The peaceful protests by the #EndSars protesters took a turn for the worse this week. Recall that for the past two weeks, youths had been protesting in major cities over the extra-judicial killings and harassment by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and police brutality in general.
Although the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, moved swiftly to disband SARS and form SWAT, it still did not assuage the protesting youths who demanded to see actions taken on some of their other demands.
The #EndSARS demands include: “Immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families”, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days).
In line with the new police act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can be redeployed and an increase in police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.
On Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari accepted that the youths have the right to protest but it should be done in an orderly and peaceful manner saying the demands are being looked into.
On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, tendered an apology to the #EndSars protesting youths across the country.
In a tweet, Osinbajo admitted that the administration could have moved faster in implementing the demands of the youths.
He said too many people had been brutalized by the police and this was unacceptable adding that the government must take full responsibility for protecting the youths.
However, during the week, hoodlums hijacked the protest and went on a killing and looting spree across the nation. In Abuja, a car mart was razed down in the popular Apo mechanic area and also a mechanic workshop which specializes in fixing Mercedes Benz was razed by the hoodlums. The federal capital which used to be one of the peaceful places in the country was tensed as residents stayed indoors.
In Edo State, hoodlums attacked prisons and close to 2000 inmates were freed. In Lagos, the hoodlums attacked media houses, shops and attempts were made to free inmates in Ikoyi Prison.
While all these were going on, the calls grew louder for the president to address the nation. The president finally addressed the nation on Thursday.
In his address, President Buhari appealed to #EndSars protesting youths to shelve their protests saying the government has heard their demands loud and clear.
The president in a national wide broadcast stated that it had become necessary to address the youths having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the security chiefs.
Buhari warned those who hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of the youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
On Monday 12 October, the president said he acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force by some members of SARS.
According to him, the choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law.
Remarkably, to demonstrate his intention to putting an end to the crisis , the president met with former Heads of States and presidents in a virtual meeting on Friday .
The former leaders that participated virtually from their homes include Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (Rtd), with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Those physically present at the Council Chambers with the President include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha; chief of staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and national security adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno.
Others include the chief of defence staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; director-general, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, and director-general, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai.