Protesters Adamant, Reject SWAT, Insist on Holistic Police Reform

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•Demonstrations ground more cities as thugs attack demonstrators in Abuja, Lagos
•Adeboye endorses #ENDSARS marches
•IBAN condemns brutalisation of reporters

Our Correspondents

Despite the approval of their five-point demand by a presidential panel and the creation of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to replace the disbanded Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), the #ENDSARS protests entered its eighth day yesterday as protesters continued their nationwide demonstration, insisting on holistic reforms of the police.

The protest, which got the backing of the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, yesterday grounded more cities, including Awka and Yenagoa even as demonstrators continued their agitations in Lagos and Abuja in spite of attacks on them by some hoodlums.

In Lagos, the protesters defied the heavy rain and gathered in different parts of the state to reiterate their demand for holistic police reforms that are beyond rhetoric.

They insisted that the creation of SWAT was not part of their initial demands for reform, saying, however, that if SWAT should be allowed to exist, only graduates should be recruited into the unit, and that no member of the disbanded SARS should be recruited.

One of the leaders of the protests and social advocate, Mr. Japheth Omojuwa, said part of their demands is that the government should identify and arrest the officers who shot and killed innocent protesters.

At the Lekki end, the protesters again besieged the Lekki Tollgate and grounded vehicular movement as they chanted ‘End SARS,’ ‘END SWAT,’ ‘End Police Brutality,’ and ‘Bring brutal policemen to justice,’ amongst others.

The rains did not deter them as they simply bought raincoats and umbrellas while some public-spirited persons provided them with hot meals to keep them warm.

At the Alausa area of the state, attempts by hoodlums to hijack the protest and turn it violent were repelled strongly by the protesters.

Those arrested were first treated and then handed over to the police where they confessed to have been allegedly paid by an unnamed person to disrupt the protest.

In Alagbado area, things went awry as two persons were feared dead during the protest while several others had a varying degree of injuries.

In a viral video, the bodies of two persons were carried by some youths just as the carcass of a special utility vehicle and a tricycle showed it was vandalised.

According to eyewitness account, the silver SUV was said to have run into the protesters, allegedly killing two and leaving several others with injuries.

The protests also spread to Iyana Ipaja, Igando, Onikan, Oworonshoki, Ojodu-Berger, Amuwo Odofin, Ajegunle amongst others.

In Amuwo Odofin, the protest was led by Arch Bishop Samson Mustapha of Resurrection Praise Ministries International (aka Jehovah Sharp Sharp).

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command has arrested and commenced the orderly room trial of the policemen who harassed some female protesters in Surulere on Tuesday.

According to the state Police spokesman, SP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, “Lagos CP Hakeem Odumosu has arrested and commenced orderly room trial of the policemen who harassed this lady in Surulere yesterday. We don’t condone unethical and inhuman actions.”

Following the state-wide protest, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), advised residents to stay at home or avoid certain routes if they must go out.

Speaking on a live TV programme, the General Manager of LASTMA, Mr. Olajide Ojuyoye, advised the residents to explore other means of communication.

“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,” he said.

He advised residents to avoid Muri Okunola, Alausa, and Ozumba Mbadiwe, saying commuters should use the Third Mainland Bridge-Nnamdi Azikiwe-Eko Hotel route to access the island.

“To return, go through Ojota-7up-Magodo and then walk. But as I said earlier, the protesters’ movements are fluid,” he explained.

In Abuja, many people were injured while vehicles were vandalized when pro-SARS protesters and hoodlums attacked EndSARS activists at the Julius Berger Intersection in Utako and Wuse.

Machetes, knives, clubs and other weapons were freely used during the clashes.

The clashes started when the pro-SARS elements emerged in trucks and lorries to challenge the ENDSARS campaigners for blocking the road.

The confrontation led to the total lockdown of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, Herbert Macaulay Way and Obafemi Awolowo Road- the three major road- connecting to Julius Berger roundabout.

Those injured were taken to hospital for proper care.

FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bala Ciroma, confirmed the clashes between the two youth groups.

He said the timely intervention of the police officers prevented the situation from deteriorating.

Ciroma also said no fewer than five vehicles were vandalised, adding that the Police authority which had made no arrest so far had commenced investigation to determine what actually transpired.

He said: ”Well, today, being 14th of October, 2020, there was a convergence of protesters at Berger Roundabout. The protesters were divided into two, those protesting against SARS and those for SARS. While we deployed our men to ensure law and order, these groups came into the arena, and before we knew it, there were hot exchanges between the groups.

”However, the timely intervention of the police officers prevented the situation from deteriorating and we have commenced an investigation to determine what actually happened.

”There were five vehicles vandalised and so far, no arrest has been made and no casualty seen. We have deployed quite a number of our men to the various parts of the city.”

He, however, urged the demonstrators to allow calm to return so that economic activities can pick up.

But one of the leading voices of the protests, Ms. Aisha Yesufu, urged protesters not to relent in their demand for a total reformation of the Nigeria Police Force.

She made the call in a video uploaded on her Twitter handle, @AishaYesufu, yesterday morning.

Yesufu was reacting to the leadership tussle rocking some of the voices of the #EndSARS campaign.

She advised the protesters not to be distracted by the leadership tussle but “to keep eye on the ball.”

However, another leader of the protesters and activist, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, has alleged that some individuals have made billions of naira from the negotiations to put an end to the nationwide protests.

Sowore said this in a tweet yesterday while reacting to reports that business leaders and some social media influencers had entered into negotiations.

He tweeted: “I will not be part of any negotiations regarding #ENDSARS, many have entered into these negotiations and come out of the other side becoming billionaires, to them it is a game! The only negotiation I will ever engage in is that of the surrender of our oppressors! #RevolutionNow.”

Protesters grounded commercial activities in Awka, calling for a total reform of the Nigeria Police Force.

The protesters also demanded the prosecution of a former SARS boss, CSP James Nwafor, who headed the squad in Anambra, accusing him of killing and maiming countless number of young people.

Dressed in black attires, the protesters marched through various streets of Awka to the Anambra State House of Assembly, the government house and blocking the Enugu-Onitsha expressway at Aroma junction, causing serious traffic gridlock in the city.

Socio-economic activities were also partially paralysed in some parts of Effurun and Warri in Delta State as hundreds of protesters again stormed the major roads kicking against the disbanded SARS and the newly created SWAT unit.

The youths, monitored by a detachment of policemen, marched from Shoprite popularly known as Delta Mall in Effurun Roundabout, through Effurun-Warri Sapele Road, Jakpa Airport, Enerhen and Deco Junctions and rounded up at Estate Roundabout, all in Uvwie and Warrior South Local Government areas.

While the protests raged, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Osun State counterpart, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, and First Lady of Lagos State, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, urged youths protesting against police brutality to remain calm and allow their elected representatives to take up the challenge.

Speaking at the 20th National Women virtual conference of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, the governor appealed to the youths to allow the effects of the protests to go down and allow the government to play their roles in meeting their demands.

He said: “I want to humbly request and appeal to our youths that their voices have been heard; their grievances have been well taken; their cause is a just and important cause. We have listened to them and listened to them very well. Government more than ever before will do things differently and positively. We can all see the efforts we have started since yesterday and today going forward.

“I want to appeal once again that because of the global pandemic that we have witnessed over the last six to seven months, the youths should let the effects of the protest go down. And they should know that their voice has been heard, let the government play their roles and play them well.”

IBAN Demands Prosecution of Operatives over Brutalisation of ARISE TV Reporters

The Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) has called for immediate investigation and sanctioning of security operatives that brutalised reporters of ARISE NEWS Channel covering the ongoing nationwide protest.

In the first attack incident in Abuja last Sunday, police operatives had assaulted the crew, Mr. Ferdinand Duroha, a cameraman and his reporter, Mr. Francis Ogbonna.

On Tuesday, another staff of the broadcast station was reportedly brutalised by a soldier in Abuja while also covering the protest.

IBAN in a statement issued yesterday, signed by its Chairman, Mr. Guy Murray-Bruce, wondered why even in a democratic dispensation, securities operative were still operating without recourse to their rules of engagement as concerns to media coverage of events.

It said such incidents rightly belong to the ignoble past when military dictatorships ruled the land, adding that one would have expected that 21 years into a democratic dispensation, our security agencies would have imbibed a culture of civility.

IBAN, however, called on all the leadership of the police and armed forces to curb the propensity of their rank and file to violate the rights of citizens to protest and freely express themselves.

“Indeed, we insist that both incidents be investigated and the errant security operatives sanctioned,” it said, adding: “IBAN wishes to assure Nigerians that our members will not be intimidated by jackboot tactics and will continue to perform our constitutional responsibility of informing the public and being the watchdogs of our democracy.”

No Former SARS Operative will Be Part of SWAT, Say Police

In a related development, the police yesterday clarified that no former operative of the disbanded SARS will be part of the new SWAT unit.

Many of the protesters have said SWAT would be made up of the disbanded SARS officials, hence the reason they have continued with the demonstration.

But in a series of tweets yesterday, the police said the new unit has five cardinal points as its mandate which includes responding to robbery attacks and rescue operations.

“Mandate of the new Tactical team is strictly restricted to: Response to robbery attacks, Response to scenes of weapon-related crimes, Rescue operations, (and) Special operations involving high profile criminals,” the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said in a tweet.

He explained: “No personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new Tactical team. Operations of the new Tactical team will be strictly intelligence-driven.

“Members of the new Tactical team will by no means embark on routine patrols. Members of the new Tactical team are barred from indiscriminate and unlawful search of phones, laptops and other smart devices.

“Operatives of the new Tactical team must be free of any pending disciplinary matter especially those touching on misuse of firearms and abuse of human rights.”