• Youths take campaign from #EndSARS to governance reforms
• Lock down Lagos, stampede activities at airport tollgate
• Police inspector, passerby killed in Surulere
• Protesters decline Sanwo-Olu’s plea to back down after visit
• Governor to discuss protest with Buhari today
• Protest rocks Abuja • City on lockdown as police block major routes
The raging #EndSARS protest took a dangerous turn yesterday, as the Inspector General of Police (IGP)’s broadcast announcing the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) on Sunday failed to end days of procession, rallies, and march across the country.
The commercial capital of the country was on tenterhooks for most parts of yesterday as protesters blocked major highways forcing a standstill in the Victoria Island, Lekki axis of Lagos. As the momentum spread, other locations were visited, which included Surulere, Mushin, Airport Road, Ikeja and Ikorodu Road. This left millions of residents stranded for hours on the first working day of the week.
Amid the confusion, IGP Mohammed Adamu, yesterday, assured Nigerians that the training of a new police unit to take over from the disbanded SARS would commence next week.
The IGP who disclosed this when popular musician, David Adeleke alias, Davido, visited him over the ongoing protests, explained that there was need to get a new structure to carry out the duties of the defunct police unit in fighting violent crimes.He added that the new outfit would be intelligence-driven, properly trained and only act on special occasions that require their attention.He said the unit would be made up of fresh personnel with a fresh orientation and not officers from the scrapped unit.
Adamu said opportunities would be created for members of the public to participate in and make inputs to formation of the new unit. He said Davido’s visit to talk about the issue was the best way to deal with the current problem. He said in the formation of the new unit, corrections would be taken from the experience of SARS.He said the issue of compensation to the families of those affected by SARS’ would be addressed after due investigations.
“We want justice to be done and justice will be done,” he said. He said officers of the disbanded unit would be retrained and given other responsibilities in the Force, but will not be reabsorbed into the new unit.
Major routes into and within Abuja, the federal capital territory, were blocked by the police, leaving vehicles and people stranded as protest rocks the city. Pockets of young Nigerians were earlier seen gathering at strategic spots such as Berger Bus Stop, Skye Memorial Plaza and Wuse before meeting up to form a larger group protesting and calling for an end to police brutality.
Some other groups protesting along Airport Road blocked the axis, preventing the protesters from moving ahead into central Abuja.One of the protesters said “young people in Nigeria have suffered all kinds of brutality and extortion in the hands of members of the Nigeria Police. We are therefore asking government to address the issue through police reform in order to end maltreatment of civilians.”
The group, made up of mainly young graduates, said they were tired of being brutalised and extorted by men of the Nigeria police who were out to make life difficult for Nigerians.
In a five-point demand, protesters in Lagos called for 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); psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed; and increase of police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting life and property of citizens.
Gradually, the demands are moving from an end SARS campaign to more holistic reforms of the police and end to all police brutality. At each of the rally points, the discussions have veered into clamour for good governance and restructuring of the country.
By midday, the protest had escalated into civil unrest after videos of fresh police brutality went viral. This spurred an uproar in Ojuelegba, which led to the death of a police inspector, Erin Ayodeji, attached to Surulere Anti-kidnapping Unit, and an unidentified passerby.
The Guardian gathered that the bystander, a mechanic, had stepped out of the car he was riding before he was hit by stray bullets shot at protesters by police officers attached to the Area C Police Command, Surulere. Initial efforts to save the mechanic proved futile as he gave up the ghost minutes later.
Narrating the unfortunate incident, a protester, Olashile Abayomi-Wealth, who witnessed the shootings, said the protests at Surulere were peaceful until policemen opened fire on protesters. “I was live here. I was in front. I controlled the people we knew could cause trouble and pacified them not to. Everyone co-operated. So why did the police have to shoot? Why did they have to kill?”
While the shootings lasted, three other protesters identified as Ademola Ojabodu, Treasure Nduka and Felicia Okpara were arrested and taken to Surulere Police Station and Area C Police Command respectively. This is just as protesters mobilized and barricaded the Lekki tollgate on the Lekki-Epe Expressway to mount pressure on the government to take critical decisions on the disbanded Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) Unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
REACTING, the Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, SP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told newsmen that two other inspectors were critically wounded during the violent attack on their unit.
Adejobi said that the unidentified passerby died from a stray bullet from the protesters, while Insp. Ekei Joshua and Insp. Peter Agabi were receiving treatment at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
“The protesters came in their numbers with the intent to break into the station at our Surulere unit and free some of the convicted criminals. They were heavily armed with shotguns and fired shots at the officers on duty who were trying to prevent the attack and uphold the integrity of the station,” he said.
Adejobi said that no arrest had been made yet but that investigation was ongoing and the perpetrators would be brought to book. He reiterated the resolve of the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, to continue to maintain law and order in the state in spite of the unrest created by various protesting groups.
Motorists trying to connect International Airport Road from Ikeja through the local and international airport premises ran into unusual traffic shortly after descending the bridge that links Bank Anthony Road to the premises.
They had no inkling of what lay ahead of them as they stretched to find what caused the gridlock on the road.
The road, which dissects the airport premises, has about six turns. At the end of each turn, worried motorists and commuters were seen stretching to find the cause of the jam. But instead of finding the cause, they were faced with yet another long stretch of near motionless vehicles.
Every hope ended at the tollgate as each motorist took turn to do a U-turn to join the opposite direction. At the tollgate, anti-SARS protesters were seen with placards with inscriptions calling for the scrapping of the special police unit. They were polite and civil as they urged motorists to turn back.
The situation spelled chaos and confusion as motorists and commuters searched for alternative routes to their destinations. Those conversant with the airport premises easily connected to their destinations through nearby links; while others had to go as far as Oshodi to link up with the Airport Road, which was seconds away from the tollgate from where they were turned back
The situation was the same at the other end of the tollgate as motorists striving to pass through the airport to Ikeja, Oshodi and other destinations were stranded.
IN the thick of the remonstrations yesterday, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the third time in about 10 days, identified with the protesters. The Governor braved all odds to address the protesters in Lekki where crowds of youths camped and blocked the expressway. He urged them to be decorous and peaceful while expressing their grievances against the excessive use of force by SARS.
Sanwo-Olu left the weekly meeting of the State Executive Council and moved to address the EndSARS protesters. The Governor told the demonstrators that their protest was legitimate, but pleaded with them not to block the roads while passing on their grievances to the authorities.
He said: “Your voice has been heard clearly and a clear pronouncement has been made on the activities of SARS. The operation has been dissolved by the police leadership and just a moment ago, Mr. President addressed the nation on the issues you have raised. The President has said all SARS officers that are involved in the killing of innocent people and engaging in human rights abuses will be brought to justice.
“My stance on this EndSARS is unmistakable and I have told you that we identify with this protest because you have legitimate concerns. I am saying it again here that this protest is in good faith. But, we must not be unruly when going out on a protest like this. We want you to be peaceful and decorous in expressing yourselves.”