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#EndSARS: The Days of Fury and Fire

...Lagos Under Siege

By Eric Elezuo

The last few days could very well be described as some of the darkest days in the history of the geographical entity called Nigeria. The country, especially its commercial city, Lagos, has witnessed the worst form of degradation following extensive destruction and looting of public facilities. During these periods, hoodlums, who capitalised on the peacefully conducted #EndSARS protests, have torched and looted banking institutions, the judiciary, security outfits, hospitality industry, the media among many other revered institutions. This is not forgetting the traditional stool of the Oba of Lagos.

The first one week of the protests, which started as a mild joke on Twitter, saw Nigerian youths weaponising their voices and confidence, converting their determination to see a new Nigeria into boldness, and consequently took to the streets to drive home their points in protests against incessant harassments, torture and killings being perpetrated by the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and the Police Force in general.

The protests practically spread throughout the length and breath of the country from its initial base, Lagos, sending jitters down the spine of those in authority. it is worthy of note that in the short space of time the protests lasted, the government took far reaching decisions including scrapping of SARS, agreeing to pay the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) earned allowance to the tune of N40 billion and reopening of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps.

But the scrapping of the unpopular police outfit, SARS, following the killing of a youth in Delta State, by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Nigerian youths held their ground, and stayed put on the streets protesting. They made it clear that #EndSARS was a metaphor for the many inanities going on in the country. More so, they felt that the government was not sincere as it hastily changed SARS to Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).

In between, the youths made a five-point demand including:

  • Immediate release of all arrested protesters
  • Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families.
  • Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days
  • Carrying out psychological evaluation and retaining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can deployed (this should be verified by an independent body).
  • The government should increase police salary and they should adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of the citizens
But much as government agreed to fulfill these demands, the youths stayed put in the streets. #EndSARS protests is just an umbrella body to introduce the massive rot that has so far engulfed the Nigerian body polity.
Despite entreaties by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the youths stayed on the streets across the nation.

“Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry,” the Vice President apologised.

He followed up his apologies with the setting up of judicial panels of inquiry in all states of the federation to receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extrajudicial killings. The police authorities went ahead to sack about 37 former SARS officers and demoted another 29, but the protesters still have other demands. These include the prosecution of killer cops, the release of all protesters in detention and the total overhaul of the police.

In all these, the protests, supervised by the youths without what one would call authentic leadership, gained global recognition. It received a fuller force after the Police in a broadcast by its Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, announced a replacement, called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The announcement of the SWAT replacement was like the fire that reprogrammed the agitation. The protesters alleged that they had been taken for granted. That instead of acceding to the demands of ending the existence of the outfit, the authorities embarked on name change.

Ever since, they remained on the street, disrupting economic activities and restricting vehicular movements around the metropolis. However, the protests remained relatively peaceful, was applauded by all and sundry, including global figures.

But things began to go awry when skirmishes reared its head as ‘hired’ hoodlums, attempted to violently disrupt protests in Abuja and Lagos. The hoodlums, who were well co-ordinated were sighted boarding luxurious SUVs, and being patronised by men purported to be secret service agents. However, unconfirmed reports have said that the men sponsoring the thugs were aides to a ‘senator’. They acted brazenly, attacking with the ferocity of one who has a backing, killing and maiming.

The #EndSARS protesters however, continued in different parts of the country, repelling attacks from thugs and security agents, using private bouncers and dogs. In Lagos, two people were crushed to death during the protest in the Alagbado area of the state. The victims were identified as Ojo Azeez, 27; and Yusuf Sodia, 26.

While the demonstration was on in the Ikeja area around 8am, hoodlums, suspected to be members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, invaded the protest ground, armed with cutlasses and axes and injured several protesters. They were also said to have vandalised vehicles in a bid to disperse the crowd. Some of the hoodlums were alleged to have been conveyed to the scene in a government-owned bus. But Primero Transport Services Limited, operators of the BRT vehicle alleged to have conveyed the hoodlums to the protest ground, denied knowing anything about it.

It is worthy of note that most governors lent their voices to the demands of the youths, and appearing in person to join the mass movement. Some of them are Kwara State governor, Abdulraman Abdullahi, Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, who initially banned the protest in the state, but recanted after coming under heavy backlash.

But again, things took a different turn when a jailbreak was experienced in Benin (White House) Prison, supervised by hoodlums, who had hijacked the protest after burning down a police station. The jailbreak released close to 2000 inmates, leading to a declaration of 24 hours curfew by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.

That was the prompt the hooligans, especially those in Lagos needed to unleash a world of terror on residents. As a result, by midday on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, untold mayhem had been released on Lagosians.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos Command, Muyiwa Adejobi, listed the property to have been destroyed, to include Orile police station, Layeni Police Station, Amukoko Police Station and Cele outpost, under Ijesha division which were burnt. He noted that Mushin Police Division and Ilembe Hausa Police Division were attacked.

Other facilities torched according to Adejobi on Tuesday were Lagoon Hospital at Apapa and Ajeromi Ifelodun local government secretariat. These attacks were not without human casualties as unconfirmed number of police personnel were murdered.

The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu followed the footsteps of his Edo counterpart, and announced a 24 hours curfew in the state, originally scheduled to kick off at 4pm on Tuesday, but later moved to 9pm.

But prior to the time, sporadic shootings by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate area of Lagos was heard. The attack on the peaceful protesters had ignited reaction from world leaders, who condemned the action of the Nigerian military. Much as fatalities were recorded contrary to the broadcast of Sanwo-Olu shortly after, no particular number of the dead has been agreed upon. The army has also denied being behind the attack, and so has Lagos State government.

The soldiers reportedly took over the Lekki tollgate where the #EndSARS protesters had been holding their rally since the protest began last week, forcing hundreds to scamper to safety. While a celebrity, DJ Switch, who broadcasted the attack live via Instagram, say a total of 78 persons lost their lives on the night, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Army of killing and taking away 12 bodies. Many had tagged the day Black Tuesday.

Reacting to what many Nigerians tagged #LekkiMassacre, the author of Never An After Thought, Mr. Afolabi Imoukuede frowned at the shooting, saying that the devastation and mental torture associated with the action can only be imagined. He lamented a situation security operatives would choose to shoot at innocent civilians with live ammunition.

Hear said: “Dear Younger Me (2) Black Tuesday – 20.10.2020 otherwise known as #LekkiMassacre is devastating to me, to you and should be to every well meaning individual. I never imagined that I would ever live to see a day wherein our security apparatus would under any guise at all shoot live ammunitions on unarmed, defenseless, peaceful protesters, sitting on the floor, singing the national anthem & waving their flag at the Lekki Toll. It is even more painful that the reason for the protest was for #EndSARS a rallying cry to Mr. President and every other elected official across all three tiers of government to #EndPoliceBrutality alas the response was to bring out the military to shoot at us as a sign of strength 

“The devastation and the mental torture can only be imagined. My younger me, please take time out to soak it in, process it, cry it out, & mourn with my fellow brothers & sisters, parents & family who lost loved ones in this #EndSARS struggle. Our beauty must rise from these ashes. This moment is our rallying cry for our collective humanity. It is clear to me that this is strictly a war of EVIL vs GOOD. It is not about our tribe, gender, partisan politics, the police, army etc. 

Speaking to the Boss, the COO/Creative Brand Director. TPS LUXURY, Princess Debo Odutola, applauded the youths for daring the impossible. She noted that it was because of the government’s penchant for treating its citizens with disdain that prompted the mistrust that made the youths stayed longer on the streets.

She capitulated as follows: “First and Foremost, I would like to commend the efforts of our youths, they took the bull by the horns and came out to fight for a course they believed in. The protest was peaceful and seamless. The youths exhibited the millennials in them, technically.

“Each day for them was the new beginning for a new Nigeria, they presented a five point request but because it has become a norm for government to treat its citizens with so much disdain, their tenacity was at its highest, I salute their doggedness!

“The unfortunate turn of events on Tuesday 7.11pm, shook me to my marrows, never in the history of protests in Nigeria have I seen such inhuman, callous and wicked reaction from government I’m still short of words!
Analysing the entire event from the beginning of the protest to the end, never at any point, pointed to such a bloody climax.

“How do you explain to your grandchildren that as soldiers, you led a team to shoot peaceful protesters in your time. I need someone to wake me from this deep slumber. In all of this, I take solace in the words of the Bible, that vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will revenge, and I assure you that God will fight for this innocent children whose blood was shed for us to have a better Nigeria.

“I commiserate with all those who were injured and especially those who lost their loved ones that God will give them the fortitude to bear the painful loss.

“My advice for our youths is this, we’re in a technical age, let’s leverage on this to continue to fight for our rights. The pen, they say, is mightier than the gun, but now I know social media is mightier than the gun. Please channel your energy positively.”

A former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, dismissed the Lekki shooting as an irony, noting that “Our young peoples protest against police brutality being brutally put down by excessive force…the very thing they are peacefully protesting about. When will we break this vicious circle? Shameful!”

 

That was the beginning of the siege; the long days of fury and fire. What followed the next day made caricature of the Lekki shooting saga. The first target was the Lekki Tollgate itself, which was razed to the ground. Not assuaged, the hoodlums also burnt down a GTBank on Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase one, and followed it up the burning of the high profile Oriental Hotel also in Lekki.

The hoodlums were not done; they attacked and set ablaze many other public and private institutions, including Television Continental; The Nation Newspapers; the Nigerian Ports Authority office in Marina; local government secretariats in Apapa-Iganmu and Ibeju-Lekki; the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Riliwan Akiolu; the state command headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Vehicle Inspection Service as well as banks, police stations and malls.

SACRILEGIOUS ATTACK

The thugs, against all odds, stormed the Iga Idugaran palace of the Oba of Lagos, and vandalised vehicles as well as stealing several artefacts including the institutions symbol of authority, the ‘Opa Ase’. In a video, which has went viral on the Internet, the thugs were seen stroling away triumphantly with the staff of office of the king. While in another video, residents were seen merrymaking in the vandalised palace, jumping in and out of the swimming pool.

PUNCH reported that the thugs, who invaded the palace, were the same ones who set the family home of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ablaze in the Surulere area of Lagos. The thugs, according to eyewitness were armed to the teeth, and were able to force the police attached to the Adeniji Adele Police Station to beat a retreat. They allegedly claimed that the Oba was part of government, and that necessitated his attack. They had only been attacking government facilities. There were no fatalities at the Oba’s residence as soldiers came to his rescue.

Both the Afeniji-Adele and Akinsemoyin families of Lagos, have condemned the attack on the Oba’s palace.

IGBOSERE COURT RAZED

At the High Court, Igbosere, thugs broke in, and stole office equipment such as computers, printers and files, as well as items like fans, air conditioners and many others. They set the facility on fire after the looting.

BRT BUSES WERE ALSO BURNT

At the Oyingbo and Berger bus terminals, vehicles belonging to the Lagos Bus Services Limited were set ablaze by hoodlums. The spokesperson for the LBSL at the Berger station, Olawale Afolabi, put the number of completely burnt buses at 20, but added that it could be more.

 

SHOPPING MALLS LOOTED, BURNT

The Palms shopping mall on the Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue Victoria Island was also looted and set on fire just as Circle Mall at Jakande, Novare Mall at Sangotedo. At first, the police repelled the attacks on Novare Mall, but the hoodlums found another way to enter the premises.”

WEMPCO CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF ORIENTAL HOTEL, DEBUNKS TINUBU ANGLE

Following insinuations making the rounds that the Oriental Hotel, located at the Lekki axis of Lagos State, is owned by a popular politician and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the management of WEMCO Group has said the hotel belongs to them.

In a release made available to The Boss, the group said the hotel belongs to the Tung Wong family, and has operated in Nigeria in the last 50 years.

It noted that the family diverted into hospitality, and built the hotel in 2008.

“The Tung Wong family owns the WEMPCO Group that employs thousands of Nigerians.

“The Lagos Oriental Hotel does not belong to Tinubu,” the statement noted.

The group therefore, advised the public to stop the misinformation.

FRSC, VIS OFFICES WERE NOT SPARED 

The offices of the Federal Road Safety Corps and Vehicle Inspection Service in the Ojodu area of state were set ablaze by suspected hoodlums. The many vehicles parked on the premises were completely razed.

By the next morning, Lagos was a ghost of its former self with every corner littered with debris of what it used to be. From Ikeja to Agege to Lekki, upto Badagry and to uttermost of the town, only hues and cries made the rounds and created a picture of an abandoned vassal state.

 

IN OYO STATE…

In Oyo State, where the state governor has been using to try and calm protesters, hoodlums instilled fear in the minds of residents when they attacked and razed down the Ojoo Police Station, Ibadan. They also carted away ammunition from the station

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Nwachukwu Enwonwu, in a statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer for the command, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the hoodlums set the station on fire and made away with AK-47 rifles from the armoury and killed two policemen were killed. Two others were missing after the attack.

IN ONDO STATE… 

In Ondo State, the hoodlums targeted the offices of the two major political parties, setting ablaze the secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party located in the Alagbaka area of Akure, Ondo State. This was few hours after the secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress was torched by the hoodlums

In the same vein, the thugs burnt down the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad along Oda Road in Akure and vandalised property on the premises.

IN ABIA STATE…

The Aba Town Hall, housing the secretariat of the Aba South Local Government Area was set ablaze by hoodlums in Abia State. They also burnt down the office of the Abia State Fire Service in Aba.

The Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, had announce a 24 hours curfew to check attacks by hoodlums under the guise of the #EndSARS protests, becoming the third state after Edo and Lagos to declare curfew.

IN RIVERS STATE… 

The Oyigbo Area Command and the Afam Police Station were set on fire by hoodlums, who hijacked the #EndSARS protest in the state. In the process, three persons, including two policemen were killed

Also, a hospital in the area was set ablaze following the alleged refusal of its staff to treat a gunshot victim, who eventually died.

It was reported that assailants, numbering over 100 and who disguised as protesters, first set ablaze the police armoured personnel carrier stationed at the entrance of the station before burning the entire building.

Over 16 vehicles, including police operational vans and impounded cars, were also consumed by the inferno, with some being burnt beyond recognition.

A policeman believed to be the driver of the armoured personnel carrier lost his life as bullet wounds riddled his body, while another policeman, who was killed by the rampaging youths, had his hand chopped off.

Though there were efforts by policemen from the Oyigbo Police Station to repel the attack, but they ran away when the situation escalated and the youth regrouped and proceeded to the Afam Police Station and also set it on fire.

Across the states, there were one form of vandalism or arson cases reported with most cases associated with death or brutal killings. Most policemen were brutally murdered with two seen on a viral video being roasted alive.

This is Another Stress Test for the Resilience of Our Nation – Raymond Nkannebe, Lawyer 

In his response, a legal practitioner, Mr Raymond Nkannebe, who is also a Public Policy Analyst, and the Program Coordinator of the Global Sustainable Youth Forum, believe that the rampaging devastation is an eye opener as regards wrong choices at the ballot boxes coupled with political apathy among the youths. It is his believe that the zeal demonstrated by the protesters will be reflected in 2023.

“It’s quite unfortunate that our country has been brought to its knees. But anyone who has studied the degeneration of social and economic life of the citizens, particularly the youth, would have known that what we’re witnessing today, was always a function of “when”, not “if”, as it was always going to be. You don’t keep a people to the ground for too long, and expect them not to rise up in retaliation. It is a natural human instinct. The wanton destruction of properties and the manner it was gone about by the irate youth says it all.
“Thankfully, there are enough lessons to go round both for the leaders and citizens. For the leaders, they have gotten a taste of the anger in the land. Hopefully, that awakens them to their responsibility under the Social Contract with the citizens. On their part, the citizens, particularly the youth, have seen first hand the consequences of choices made at the ballot. And the steep price of political apathy. If the youths of this country can get more politically active, they’ll dictate the leadership configuration of this country. They have slept on that duty for too long. But hopefully this becomes that Damascus-moment. We hope to see the energy of #ENDSARS on the ballot in 2023. That way, we would have started the process of taking our country back.
“On the whole, this is another stress test for the resilience of our Nation and we have shown that we can rise again after a fall. That is what democracy and Nation Building is about. So far, that has been the only positive side of the inevitable crisis,” Nkannebe said.
For those who has one thing or another to do with the looting and destruction, Mrs Odutola has a line for them, “Finally, to all those who sponsored and hired thugs who went on a rampage destroying and looting, your time is up and the long arm of the law will catch up with you. “The labours of our heores past, shall never be in vain”.

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