The #EndSARS protest on Monday recorded an orgy of violence and jailbreaks in Edo and Ondo States, PATRICK OCHOGA writes as victims recount their horrific experiences
There was nothing more surprising or in the wildest imagination of Edo residents which suggested on Monday, October 19, that the #EndSARS protest which had gained national and global attention would turn bloody leaving sorrow, tears and blood.
Sequel to the unrest many families are left to bear the brunt as hoodlums in Benin City, the Edo capital, like other states hijacked what started as a peaceful protest for a reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) an arm of the Nigerian Police Force.
For the officials of Benin Medium Security Correctional Centre and Oko Medium Security Correctional Centre and their families, the horror and orgy of violent attacks would certainly leave them with a sad memory for a long time.
Some of the victims of the deadly attack watched helplessly as thousands of armed hoodlums under the guise of #EndSARS protesters shot their ways into the two correctional service housing dangerous and condemned criminals who were set free while attacking shop owners and setting ablaze properties worth millions of naira.
The protest, however, took a dangerous turn at about 11 am when armed hoodlums wielding AK 47 rifles stormed the Sapele road correctional centre and overpowered prison officials setting inmates free.
The Custodian Centre of Sapele Road, popularly referred to as “White House” according to its manager Mr Andrew Egbobawaye, was built in 1906. He said they were overpowered by the surging hoodlums armed with AK 47 riffles who freed the inmates.
“When I came out, I saw a large crowd of the hoodlums rushing towards me and I tried persuading them that this is a peaceful protest but as I was trying to calm them another group came with AK-47 rifles and before I knew what was happening one of them hit me on the head. And they stripped me naked.
“In fact, it was my squadron leader that came to my rescue and took me to safety in a nearby bush. They shot continuously to gain easy entrance. They came with a ladder which they used to scale the walls and entered the prison yard where they burst open the gates from inside.”
The controller of Edo State Correction Centre, Babayo Maisanda, confirmed that 1,818 hardened convicts had been let loose on the society and appealed to the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, to assist in rebuilding and securing the facility for the safety of the few remaining inmates.
The hoodlums, after freeing inmates at the Sapele road correctional centre, marched to the Oko Prison where their superior firepower also subdued the few armed guards at the prison centre.
The hoodlums did not only set over 1, 818 inmates including condemned criminals, they also unleashed mayhem on members of the prison’s families and other residents at the prison barracks.
After the three hours invasion of Oko prison only burnt official and private vehicles across the premises were left.
For now, 163 out of the 1,993 inmates who escaped from prison during a jailbreak occasioned by the #EndSARS protest in Edo State had been rearrested.
Victims narrate ordeals
One of the victims, Mrs Efe Omoruyi, said she was lucky to be alive. Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend in tears she said that her properties including plasma TVs, computers, laptops, generating set and cash were removed by the hoodlums who ransacked her apartment.
She said, “They did not only end there, but they also forced the boot of my car open, destroyed all the documents inside and made away with cash too.
“Initially, we had received information that they were coming to attack the prison but we didn’t believe it. They broke into my shop and removed the entire plastic chairs which they used to set fire.”
Another victim, a deaf and dumb, simply identified as Gideon, who owns a tailoring shop within the prison premises was also not spared.
Gideon who was not around during the attack, lost his entire sewing machines to the hoodlums while they took away his generator set and destroyed other properties they could lay hands on.
An eyewitness said: “This tailoring shop is the only means of livelihood for Gideon. We don’t know how he is going to take this loss. They took away everything he laboured for. This is very sad and unfortunate.”
Another victim, Mr Benjamin Aduya, a correctional officer at Oko Prison, sustained a deep machete cut on the head from the invading hoodlums and is being treated at a private clinic in Benin City.
His wife Mrs Aduya, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that her husband was attacked by the hoodlums and escaped death by whiskers. She, however, expressed happiness that her husband who is the breadwinner is still alive.
The deputy controller, of the Oko minimum facility, Mr West Amayo, who had earlier conducted Governor Obaseki round the place also corroborated the state controller of correction positions.
“The numbers of the attackers were much; they had weapons like cutlasses and guns. We tried to repel them, but we were overpowered. They started firing from the major road but at a point, our firearms got exhausted and they made their ways into the prison.”
As the orgy of violence continued in Benin other parts of the town also recorded attacks from the hoodlum who had infiltrated the protesters.
It was also gathered that the hoodlums, early on Tuesday, attacked the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, posted at Ekiadolor and set the place and vehicles within the premises on ablaze.
Another set of hoodlums operating along the Aduwawa axis of Benin metropolis also stormed the Customs office located at Aduwawa Estate and set it ablaze.
The storehouse of the facility, where confiscated contrabands were stored was equally attacked by the hoodlums, who looted the bags of rice in the store.
Downtown Sapele Road, a group of street urchins, operating as #EndSARS protesters, reportedly attacked a police patrol van and engaged the armed police personnel at the popular Santana Market, along Sapele road.
Two of the daring hoodlums were reportedly shot dead, while a host of others sustained injuries.
In one of the videos of the attacks that have since gone viral, a victim of the Santana Market encounter with the police was seen being taken to the Benin Central Hospital.
Curiously, the ugly incidents happened despite the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state by Governor Godwin Obaseki, following the bloodletting and vicious attack on two Correctional Centres (prisons) in Benin on Monday, when some hoodlums broke two jail houses and set inmates free.
Besides the prison breaks, five police stations at Oba Market, Dumez, Ugbekun, Idogbo and Ogida, were razed by the hoodlums, who carted away arms and ammunition from the police stations.
Obaseki, security agencies move to curb orgy of violence
As part of measures to douse the rising insecurity in the state, Edo State Government had on Monday imposed a 24 hours curfew and Wednesday reiterated that the curfew is still active till further notice.
The state government had in a statement through the special adviser to the governor on media and communication strategy, Crusoe Osagie, urged residents to remain indoors.
“Security agencies have been deployed to the streets to ensure full compliance and anyone found contravening the directive will be dealt with according to the law.
“Parents and guardians are urged to restrain their children, youths and wards from flouting the order, as security agencies will not spare any errant individual.
“The curfew was imposed when the #ENDSARS protests turned violent, leading to two jailbreaks and the burning of at least five police stations within the Benin metropolis as well as various degrees of public disturbances in other major cities across the state.”
Also, Godwin Obaseki has issued an ultimatum to fleeing inmates from the Medium Security Correctional Centres (MSCC) on Sapele Road and at Oko, Airport Road, to return to the prisons.
Obaseki gave the ultimatum while inspecting the Correctional facilities on Sapele Road and at Oko, in Benin City, the state capital on Wednesday.
Obaseki said the level of destruction in the state was never in the spirit of the #EndSARS protests, but the action of criminal elements who have now caused unrest in the state.
“This is not in the spirit of #EndSARS protests. The protesters were focused on reforming the police system not to destroy prisons and release inmates. You can tell that there was some criminal intention behind these acts.”
Obaseki said the #EndSARS protests in Edo State were hijacked by criminals and some inmates were released in the process, noting, “We condemn the act wholeheartedly and even the #EndSARS protesters have joined us in condemning this act. Government can’t sit down, fold its hands and allow a breakdown of law and order in our society because everyone will be affected.
He added: “We know some of the inmates have been released, but we appeal to all inmates who have escaped to come back on their own before the close of business on Friday. They should report themselves back as nothing will be done to them but failure to do that, we will come after them as we have their records.”
Assuring the government’s support to the police authorities to restore order and normalcy, the governor said, “Having undertaken this inspection and seeing the level of destruction, we will now move swiftly into action. The Inspector General of Police, (IGP), understanding the gravity of what has happened in Edo State, sent DIG Celestine Okoye to come and assist us in putting the situation under control.
“Our government will continue to support our people to have the right to express themselves legitimately. We don’t have any problem with #EndSARS protests but we are against hooliganism and brigandage.”
Meanwhile, scores of hoodlums defied a 24-hour curfew on Thursday at the National Correctional Service Centre in Okitipupa local government, Ondo State to break into the centre and set the inmates free.
Several inmates at the Centre escaped during the jailbreak on Thursday, October 22, 2020. It was gathered the thugs forcefully released no fewer than 58 inmates while they burnt vehicles.
The hoodlums also destroyed many properties belonging to the prison and injured the staff at the premises.