As EndSARS Morphs Into Intractable Protests

2

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha write that the federal and various state governments are having difficulties coming to terms with the apparent obstinate youths who have tasted victory with the success of their EndSARS campaigns and are bent on using the same methods to extract more life-changing conditions for the citizens

From a gathering a few hun dreds on the first day, Nigerian youths led by Douglas Jack Agu, better known as, Runtown and Folarin Falana, better known as, Falz Tha Bad Guy persuaded other popular personalities in the creative industry to join the campaign for the disbandment of the Nigeria Police special unit, known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Two days after, they had leveraged on the amazing advantage of information technology which has turned the world to a global village to go international and gain incredible support from major influencers in kind; and in cash. On the third day, the government gave in to their initial demand for an end to SARS.

Encouraged by this remarkable achievement, they pressed on with a five-point demand, which included the release of all persons arrested and detained by the police on account of the protests and increase in the salary of police officers. All the five points were agreed to by the government. By this time, the zeal of the campaign had fired the ambition of youths outside Abuja and Lagos, which were the start off points. The entire country was under siege of sorts by the youths.

The situation became more confusing as regional colouration was introduced when youths in some Nothern Nigerian states took to the streets in solidarity with the police and the Federal Government. A leader from that section of the country, Shettima Yerima signalled that their understanding of the protests was that youths from the South plan to bring President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to a hurried end. Another section of youths from Eastern Nigeria have also weighed in on the protest to press home their secessionist pro-Biafra demands.

Expectedly, these communal interests may have watered the initial objective of the EnSARS campaigners and their subsequent requests. At the weekend, many were beginning to question the purpose of the continued protests since government has demonstrated willingness to open a discourse. Without a clear-cut leadership, it has been difficult to engage the protesting youths in a dialogue, other than expression of their interests and demands which are copiously published on social media. From EndSARS, they are now demanding an end to bad governance, while probing into the earnings of members of the National Assembly and insisting that their seeming outrageous remuneration be reduced drastically and immediately. An exasperated President Buhari rising from a recent National Economic Council meeting conceded to the governors the right to deal with the campaigners in their different states as they deem fit.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo later explained that the powers to set up judicial commission of inquiries into cases of police brutality rested with state governors.

Meanwhile, the EndSARS saga has recorded some interesting episodes.

Victims of EndSARS

In the past few days of the peaceful protest of the EndSARS movement, violence has been recorded in some parts of the country. Hoodlums seized the opportunity to attack prominent and harmless Nigerians. Not a few escaped the wrath of the attackers. They include:

Isiaka Jimoh:

Isiaka Jimoh was on his way to his mother’s place on Saturday, October 10, when he was allegedly felled by police bullets dispersing the EndSARS protest that was taking place in Ogbomoso, Oyo state. His sudden demise fuelled the agitation against police brutality as many condemned the act and called for justice. The police on the other hand has denied complicity in the incident. Jimoh, a 24-year-old apprentice electrician was due for his graduation before he met his untimely death. Three Bullets were said to have penetrated his body when he was rushed to Bowen Teaching Hospital where he gave up the ghost. Two other persons suffered a similar fate.

In compensation, the Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde gave the affected families one million Naira each and N100 million for renovation of the palace.

Minister of Youths and Sports and the Soun of Ogbomoso

The Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, unfortunately choose the wrong time to pay a courtesy visit to the Soun of Ogbomoso on Sunday, October 11, which made him a victim of an attack by the youths of the town. The youths stormed the palace in retaliation of the murder of Jimoh Isiaka and two other persons during a peaceful protest that turned bloody following the intervention of the police. Dare and the 94-year-old Monarch fled for their lives as the attackers destroyed vehicles and buildings to varying degrees.

The Minister in a tweet insisted that the protest was hijacked by hoodlums.

“Ogbomoso-Hoodlums, thugs and miscreants disrupt stakeholders meeting in Soun’s palace now-invading, stoning and breaking doors, glasses. Soun, myself, and council chiefs were scurried into safety by the police and DSS. Ogbomoso youths are law-abiding. But hoodlums have taken over.”

Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola

Whether it was a deliberate attack on his life or not, the governor of Osun State is grateful to live to tell the tale of how he narrowly escaped a mob lynch on Saturday, October 17. The governor had joined the EndSARS protesters from the Alekuwodo area to Olaiya Junction to show his solidarity. But during his address to the youths, armed thugs attacked the governor and his convoy, throwing stones and dangerous weapons at the governor. The thugs also damaged the vehicles conveying the governor and his entourage.

In a broadcast on Sunday, Oyetola said he was convinced that the attack on him was not orchestrated by the youths but by political thugs and hoodlums. He said that the attack would be investigated by a Judicial Panel of Enquiry in line with the directive of the National Economic Council set up to investigate all related cases of abuse and brutality by the disbanded SARS.

James Nwafor, Anambra Governor’s Senior Special Adviser on Security

Following the allegations of human rights violations levelled against the Senior Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Security, James Nwafor, the Anambra state governor finally relieved him of his services. Nwafor was accused of killing many youths in the state during his tenure in the dissolved SARS.

His name was the most detested appellation last Friday night when protesters held a candlelight procession for victims of SARS. A young woman Obianuju Iloanya, narrated how the dismissed security aide boasted to her parents that he killed her older brother Chijioke who was last seen in 2012 and there was nothing they could do about it. Her traumatic tale fuelled the protesters to continue their demand for justice against victims of SARS.

Addressing protesters, the governor said: “Your first request is immediate prosecution and removal of James Nwafor, the immediate release of all protesters in police custody. Consider those ones done.”

Random Deaths

Scores of persons campaigning against police brutality have been reportedly killed or injured in different parts of the country. From Edo, Ondo Abuja, to Lagos, reports of attacks on the peaceful protest have been rampant. In Lagos, a truck was said to have run into the protesters at the Lekki toll gate on Friday morning. The previous day witnessed videos and pictures of hoodlums brandishing weapons to attack peaceful protesters in Alausa, Ikeja went viral on social media. In Edo, two persons were allegedly killed on Friday after suspected thugs hauled pebbles and fired bullets sporadically at the protesters who besieged the Edo State House of Assembly.

There were also reports that one person was killed and three others injured in Ondo State when a car rammed into the protesters in Akure, the state capital.

SARS Officers Dismissal

One of the greatest outcomes of the EndSARS protest is the dissolution of the special police unit. After a resilient demand for the scrapping of the unit, the Inspector General Police last Sunday announced that the unit has been dissolved. All officers were immediately relieved of their duties. While the news was met with joy, the protesters argued that accused offices of the defunct unit should be brought to book.

Ikechukwu Ilohamauzor

The 55 year-old was driving his boss Samuel Okafor home when he was shot. Okafor said that they were on their way to Ilupeju when they rañ into the traffic caused by the Surulere EndSARS protesters. Ilohamauzor was said to have stepped out of his car when he was hit by a bullet. There have been counter-accusations between the police and the protesters on whose bullet killed the deceased. The police denied shooting the deceased, heaping the blame on violent protesters. However, the Lagos state governor would later note that four police officers were complicit in the incident.

Beneficiaries of EndSARS

A spirit of altruism has been seen in the ongoing protests. Several creatives have dedicated to helping the needy and less privileged who have joined the protest. Food, water, security are provided to protesters while funds were raised to help the less privileged.

The Elderly Groundnut Seller

An elderly woman who sells groundnut at the Lekki Toll Gate where protesters have occupied in the past few days was blessed last Thursday. The woman who joined the protest was said to have melted the hearts of protesters with her humble beginning that funds were immediately raised to support her business. About N2 million was given to the woman.

Disabled Protesters

On Sunday morning, pictures of a protester Jane Obiene marching with hundreds of protesters bearing crutches flooded the internet. There were calls to raise funds for the young lady who reportedly had been unemployed since 2013 due to her disability.

A Twitter user Aproko Doctor shared her story and opened a link for people to donate to buy a prosthetic leg. He intended that N500,000 would be raised within 30 days. The user was however astonished when N3.2 million was raised within four hours of sharing the link.

He also shared a picture of another young man with disability Charles Nnanam, who like Jane, joined the protest in Surulere. The donations received will now be used to purchase two prostheses for Jane and Charles.

Season of Accountability

A remarkable trait of the #EndSARS protest is the level of transparency displayed in their financialtransactions. Every Naira and Kobo donated and spent are documented and shared on social media for all to see. For instance, one of the support group Feminist Coalition regularly tweet updates of the donations and expenses made on their Twitter page.

For instance, they tweeted the amount of money raised for the protests and logistics spent on Sunday.

“On Oct 17th we donated N3,520,000 to 11 protests, and made a donation to @endsarsresponse for food, water, ambulances, and other support.

Total ₦ raised: N73,298,499.13
Total ₦ disbursed: N23,708,280.00

Balances
NGN 49,590,219.13
USD 11,474.34
CAD 5,595.89
GBP 5,733.49
EUR 875.42
GHS 1,256.70
KES 53,016.60
BTC 5.72695197

#EndSARS.”

This accountability mocks the government who barely give detailed account of their expenditures.

Outcomes of the Protest

Protesters have been quite vocal about their demands. Some of them have been met, others are yet to be realised. They include:

Scrapping of SARS

Following the unjust killing of a young man in Ughelli, Delta state, protesters stormed different parts of the country and staged protests outside the country, calling for the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad. That demand was met last Sunday when the Inspector General Police Mohammed Adamu announced the dissolution of the unit.

“The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force otherwise known as SARS is hereby dissolved in all the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory,” he said in a live broadcast.

Five-Point Demands Met

Following the dissolution of SARS, the protesters gave the government a five-point demand which included the release of all persons arrested and justice for victims of police brutality. The protesters also demanded that an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days) should be set up; psychological evaluation of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed, and increase in police salary so that they can be adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.

Two days later, the Federal Government gave in to their demands. In a statement, the presidential spokesman Femi Adesina confirmed that “the five-point demands of the protesters and the ENDSARS movement are genuine concerns and will be addressed by the Government.”

Governors Forced to Action

The governors of Lagos, Ogun, Plateau and Anambra found themselves giving in to the demands of the protesters. In Anambra, the protesters called for the dismissal of the governor’s security aide James Nwafor and the release of detainees held illegally which have been met by the governor.

In Lagos State, the hotbed of the protests, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu continues to take steps to show his solidarity with the protesters. From revealing names of erring officers involved in the Surulere protest attack to setting up a seven-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses in Lagos State.

“This panel will ensure that all those with verifiable cases of SARS brutality or fatality get justice and receive compensation.”

The state governor also set up an N200 million fund for residents in the state who have been victims of police brutality.

In a similar move, the governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong of Plateau State has established a Judicial Panel of Inquiry on police brutality and other extra-judicial killings. It was in accordance to the recommendation of the National Economic Council (NEC) for the establishment of state-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry by Governors to collate complaints and ensure accountability in the operations of police units in their respective States. Other governors who have set up Judiciary Panels of Investigation include Enugu and Ogun states.

Launch of Online Radio

To show they mean business, the EndSARS protesters on Sunday launched an online radio ‘Soro Soke’ which means to ‘Speak Up’ in Yoruba. The radio is part of the movement’s plan to get the government to answer their call for police reforms and restructuring of the country. On the platform’s bouquet are programmes aimed at educating and communicating with protesters and also coordinate activities nationwide.

Global Support

The EndSARS protests have put Nigeria on global focus. Several international celebrities have shown support to the cause. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey last week endorsed the campaign by tweeting two publications that reported the protests and accompanied the tweets with the trending hashtags #EndSARS and the Nigerian flag. He also shared a link where people can donate bitcoin to support the protesters.

Musicians like Drake, Trey Songz, Alicia Keys, as well as Hollywood stars like John Boyega, Gabrielle Union and Tyler Perry have pledged support for the campaign.

Trey Songz tweeted: “Police brutality here in America often is an abuse of power-driven by race. To be brutalized, extorted, and murdered by your own people is unimaginable. Prayers up and I’m researching ways I can help. #EndSARS.”

Filmmaker Tyler Perry tweeted “I hate that a country, with enormous potential to be one of the greatest in the world, is going through so much horror. I stand with Nigeria.

#ReformTheNigeriaPolice #ENDBADGOVERNANCE.”

“I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters to end police brutality, the government must answer to the peoples cries #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria,” tweeted Kanye West

Also, televangelist T.D Jakes tweeted

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

#EndSARS.”

Hackers Collective Anonymous Support for EndSARS

A group of international hackers who are known for cyber campaign against government corrupt practices last Wednesday showed their support to the movement. So far, Anonymous claimed to have hacked the Lagos State government website, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) among others.
On Sunday, the group tweeted:
“Websites will continue to go down and leaks will continue to pour, the Nigerian government falls short in cyberspace. They don’t fear ‘Anonymous’ they fear the youth and overall they fear a united Nigeria that exists in the streets and beyond hashtags. That’s the power. #EndSARS.”

QUOTE 1

From EndSARS, they are now demanding an end to bad governance, while probing into the earnings of members of the National Assembly and insisting that their seeming outrageous remuneration be reduced drastically and immediately. An exasperated President Buhari rising from a recent National Economic Council meeting conceded to the governors the right to deal with the campaigners in their different states as they deem fit

QUOTE 2

The situation became more confusing as regional colouration was introduced when youths in some Nothern Nigerian states took to the streets in solidarity with the police and the Federal Government. A leader from that section of the country, Shettima Yerima signalled that their understanding of the protests was that youths from the South plan to bring President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to a hurried end. Another section of youths from Eastern Nigeria have also weighed in on the protest to press home their secessionist pro-Biafra demands