Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde has directed the Nigeria Police Force to take a back seat and allow other security agencies to take a frontline in securing the lives of protesters, as the number of deaths during #EndSARS protests has risen from one to three.
Two more deaths were recorded during renewed protests staged in the town on Sunday, which also culminated in the invasion of the palace of the Soun of Ogbomosoland, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi Ajagungbade III. One Isiaka Jimoh had been felled by police bullets on Saturday when the protesting youths went to Owode Area Command of the State Police Command.
The youths took the dead bodies of the two protesters allegedly killed by gunshots on Sunday to the Soun’s palace, during which they vandalised property worth millions of naira, and also injured one of the chiefs in the palace. Apart from Jimoh that was shot dead on Saturday, seven other youths also sustained varying degrees of injuries. The number of protesters that were injured on Sunday apart from the two that died has, however, not been ascertained.
Daily Sun gathered that the turn of events made Governor Makinde hold an emergency security meeting with service commanders on Sunday night in Ibadan, where it was agreed that the police should take the back seat, while other security agencies, including a special security outfit of the State, Operation Burst, would be on the frontline.
Makinde also made an emergency State broadcast on the development on Monday afternoon, saying: ‘The past few days have been ones of grief for the people of Oyo State. I cannot imagine the pain and frustration of the parents and families of those who have died or are hospitalised as a result of the actions of the Nigeria Police Force during these End SARS protests.
‘As I stated clearly in my earlier statement, peaceful protests are a legitimate way for citizens to make their grievances known to the government and it is totally unacceptable for anyone to be hurt during such protests. Last night, I held an emergency meeting with the heads of the main security agencies in Oyo State. I have again restated my position on the ongoing protests to them. And we have agreed that the police should take a back seat as other security agencies take the frontlines in securing the lives of protesters, at this time.
‘Therefore, we have deployed members of Operation Burst to the hot spots, especially Ogbomoso, to ensure that as people protest, they will not be harassed or brutalised. I want to reassure the good people of Oyo State, that I am doing everything within my power, to ensure that no further lives are lost. I urge all residents of Oyo State to go about their activities without fear.’
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary to the Soun of Ogbomosoland, Mr Toyin Ajamu, in a statement made available to journalists on Monday, said the attack on the palace was unprovoked, adding that no one had died in the palace as reported by the media.
‘The attack was perpetrated by hoodlums, miscreants and thugs, disguised as protesters against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), leading to the wanton destruction of property and vehicles at the palace. A chief among other palace officials also sustained injuries,’ the statement read.
‘Contrary to the malicious and biased reports being circulated on social media, we state categorically that despite the needless provocations and ill-treatment meted out to the Royal household during the violent attack on the Palace, the Paramount ruler and his household did not retaliate.
‘Kabiyesi, who was with his chiefs and subjects including Minister of Youth and Sports Development (an indigene of Ogbomoso), when the hoodlums invaded the palace, advised the palace staff to refrain from attacking the hoodlums. Hence, none of the miscreants and thugs was attacked by the palace household but rather a chief, who was pelted with stones by the hoodlums sustained serious injuries. The dead bodies being circulated on social media were brought into the palace by the hoodlums to cause confusion and justify the attack on the palace.
‘The Nonagenarian Paramount Ruler is a strong advocate of peace and unity, which is evident with the robust development Ogbomosoland and its environs have witnessed over the forty-seven years of his reign.
‘We are by this medium, advising the general public to disregard the fake news and media being circulated that some persons were feared dead in the Palace during the unwarranted attack. We also implore appropriate authorities to investigate the sad incident in a bid to bring the perpetrators of the attack to book and avert recurrence. The Palace appreciate all well-wishers who have through various media, sent their wishes and support for Kabiyesi’s wellbeing over this unfortunate incident. We equally call for full investigation into circumstances that led to the death of Jimoh Isiaka, an indigene of Ogbomoso alongside others injured during the peaceful protest on Saturday, October 10, 2020.’