What started as a peaceful movement two weeks ago to protest the widely alleged brutality of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide further turned bloody Tuesday as 23 people were killed in Abuja, Oyo, Edo, Lagos and Plateau states.
Blueprint gathered that four people were killed at Dutse Alhaji, a suburb of Abuja, three in Ibadan, Oyo state, two in Benin City, Edo state, 11 at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos state and three in Plateau state.
As at Monday, close to 20 persons were killed at various locations across the country in the protest by thousands of Nigerian youth have taken to the streets to express their grievances.
The peaceful protest yielded results with the disbandment of the SARS and setting up a Special Weapons And Tactics (SAWT) Team and judicial panels of enquiry by state governments among other measures .
One of our reporters captured the scene at Dutse-Bwari express road where many people were injured and killed while buildings, including a magistrate court, a police station and the PHCN office were all set ablaze.
Besides, the suspected hoodlums also vandalised a lot of cars at a car stand in the area.
An eyewitness- Mr. Stephen Odu- who saw it all, said he saw some truck pushers/scavengers, popularly called baban-bola with sticks and metals chasing the peaceful protesters towards the market, Dutse Makaranta, Sokale roundabout and Police signboard.
In the middle of this melee, Blueprint gathered that some security personnel coming behind the hoodlums allegedly opened fire at the protesters which injured a lot of persons and killed four in the process.
One of the casualties is said be of an unknown pastor around the Sokale roundabout.
A protester named DJ Spice was seen screaming for help, saying, “The police officers that are expected to protect lives are now the ones killing us. The whole thing has gone bloody.”
He said the alleged shooting by the police aggravated the chaos on both sides.
“All we came out for was a peaceful protest to project how eager we youths are in need of good governance and the one that hears the cry of the masses. Since the protest started, we haven’t heard any word from Mr. President addressing Nigerians in general and this is why many of us are truly unhappy like our voices don’t count,” Spice said.
Also, a JSS3 student, Miss Angela Ogwuche, who just finished her examinations, said she was held back around Dutse police signboard and had to stay hours in the traditional ruler’s palace until sanity was restored.
“It all started around 12pm, when I saw people running helter-skelter for refuge, it then occurred to me to start running home. On reaching to the main road, everywhere was in chaos. I had to stay with others at the Chief’s Palace at the police signboard before I joined some persons going to town.
“We walked all the way raising our hands up as a sign of ‘I surrender’. While on the journey, I noticed a white tall building burning, Julius Berger car, a long luxurious bus and other cars burning as well.
“I also saw a car stand vandalised, where they smashed all the car glasses to ashes. It was indeed a very bad sight to behold. And to worsen it, a very giant corpse in suit whom people claimed was a pastor was lying down covered at Sokale roundabout. I saw that they brought all his belongings from his pocket to put it beside him. It is indeed a painful incident,” Ogwuche narrated.
Also, armed thugs Tuesday gathered around the Eagle Square located in the Three Arms Zone in Abuja.
The youth, some of whom had no shirts on with many others in black, were still holding sticks and walking round the square.
Consequent upon this, a team of armed policemen and soldiers was put on the red alert at the Supreme Court gate of the Presidential Villa.
Soldiers manning the Cenotaph directly opposite the Eagle Square are also on standby, with tight security also mounted within the vicinity of the Court of Appeal premises and the Police Headquarters.
Also, Governor Seyi Makinde has ordered immediate closure of all schools in Ibadan as the EndSARS protest in the town assumed bloody dimension
According to report, no fewer than three persons were feared killed in Ojoo area of Ibadan during a clash between suspected hoodlums and the police.
In a special broadcast to people of the state Tuesday, the governor alerted that criminal elements had hijacked the EndSARS protests from the genuine organisers of the protest, saying, “for the past two days have seen a new dimension to the ongoing protests.
“Thugs and hoodlums have taken advantage of the situation to perpetrate uncivil acts and harass citizens who are going about their day-to-day activities. Some thugs are going as far as forcing people who have businesses open to close shop and join in the protests. We know these are criminal elements.”
“And so, as a state, we must act to protect the citizenry. Therefore, we are deploying members of Operation Burst to various hotspots in Ibadan to arrest the situation and restore normalcy.
“The members of the team will continue to protect genuine protesters and their right to protest. But we cannot allow persons with ulterior motives to hijack the protests. We remain committed to the process of meeting the demands of these protests,” the governor said.
Makinde said in view of the tensed situation, “all schools in Ibadan, should be closed from tomorrow, Wednesday, October 21 2020 for the rest of this week. The situation will be reviewed on Friday, October 23 2020, and then further directives will be given.”’
At the bloody clash between suspected hoodlums and policemen at the Ojoo roundabout in Ibadan, three people were shot dead while several others sustained serious injuries.
It was gathered that trouble started when some suspected hoodlums launched an attack on the Ojoo police station trying to scare away the protesters, thus resulting in the policemen firing gunshots.
Sources said it was during the sporadic shootings that the three persons, all males, were hit by the gunshots thereby fuelling the tension in the area.
As at the time of sending this report, men of the Operation Burst have taken over the security situation in the area to restore normalcy.
In another development, two unidentified persons were shot dead Tuesday at the Santana Market along Sapele Road in Benin City as hoodlums engaged policemen enforcing a 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government.
No fewer than five police stations in the state.
From Ekenwan Road to Airport Road, Sapele Road and other interchange junctions within Benin metropolis, the youths took over strategic positions as they chanted anti-government slogans.
The protest equally resumed in Auchi as the youths again regrouped at the popular Jattu junction, allowing only motorists on essential duties free passage.
However, Blueprint gathered that some level of normalcy had since returned in and around state.
Lekki toll gate set on fire
As at the time of going to bed, unconfirmed reports from Lagos state said about 11 persons may have been shot dead and the Lekki toll gate set on fire, following the confusion which greeted the peaceful protest in that part of the state.
An eyewitness account said soldiers allegedly fired gun shots at the peaceful protesters, some of whom were holding the nation’s flag.
It was also gathered that the CCTV mounted around the toll gate while the public power supply was cut off. It could not be ascertained who was responsible for this as the time of this report.
Meanwhile, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state effective 4pm Tuesday (today).
The governor announced this in a statement while lamenting that the protests against police brutality and extrajudicial killings had morphed into violence.
“I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society. Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state.
“As a government that is alive to its responsibility and has shown a commitment to the movement #ENDSARS, we will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.
“I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4pm today, 20th October, 2020. Nobody, except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets,” the statement said.
Anti-riot squad deployed nationwide
And in a response to the breakdown of law and order, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu has ordered the deployment of anti-riot policemen in the Police Mobile Force (PMF) to protect lives and property as the #EndSARS protests intensify nationwide.
The order, contained in a statement Tuesday by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests that have been hijacked by hoodlums leading to loss of lives and properties.
Aside from the deployment of the police mobile unit, the police chief also ordered massive deployment of police operatives to strengthen the security around correctional facilities nationwide.
Two of such centres were this week invaded in Benin City by hoodlums who freed over a 1,000 inmates.
He said: “The orders are coming on the heels of increasing attacks including acts of arson and malicious damage to public and private facilities as recorded in some states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” Mr Mba said in a statement.
“Consequently, the Commissioners of Police in the thirty-six (36) States of the Federation and the FCT are to identify and isolate law-breakers from peaceful protesters; immediately arrest and diligently prosecute such perpetrators of violence in their respective Commands.
“The IGP notes that twelve (12) suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks and arson on Police Stations in Benin, Edo State. Five (5) AK47 rifles earlier stolen from vandalised police stations have also been recovered.
“The Inspector-General of Police calls on members of the public to avail the police with useful information that can lead to the re-arrest of the fleeing inmates, unlawfully released from Correctional facilities.”
“Meanwhile, the IGP has advised parents/guardians to prevail on their children/wards to steer-clear of acts of violence and criminality as the Force will henceforth exercise the full powers of the law to prevent any further attempt on lives and property of citizens.”
Senate charges Buhari
In a related development, the Senate Tuesday called on President Muhamnadu Buhari to address the nation as a major step towards dousing the nationwide protests.
The lawmakers also called on the protesters to stop the protests since their demands were already being attended to by relevant authorities.
Senate’s resolutions to this effect were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South) and co-sponsored by 103 other senators.
As part of the seven prayers adopted from the motion, the lawmakers called on President Buhari to address the nation in dousing the tension the seemingly unending protests were causing in the country.
Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), who included the prayer in the motion while making his contribution, said: “Presidential address on issues relating to the protests , will show the required concern from government and make the protesters see themselves as citizens being listened to by their leaders.
“Immediacy of action required at this time as far as the #EndSARs Protests are concerned, is for President Muhamnadu Buhari to address the Nation as regards the issues being raised by the protesters.
“Aside that, Judicial Panel of Enquiry in the mode of the ones being set up in the states, should also be set up by the President for thorough investigation of acts of brutality carried out by the notorious SARs operatives.
“Thirty five of such operatives have already been identified by a Presidential panel and should be prosecuted accordingly. If the Judicial panel of enquiry is set up, heinous acts of other notorious operatives will also be brought up like about five I know already.”
The lawmakers also resolved that all tiers of government should put in place and sustain policies and programmes of socio-economic reforms that raise the standard and quality of life of Nigerians, particularly the youths whom he described as leaders of tomorrow.
“That the Police and other securities agencies should operate strictly in accordance with the rules of engagement appropriate to a democratic environment that abjures the use of aggressive and brutal force against peaceful protesters
“That the Inspector General of Police should ensure a holistic, comprehensive reforms of the police to include the overhaul of the welfare, training and medical insurance of all members of the Nigerian Police Force.
“That the Nigerian youths and the citizens generally should approach the National Assembly Committees on Constitutional Reforms in order to secure far-reaching and holistic amendments that are vital to the restructuring and re-shaping our Federation to make it an inclusive and viable polity.
“That the Federal Government should faithfully and comprehensively implement all the five demands of the #EndSARS movement and protesters,” they further resolved.
In his remarks after adoption of prayers of the motion, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the #EndSARs Protest is a wakeup call on all those in position of leadership in the country.
He assured that the National Assembly would work with the executive arm of government in ensuring implementation of all demands of the protesters.
Also, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila has vowed that he would not hand off the 2021 Appropriation Bill being considered by the House, unless provisions were made to compensate victims of police brutality in the last 20 years, as well as provisions to cater for demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). “As Speaker of this House of Representatives, let me say now for the records to reflect, and in the expectation that I would be held to account: I will not sign off on a 2021 Budget that does not include adequate provisions to compensate those who have suffered violence and brutality at the hands of the police in Nigeria in the last two decades. “I will not sign off on a budget that does not meet the reasonable demands of the ASUU, to which Government has already acceded. There is no better time to rethink the system of funding for higher education in Nigeria. The current system does a great disservice to our children and our country, and we must commit to changing it so that we can free our institutions of higher learning to be citadels where innovation thrives, and excellence is a given”, the Speaker stated in a remark at resumption of plenary on Tuesday.” Speaking further on victims of police brutality, Gbajabiamila said: “With my colleagues in the House of Representatives, I will visit over the next week, some of the families of those who have lost loved ones to police brutality and when we come back, we will work together to honour the memory of those we have lost.” He also reiterated that “the House of Representatives will pass an Electoral Reform Bill in time for the next general elections so that we may continue to improve the process of electing our political representatives at all levels. “I will support the amendment of the constitution to ensure that the provisions on fundamental human rights have teeth, resource control is dealt with equitably and that the next generation of Nigerians does not inherit evident dysfunctions of our current system.” “The nationwide protests that gave impetus to our deliberations that day have not abated. They have gotten more serious, with many reported instances of violence between state actors and protesters, between protesters and armed thugs who seek to hijack the passion and idealism of these protests for other nefarious purposes,” he said.
Ondo shuts schools
And from Akure, the Ondo state capital, the state government announced that all schools that resumed Monday are closed for the meantime from Wednesday, 21st October 2020, because of the nationwide protest.
The directive stated that this became necessary to ensure safety of students, staff and properties.
Parents and the public are expected to note the directive and all schools are to comply.
In a statement signed by the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Femi Agagu, the government regretted any inconvenience, promising to ensure resumption of schools as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the state governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu , has approved the constitution of a judicial panel of inquiry to look into all complaints by members of the public on alleged illegal activities of officers of Nigeria Police Force in the state.
A statement by the state information and orientation commissioner, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the decision of the state government was in line with the decision taken at the last virtual National Executive Council meeting held Friday, 16th October, 2020.
The eight-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry was headed by Justice Salisu Adesola Sidiq (Rtd), Rtd. High Court Judge as the chairperson.
Others are Mrs. Banke Oloba, representative of Civil Society Groups, member, IfeanyiOdili, Mr Samuel Adetuyi , Rtd. Commissioner of Police ,Mr. Oluyemi Fasipe, youth representative, Mr. Leo Ologun , representative of the office of the state Attorney-General ,Sunday Oyewole, representative from the National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Lanre Amuda, Secretary.
The panel has six months to conclude its assignment and submit its report.
Similarly, the Ekiti state government has ordered the immediate closure of all private and public schools following continued End SARS protests across the state.
The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Dr Kofoworola Aderiye, disclosed this in a statement issued Tuesday in Ado-Ekiti by Abimbola Dada, the chief information officer in the ministry.
He said the decision to close schools was a proactive step to safeguard the lives of pupils, students, teachers and other staff in the schools.
”It is also to accommodate difficulty being encountered by those finding it difficult to get to their respective schools”, he said, adding the schools would resume October 26.” Blueprint.