Benjamin Babine and Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Just as protests against the extrajudicial killings and operations of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) continue to rock major cities in the country, the agitators insisted they would shift grounds. This is as even residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) expressed mix reactions towards the tactics of the protesters.
The protests continued to gather momentum as peaceful protesters marched to the headquarters of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at about 8am on Monday, demanding the implementation of police reforms. They continued to express dissatisfaction in the government’s attitude towards the cases of police brutality and extrajudicial killings. They blocked the CBN headquarters entrance but were prevented from entering the premises by armed soldiers situated at the apex bank.
Eme Affiah, one of the protesters, stressed that government wants to stop the protests more than they want to stop police brutality: “The government clearly don’t care about the masses, because if they did, we won’t still be protesting on the 11th day. When it was time to remove bikes and kekes from the city, it didn’t take them more than two days whereas the bike men and keke drivers were affected.
“But when it comes to simply heeding our request to end SARS who are killing people, they are very slow. In fact, they are hiring thugs to kill peaceful protesters. Yesterday, a protester at Kubwa, Anthony Onome, was stabbed to death by sponsored thugs. Why do we have to die before government can listen to us. This is the reason we are still protesting, because their actions and their words are not aligning.”
Some others lamented the loss of business time while others claimed that the shutdown of major business hubs in the city would cause the government to take visible steps to making the reforms that the youths are agitating for. People from all walks of life, from taxi drivers to roadside food sellers were affected seriously by the protests and voiced their opinions.
Onyinye Iheasiaba, a motorist, got caught up in the traffic caused by the ENDSARS protesters. She acknowledged that the protests caused loss in her business but stated that it is for a good cause nonetheless: “If these protests continue to be done peacefully, I believe it can make a good change. The challenge is that things can easily get out of hand. However, it has affected my mobility as traffic has increased so much in Abuja. This is annoying frankly.
“And business is slower now because some of us cannot be promoting our trades and businesses because of the gravity of what is happening. Like me, I don’t want to look like I am selfish and I can just imagine how many more people’s businesses are doing badly now because they also don’t want to look selfish.”
A taxi driver, Tony Okeke, plies Maitama axis said: “Last week Thursday and Friday, and I couldn’t do any work at all. Protesters were so massive and they blocked Transcop Junction, which is the main place we run. Passengers stopped entering our cars because they knew there was no road to pass.
“It is painful, and I hope the government can solve this SARS problem so that we can all go back to normal. COVID-19 pandemic already stole months of work away from us this one cannot steal more time from us. I have children schools have started opening. I beg both the youths and the government to find a way to resolve this.”
A roadside food seller at Maitama, said: “Most of my customers work at NCC and government agencies here. They couldn’t go to work on Thursday and Friday because of the protests and I made almost no sales on those days. I understand the youths are trying to fight for their rights but they should consider that this is hurting the common people as well.
“I like that youths are demanding accountability from our politicians and I hope they get it. But I want them to know that it is affecting the poor people more than the political leaders who have put us in this mess.”
A protester, Mathew Ojo, said because of the unemployment situation in the country, most youths travel abroad for greener postures: “And when these youths are coming back, they are the targets of the police (SARS) who kill them and take their property (usually cash). In Nigeria, it is a crime to go about with big phones or costly trinkets.
“My brother lives in UK. The last time he came home, members of SARS traced him from the airport to the house. After searching the house and found nothing, they took him away. It took the intervention of our relation who is equally a police officer to release him from detention.
“Since 2016, my brother has not come home for Christmas. What is he coming to do? It was because of the injustices in this country that he left for UK in the first place.”
Another protester, Ikechukwu John, told Daily Sun: “I am a businessman. I deal in earrings, necklaces and pendants. After clearing my containers from Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, the vehicle left the port for Nnewi, Anambra State, where my warehouse is located.
But on the way, the containers were intercepted by members of SARS and diverted to their office.
When I got to their office in Benin, Edo State, I was detained for reasons not clear to me. After one week in detention, my goods were released. But the most important items had been taken away. I was told to thank God because they would have killed me in detention.”
Aisha Mahmood stated that her late father was a police officer but she must protest the wanton killing of innocent Nigerians by the members of SARS:
“My friend, Abdulrahman, was shot dead by members of SARS in my presence. Abdul as we fondly called him told me that he was coming to Nigeria in May 2020. I went to meet him at the airport. But 50 metres to their house in Maitama, Abuja, he was shot dead and all that he came back with were taken away. It took the intervention of my late father to let me off the hook.”