television, and online media as they have been doing during and post COVID-19 lockdown.
“A new date of resumption for all classes will be announced as soon as possible,” Adefisayo said.
In Enugu State the protesters called on religious and traditional leaders to support the ongoing ENDSARS protest to save the country from total collapse.
The protesters who spoke at Okpara Square in Enugu where they gathered to commence their protest said they will not pay tithe to spiritual leaders that refuse to join the struggle.
They protested with placards with different inscriptions including “Peace, justice, equity and fairness, Say no to police brutality, I am a mother of the leaders of tomorrow, stop killing these leaders”
Addressing Journalists on behalf of the youth, Chinedu Anichi, National Patron of Nigeria Students and Youth Association called on various stakeholders, religious and traditional rulers to support the ENDSARS struggle, adding that “we will only work with people that support our demand.
“We call on men of God to support us as we continue in this struggle of #End SARS because we will only pay tithe and sacrificial offerings to spiritual leaders who identify with our problems. Our demand is that we have to minus brutality and plus civility in the process of investigation and operation of Nigerian police. We want a Nigeria police that has the face of a Nigeria, a Nigeria police that will restore confidence in the youth and make them feel protected,’’ he added.
Edo Govt Imposes Curfew As Hoodlums Free All Prisoners, Set Police Stations Ablaze
In Edo State where the hoodlums hijacked the protest, went berserk and broke into two prisons and correctional facilities to release inmates, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday declared a 24-hour curfew as anarchy reigned
LEADERSHIP gathered that four people were reportedly shot dead yesterday in Auchi in Etsako West local government area of Edo State when the earlier peaceful #EndSARS protest turned violent.
The protesters were said to have beaten up a military man, forcing soldiers to react, leading to the killings.
Over 2000 armed suspected hoodlums reportedly broke into the Benin Prison popularly called White House and Oko correctional centre and freed over 1, 500 inmates.
Among the inmates set free were 120 condemned criminals and others awaiting trial.
The state government, in a swift response to the breakdown of law and order, declared the 24-hour curfew in the state till further notice.
The armed squad of prison officials engaged the suspected hoodlums in a gun fire which resulted in some persons sustaining injuries.
Also destroyed was the High Court 4 which is beside the prison that the hoodlums vandalized.
The hoodlums started gathering along Sapele Road beside the prison as early as 7 am setting bonfires and sending back road users.
They launched their attack when their number had swelled considerably, breaking a part of the wall while some climbed the fence into the prison yard.
A few of the inmates escaped with gunshots while an elderly man was recaptured while walking away like a passerby.
At the Oko minimum prison, the rampaging hoodlums carted away plasma television, generators, standing fans, car batteries and other valuables they could lay their hands on.
The security guides at the Oko prisons were overpowered while some took to their heels as the hoodlums in their large numbers broke into the prisons.
It was learnt that an emergency call by officials of the prison to the sister agency for re-enforcement was ignored, leaving the hoodlums to have a field day.
According to a statement issued by the secretary to the state government, Osarodion Ogie, the curfew is to take effect from 4pm, today, October 19, 2020.
Ogie in the statement explained that the decision had become necessary because of the very disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters.
He said, “While the government of Edo State respects the rights of its citizens to undertake legitimate protests, it cannot sit idly when hoodlums have taken laws into their hands to cause mayhem on innocent citizens and the state.
“By the directive, schools and businesses are to shut down activities accordingly. Those who cannot move safely are to stay put between now and 4pm till calmness is restored.
“Parents are advised to rein in their children, youths and wards, to forestall further breakdown of law and order. The responsibility of government is to protect lives and property and maintain law and order; therefore, anyone found outside in violation of the curfew would be dealt with according to the law”
Police stations at Oba market in Oredo and Idogbo, Ikpoba Okha local government areas were set ablaze and ammunition were said to be carted away.
Kano, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Abia Not Spared
In Rivers State, #EndSARS women protesters took over the main entrance into Government House, Port Harcourt, demanding to see Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
The women protesters, all dressed in black and carrying placards and the Nigerian flag, marched from the Pleasure Park, along Port Harcourt-Aba Express Road, to the Police headquarters and Rivers State House of Assembly complex, all located along Moscow Road, Port Harcourt.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, were not on ground to address the protesters.
Speaking in front of the Government House, veteran Nollywood actress, Hilda Dokubo Mrakpor said, “We will not talk to anybody other than the governor. We don’t have representatives and we don’t have leaders. All of us are leaders.
“When the governor comes for campaigns, he talks to his people. He should come and talk to us. We pin here.”
The state deputy governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, later addressed the protesters and commended them for their peaceful disposition, promised to pass their message across to the state governor.
In Kano State some youths from Kofar Mata and environs blocked roads in Municipal local government area of the state over alleged killing of a 17- year old, Saufullahi Muhammad Kofar Mata who was said to have died in Police custody Sunday night.
Our reporter gathered that the deceased Saifullahi and two others were arrested two days ago by the police, for fighting at the Kofar Mata quarters of the local government area.
Some of the relatives of the deceased who spoke to reporters said after Saifullahi was released on bail by the police, he was re-arrested and detained where he was allegedly tortured to death.
LEADERSHIP reports that when the Police brought Saifullahi’s corpse to the family house in morning, the youths at the same time returned the corpse to police Division at Shahuchi quarters, angry youths took to the streets and blocked roads that link the quarters with famous Kwari textile market in the metropolitan in protest.
When contacted, Kano State Police Public Relation Officer, Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, denied a report trending on Social Media that the 17-year-old died in police custody.
He said police had received a report on hoodlums fighting each other at Kofar Mata on Sunday and when they visited the area and intervened and while the police who got hold of late Saifullahi as one of the suspects were later attacked by the youths in the area.
Haruna said the hoodlums were the people that beat Saifullahi and cut his body with a sharp knife.
In Abia State the demonstrators in their numbers took-off from Abia Tower about five kilometers on Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway from Umuahia, the Abia State capital displaying placards with different inscriptions.
Accompanied by some musicians which included J. Martin, Niga Raw, and Dauda they sang both anti-SARS and anti-bad governance songs as they passed through Ossa and Club Roads, Warri Street, Uwalaka, and Aba
Moving either on foot or cars with open roofs, in tricycles, buses, and open trucks, peacefully, some of them stationed themselves at Government House Road junction near the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), causing heavy traffic jams.
The Nationwide protest against Special Anti-Robbery Squad also took a different dimension in Akwa Ibom on Monday as protesters clamouring for restructuring of Nigeria among other demands occupied the commercial centre of Uyo the state capital.
The protesters who conducted themselves in a peaceful manner moved from Ikpa road junction leading to the University of Uyo campus and marched to Ibom plaza roundabout popularly known as ” Ibom Connection’ that connects major roads to Uyo metropolis.
You Have Right To Protest Peacefully, PMB Tells Youths
As the protests raged, President Muhammadu Buhari affirmed that the #EndSARS-protesting youths had the right to protest peacefully.
He however pointed out the demands of the youths were being met in a timely fashion.
Minister of youths and sports development, Sunday Dare disclosed this yesterday to State House correspondents after meeting with the president at the presidential villa.
According to him, the government was responding to the demands at various levels.
He said, “This afternoon I met with Mr. President and with the Chief of Staff in attendance. I was afforded the opportunity to brief Mr. President of the younger generation which is the youth of this country. I was also afforded the opportunity to highlight some of their demands, expectations and desire for reform.
“I also thank Mr. President for being responsive to the demands of the younger generation to #EndSARS but also the other demands to ensure we have deep seated reforms, making sure that an investigation is conducted to justice all those that have been responsible for the extra-judicial killings, extortions, human rights violations and torture.
“But more importantly, I was able to let Mr. President know that the youths of this country are law abiding, they are brilliant and smart, they are young ones that love peace and also want an environment to pursue their dreams and career. That they believe in this country and that they expect the reforms that have been promised will be followed through.
“Mr. President assured that the demands of the protesters are being met in a timely fashion, some have been met already. He said he accepts their demands and that the government is already responding at various levels.
“Mr. President said the youths of this country have spoken and he has heard and he has since gone to work for the youth of the country, not just as a president but also as a father of the younger generation.
“He said as a father to this generation of our youth, his desire is for them to be well protected and live in a country where they enjoy their freedom and do not suffer from any form of police brutality.
“The President promised that he will ensure that the reforms as promised are met, that the reforms are long lasting and that the reforms will deliver for our country a police force that we will be proud of.
“So, on the whole I got the assurances of Mr. President that the youth of our country are a great resource and not a problem. He appreciates the fact that they have brought the SARS issue to the fore through their peaceful protests.
“He recognizes that they have called upon the government to do what is necessary and that as a president and a father, he will make that the demands put forward are met and that he will work to ensure that we get the reform we want, ensure that our youth are no longer profiled but celebrated and supported for their vast potentials, skills and for the fact that the future of our country lie in the hands of our youth.”
Asked to speak on plans on engagement, Dare said, “First, Mr. President said that as far as he is concerned, it is important to allow the younger generation to exercise the freedom to protest but he did say that such protest must be in a peaceful manner. Of course he is worried about some of the exceptions to the peaceful nature of the protest. And for him it is important that these protests are properly guided, he said part of the demands that were made was to ensure those protesting are protected and any police officer that has in one way or the other attacked any protester be brought to book.
“So, Mr. President thinks it’s a fundamental human right, so long as the protest is peaceful and focused. He said he has been responsive to demands put forward by the protesters. He believes the youth to a very large extent are law abiding, they are young people with dreams and expectations of the government and the society and that they have a right to demand for certain things, which is why he has a very attentive ear to their demands.
“On engagement, conversations with the Nigerian youth have since started; they were able to get their demands across to the government. The President spoke directly on Monday, condemning the killings particularly the extra-judicial killings that have occurred before, police brutality and approving investigation and to bring the guilty to book.
“That is one level of conversation. Last week, we had a virtual town-hall meeting in which we had the police PRO and myself engaging with over 145 youth online, where they asked numerous questions we provided updates, clarity and the police was able to give further details on how the reforms were proceeding and will proceed, in some cases clear timelines on how the reforms will take place. The demands are already in the public and the government is already addressing those demands that are on the one hand demands and a conversation.”
Call Off Protest, Govs Beg Youths
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi who made the appeal after an emergency meeting of the forum on Sunday night pointed out that the protest have been hijacked by hoodlums by maiming and looting innocent citizens.
The governors equally condemned the attack on Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State by armed persons while he was addressing anti-police brutality protesters in the state capital Osogbo.
He said, “Protesters are encouraged to engage with the government appropriately at both the national and state levels to ensure that the protests are not taken over by hoodlums who are instigating a breakdown in law and order in many parts of the country.
“Activate a Judicial Panel of Enquiry to receive all cases of police brutality by officers of the disbanded SARS Unit.
“Each State is also expected to kick start a compensation mechanism for all victims. Endorse the call by demonstrators for improved governance predicated on an enforcement regime that takes into cognizance the fundamental human rights and liberties of all citizens in the country.
“Act on all the Demands made by the EndSARS protesters raising some concerns with the shifting nature of the demands which creates uncertainty on the exact expectations and ultimate goal.
“Finally, appeal for the call off of protests as a continuation grossly exposes the fragile economic fundamentals of the country; particularly as criminal elements and hoodlums have hijacked the protests by maiming innocent citizens, looting and destroying properties”.
There Is Hidden Agenda Behind Protest – Buni
Meanwhile, chairman, caretaker committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, observed yesterday that there is a hidden agenda in the #EndSARS protests.
In an interview with BBC Hausa, Buni warned that the protests may result in anarchy if not properly handled.
He said, “Hoodlums can utilise the gathering to cause confusion and terrorise other innocent citizens. The ongoing protests show that there is a hidden agenda, after the government has responded to the protesters’ demand.
“Nigeria is a country accommodating people with several motives and demands which include restructuring and disintegration, thus, we should be careful.
“There are criminals who see the disbanded police unit as a threat to their criminal activities. All leaders should know that it is only when the country exists in peace that one can achieve their goals, you cannot be a leader through chaos; it will not be well.”
FG Raises Concerns Over Impending Spread Of COVID-19 Through Protest
Obviously not amused by the situation, the federal government yesterday expressed worries that non-adherence to the pandemic protocol by #EndSARS protesters may lead to a spike of the virus.
The Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha raised the alarm during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 in Abuja yesterday, stating that resumption of schools and all civil servants was another cause of worry.
According to him, indications are that Nigeria appears to be winning the war against COVID-19, adding that the PTF has adopted an approach of cautious optimism and shall encourage Nigerians to do the same in view of the observed level of risk perception, skepticism and general non-compliance with the NPIs.
He said, “In the 34th week of the pandemic in Nigeria, a total of 1,174 new cases were recorded in the country. This represents a 32 per cent increase from the 921 recorded in the previous week.
“The increase in new cases could have been caused by an increase in the number of people tested for the virus. A total of 25,699 samples were collected for testing in the week under review, compared to the 18,597 tested the previous week.
“This statistical review becomes very relevant when we remember that over the same period, quite a number of large gathering events, particularly the protests across the country have been taking place.
‘’It becomes more pertinent because of the fact that measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and use of sanitizers were never observed.’’
Dingyadi Apologises Over Police Brutality
Meanwhile, the minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, yesterday apologised to Nigerians over police brutality, saying the federal government will leave no stone unturned in reforming the
Nigeria Police Force in line with global standards.
In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja yesterday, the minister appealed to the #EndSARS protesters to sheathe their sword, assuring victims of police brutality and their families of justice.
Dingayadi said that government had taken note of the grievances and demands of the protesters, but would need some time to be able to address all of the issues as they were.
He said it was unfortunate that the Nigeria Police Force was battling dented image and bad reputation because of the atrocities and wrongdoings of the few bad eggs in the system.
He assured that security of lives and property is topmost priority of the Buhari administration, even as he said there
would be better and effective police/community relations at the end of the ongoing police reform.