Magnus Eze, Enugu Fred Itua, Abuja, Chinelo Obogo, Bimbola Oyesola, Lukman Olabiyi
Mass protests by Nigerians, particularly youths, to push for reform in the police and other areas continued to gain momentum, yesterday, in spite of series of promises from government.
The protests started across the country over a week ago.
From the South West to South East, Abuja to Kaduna, Oyo to Kano, demonstrators trooped out in their thousands as the EndSARS protest entered the eighth day.
Protesters in Lagos have literally shutdown the otherwise bustling former nation’s capital inspite of entreaties from the authorities. While thousand of the defied the early morning downpour to converge in various locations in Lagos including Lekki, Ikeja, Akute and other parts in a carnival-like manner, several persons were, however, ran over by a car at Alagbado, a Lagos suburb. Footage from a viral video showed two motionless bodies being carried away by some youths while a volunteer of medical corps was deployed, especially around Amikanle area to take care of the wounded before those with severe injuries were moved to Cavesbury Hospital.
The protest also turned bloody in Abuja as suspected thugs attacked protesters at a popular roundabout, Berger in Utako District. The assailants, who stormed the venue of the #EndSARS protest, with dangerous weapons harassed protesters, including passers-by and destroyed vehicles. At least five vehicles were vandalised while an unconfirmed number of persons sustained injuries.Popular singer, Mayorkun has offered to assist one of those whose car was vandalised.
But in other cities, the protests was carnival-like as the youths stormed the streets in colourful attires, banners, placards and loud speakers.
Amnesty International had said police have killed at least 10 persons since protesters took to the streets last Thursday to protest against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
Last Tuesday, the presidential panel on the reform of SARS accepted the five-point demand of the protesters even as it replaced the dreaded out with a new one called SWAT..
Police Commissioner, FCT, Bala Ciroma, confirmed the bloody face-off “among those for and against #EndSARS”
“We have commence investigation to determine what happened at the Berger junction. About five vehicles were vandalised, no arrest has so far being made but investigation is on, there is no casualty recorded.”
There was another incident at about 4pm in Lagos as thugs attacked protesters at the Alausa-Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. However, the EndSARS demonstrators fought back and overpowered four of the hoodlums.
However, Aisha Yesufu, co-convener of BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) has warned that attacks on anti-SARS protesters would not deter youths from the ongoing campaign.
In a post on Facebook, she wrote: “Nigerian government needs to be careful. Sending hoodlums to attack #SARSMUSTEND protesters in Abuja the way they did to BBOG members in 2014 will not work now the way it didn’t then. “The youth have resilience and intelligence. Don’t mess with them #SARSMUSTEND.”
No more checking of Nigerians’ phones -IG
Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has also ordered police officers to stop checking citizens’ phones.
At a press briefing yesterday, he announced that such an era was gone.
“The issue of any Police unit going to look into people’s phones, which is supposed to be their private property, or looking at the type of vehicle they‘re using, or profiling them to see whether they‘re yahoo boys or not. That era is gone. It is not acceptable.”
Protesters to form new Youth party
The protest has assumed a new twist as some Nigerian Youths have unveiled plans to form the ‘Youths Democratic Party.’
Though names of the masterminds were still unclear, the proposed party is said to comprise of only youths. The launch of the new political party has sparked reactions from several angles with some calling for fundraising to raise money for the registration and running of the political party, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The YDP twitted to its followers saying that the party is made up of youths who are tired of bad governance and the government’s policies. It said: “The Youth Democratic Party is a collective movement of each and every Nigerian youth who is tired of bad governance and anti- people policies. We have one voice. Enough is Enough. End bad governance in Nigeria. One for all, all for one. No APC, no PDP. No tribalism, no religion. Just youths who want a better country to call their own.”
Nigerian professional wrestler, Kamaru Usman said: “If Nigerians can donate this much for a protest, I am sure we can fund a better party (Youth Democratic Party) here we go,” while activist, Aisha Yesufu said: “Good morning to Nigerian youths. The struggles have been tough, but I want to assure you all again that power belongs to the people. The SARS movement has no leader and should remain that way. Retweet if you believe in Youth Democratic Party (YDP).”
Casir Ozuruigbo said: “If all Nigerian youths donate N500, trust me, we will be able to gather enough, register our party, Youth Democratic Party (YDP) and finally retire all our ancestors from councillors to senates to governors to president.
Another user, Kris Whyte said: “We have to build a new Nigeria for ourselves and push those old people away from power,” while Osigbeme Junior tweeted: “I hope that come 2023, we can carry out online voting due to the rigging and the likes. Imagine a Nigeria where people can vote from their mobile phones just like the way they normally vote in Big Brother Nigeria” and Lord of Savage tweeted: “If we can raise seven million in six hours during the protest we can do it. If we can put the same vibe in the way we vote and publicise our fans during Big Brother Nigeria, we can do it. We need a pragmatic and vibrant president. Vision 2023 all the way.”
Labour hails scrapping of SARS
Labour has joined other Nigerians to commend President Buhari for dissolving the dreaded SARS.
This is just as it called on Nigerian youths to avoid any form of violence in the ongoing nation-wide protests against police brutality.
The workers under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) said the announcement was a balm on the frayed nerves of millions of Nigerians.
The ASCSN president, Bola-Audu Innocent and the Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, in a statement, said the disbanding of SARS following mass protests by the youths and civil society groups demonstrated clearly that President Buhari listens to the cries of the people.
The union said the police reforms promised by the president should be holistic in nature so as to ensure that the allegations levelled against SARS do not find their ways into the Police Force through another guise.
It also canvassed the need for the new unit to have the functional mode of monitoring, evaluation and enforcement required of a Police unit that deals with the public on daily basis.
Sanwo-Olu, Oyetola, others plead with youths to end protest
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Osun counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola, have urged the protesters to remain calm and allow their elected representatives take up the challenge from where they left off.
Lagos First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu also pleaded with the youths to work with the government in actualising their dreams for the country by ending the protest.
The two governors and Mrs. Sanwo-Olu pleaded the youths yesterday while speaking at 20th National Women virtual conference of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) held at Eko Hotels and Suites in Lagos.
They urged the youths to end the protest, noted that government is ready to do things differently and positively.
Specifically, Governor Sanwo-Olu appealed to the youths to allow the effects of the protests go down and allow government to play their roles in meeting their demands.
He stressed the need for the protesters to slow down the protests, which has led to traffic gridlocks and close of business activities in different parts of Lagos and other parts of Nigeria.
Governor Oyetola who the chairman of the occasion for the event, pledged government willingness to the rights thing regarding police brutality and extra-judicial killings. Adding that the leaders were ready to join the voice of reason to make Nigeria a better place.
Cleric seeks Executive Order
The Supreme Head, Cherubim & Seraphim Unification Church of Nigeria, Dr. Prophet Solomon Adegboyega Alao has called on President Buhari to issue an Executive Order to ban police brutality and extortion.
He said this will assuage the feelings of the youths protesting against police brutality especially extra judicial killings by the outlawed SARS.
The C & S Head also appealed to the protesting youths to be peaceful in their conduct and avoid confrontation with the security agencies to prevent loss of lives and properties.
The clergymen in a statement signed by the Chief Public Relations Officer of the Church, Apostle Muyiwa Adeyemi said all Nigerians must support the youths in their protest against brutality which reminded Nigerians of what they went through during the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s government.
He said President Buhari and IGP Adamu should not only disband SARS but should re-orientate members of the squad before they could be posted to another unit.
While calking on the President to set up Judicial Commission of Enquiry to investigate police brutality and extra judicial killing, said security officers found wanton should be made to face the wrath of the law. He noted this is the only way the Police and other security agencies would learn to respect human rights which is the kernel of democratic government.
Stay home or avoid Ikeja – LASTMA
Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, has advised Lagosians to stay home while the #SARSMUSTEND protests last, or avoid certain routes if they must go out.
Olajide Ojuyoye, General Manager of LASTMA, said this on Channels TV on Wednesday, while advising everyone to explore other means of communication.
He noted that it was “extremely difficult” to control traffic, as LASTMA have to be careful on the safety aspect of things, otherwise it would “seem like we are against their mission; we have to strike a balance.”
According to the LASTMA boss, “We are in this situation right now. So if where you are going is not paramount or of ultimate importance, I think you should abort and postpone.
“The protesters are fluid. They can block any road at any time. Do whatever you need to do by other means of communication. Except you are an employee and your employer forces you to come to work.
“You should avoid Muri Okunola, Alausa, Ozumba Mbadiwe. To access the island, use the 3rd Mainland Bridge-Nnamdi Azikiwe-Eko Hotel route.
“To return, go through Ojota-7up-Magodo and then walk. But as I said earlier, the protesters’ movements are fluid.”
Oljide Ojuyoye, GM, LASTMA said it was difficult controlling traffic as protesters lock down roads.