EndSARS Enters a Difficult Period

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that there has been a twist in the tale of the otherwise peaceful protests by Nigerian youths demanding an end to police brutality, with the alleged hijack of the protests by hoodlums and the resulting clampdown by government

Events inside the EndSARS episode are happening so fast that one needs to be awake all the time to be abreast of goings on. As the country was getting used to a new phrase, ‘commission of Inquiry’, which actually describes a government ordered inquiry into matters of public interest, a quick succession of events happened in the last 24 hours to dim the importance of the probe.

At the close of yesterday, Tuesday, October 20, which was the 12th day of the protests, very many unfortunate incidents across the country had been reported to twist the tale of the otherwise peaceful protests by Nigerian youths demanding an end to police brutality.

The youths had presented more demands after the Federal Government agreed to their initial request to disband the the Nigeria Police elite unit, known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which had sweeping powers and particularly targeted youths, who fit the profile of an endangered group called ‘Yahoo Boys ‘. Protest against the arbitrarines of SARS operations have been on between the past three and four years. It came to a head three weeks ago with the killing of a youth in Ughelli, Delta State.

A protest in Lagos led by led by Douglas Jack Agu, better known as, Runtown and Folarin Falana, better known as, Falz Tha Bad Guy and other popular personalities in the creative industry leveraged on the amazing advantage of information technology to go international and gain incredible support from major influencers.

As the #EndSARS campaigns entered ts second week, it was infiltrated by hoodlums who used the cover to commit arson and other forms of criminal acts that suggested a complete breakdown of law and order.

Mr. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information had earlier warned that government could not allow a deterioration into anarchy, even as the National Leader of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum appealed to the youths to discontinue the protests and come to the negotiation table. However, the insistent request of the youths to have President Muhammadu Buhari address was rebuffed, even as federal lawmakers yesterday, reechoed the need for a direct intervention from the president.

While they were at it, the very occurrence that many discerning persons eared took place. Hoodlums hijacked the protest and succeeded in twisting its direction. Yesterday, prisons in Edo State were forcibly opened and close to 2000 prisoners escaped. A police station was also burnt. Governor Godwin Obaseki immediately placed the state on a 24-hour curfew. While members of the public were still wondering what went wrong in Edo, the EndSARS campaigners were also alleged to have burnt two police stations, a local government secretariat and a hospital in Lagos. This forced Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to order a 24-hour curfew. Governor Kayode Fayemi has announced a 24-hour curfew in Ekiti state, as well.

Some of the leading voices in the EndSARS campaign have accused individuals in and/or close to the federal or state governments of sponsoring attacks on genuine EndSARS campaigners. They heaped all the blame of heinous crimes on these alleged sponsored agents of government.

There were widely reported incidents of shooting by security agents in different parts of Lagos, where the EndSARS campainers had defied the 4:00pm curfew.

The action of the government has attracted condemnation. Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the former US Democratic Presidential Candidate urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the killing of young EndSARS protesters. In a tweet, Clinton said:
“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment.”

It is the first time Clinton is showing support for the movement. Protesters had taken to Twitter to call on the international community to condemn the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos yesterday. There were unconfirmed number of deaths and fatalities from the incident. Eyewitnesses account on Twitter however, showed that the figures are not low.

Music and Nollywood stars are directing their ire over the shooting of unarmed EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate at Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who hitherto was held up as as an exemplary public official in his conduct with the protesters.

Taking their grievances to the microblogging site Twitter, the celebrities accuse him of allowing such inhumanity under his watch.

Actress Kemi Lala Akindoju tweeted

“Governor @jidesanwoolu. This is your legacy! This is your legacy. Posterity will judge you and everyone on your team.”

Musician Runtown wrote on his Twitter page “This is on you @jidesanwoolu. I hope you know.”

“They’re killing our people,’ tweeted Davido.

Another musician Samklef tweeted: “He will be held responsible he is an accomplice. He helped them turn off the light remove the CCTV @jidesanwoolu you are a wicked man.”

Music label Mavin Records owned by Don Jazzy tweeted, “This wasn’t photoshopped. This is the legacy of the leaders the youths were supposed to see as ‘fathers’. We won’t forget..

#EndSARS #EndBadGoveranceInNigeria.”

Nollywood actress Adesua Etomi-Wellington tweeted, “You rehabilitate terrorists but shoot and kill peaceful protesters. We will forget. ‘

Videos of soldiers shooting at the Lekki protesters have gone viral on the social media platform. The Lagos state government had earlier announced a curfew in all parts of the state, starting from 4 PM following the spate of violence recorded in the state. The valiant protesters, however, insisted that they were conducting a peaceful protest and would not back down.

In an update on its Twitter handle, the Lagos state government tweeted that the curfew will take effect from 9 PM.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed that enforcement of the 24hour curfew in the State should not start until 9 pm to enable people stuck in traffic get to their destinations.

A protester allegedly shot on the leg had the bullet removed by other fellow protesters who improvised with available tools.

Earlier reports indicated that ambulances on their way to help the wounded were reportedly turned back.

There were also reports that the Lekki Toll Gate was set on fire as well as GTB on Admiralty Way, Lekki.

Elevation Church in Lekki announced on Twitter that their premises are open to stranded protesters. A few other organisations followed similar path. Meanwhile, former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, pledged to pay the hospital bills of those who were injured at the shooting.

Before the mayhem yesterday, it looked like all parties in the EndSARS imbroglio were conducting themselves in a civilised manner.

Apparently reading from the same script, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Governor Simon Laling of Plateau State, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor the Actimg Governor of Kaduna State announced judicial commission of inquiries in line with the promise of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The Vice President said the powers to probe allegations of highhandednes, torture and outright extrajudicial killings rested with the states. No sooner a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which the governors attended rose than the constitution of the probe committees by various state governments came on stream.

The Nigeria Governors Forum also also amplified the urgency for a judicial commission of inquiry to review cases of police brutality, especially by operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad across the country.

The governors appealed to #EndSARS protesters to end the protests to prevent hoodlums from hijacking it.

This was contained in a communique issued by NGF after the 20th emergency teleconference meeting held on Sunday.

The communique was signed by the NGF Chairman, Kayode Fayemi. He said the “Governors thereafter Resolved to: Activate a Judicial Panel of Enquiry to receive all cases of police brutality by officers of the disbanded SARS Unit. Each State is also expected to kickstart a compensation mechanism for all victims.

“Endorse the call by demonstrators for improved governance predicated on an enforcement regime that takes into cognisance the fundamental human rights and liberties of all citizens in the country;

“Act on all the Demands made by the EndSARS protesters raising some concerns with the shifting nature of the demands which creates uncertainty on the exact expectations and ultimate goal;

“Finally, appeal for the call off of protests as a continuation grossly exposes the fragile economic fundamentals of the country; particularly as criminal elements and hoodlums have hijacked the protests by maiming innocent citizens, looting and destroying properties.”

In obedience to Osinbajo and Fayemi, the governors went to their respective states and kick started the plan.

In Edo, the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said the terms of reference of the Panel are “to receive complaints and petitions from the general public, particularly victims or relatives of victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, and to recommend measures, including compensation and restitution, investigation and prosecution, as the circumstances warrant.

“To advise on compensation or restitution to the victims, or- where the victim has been killed- to the family of the victim, based on condition which shall be clearly laid out by the Committee.

“To ensure that compensation is paid within 14 days of the decision to compensate.”

The statement further read: “The Panel has been given 90 days to complete this assignment. All hearings will be open to the general public. All interested persons are advised to send their complaints, petitions and suggestions to the Committee.”

The Delta State Government constituted an eight-member Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate allegations of police brutality and extra-judicial killings in the state. The Secretary to the State Government, Chiedu Ebie, said that the panel, as approved by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, would receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra–judicial killings in the state from victims of the disbanded Special Anti–Robbery Squad (SARS) or any other police unit, with a view to ascertaining their validity.

The statement added that the panel was also expected to recommend compensation or other remedies appropriate for each case.

According to the statement, the panel has Justice Celestina Ogisi (retd) as Chairman and Omamuzo Erebe as Secretary.

Other members of the panel are AIG David Igbodo (retd), Harrison Gwamnishu representing the youths, Godwin Oyovweadjebore representing students, Freedom Atsepoyi and Eris Jewo–Ibi representing the civil society groups and Nicholas Osadolor representing the Human Rights Commission.

Ebonyi state Governor Engr. David Umahi set up a judicial panel of inquiry on Tuesday, October 20th.
The Governor’s address came after the protesters blocked the Government house gate from 10 am to about 3 pm demanding that the government must address them on police brutality in the State.

The governor publicly released his phone number to the protesters and urged them to resist all forms of intimidation from the police adding that activities of Ekaba police station shall be looked into by the state government.

The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel summoned an emergency meeting of the State Executive Council of the Akwa Ibom State Government to discuss urgent matters of national concern, affecting the state. Taking the center stage was the #ENDSARS protest, which the council deliberated exhaustively and decided that the clamour for humane and responsible policing by Nigerian youths is a germane demand which must be listened to and addressed. That the youths in Akwa Ibom state who partook in the protests in Uyo have conducted same peacefully and with great respect for the individual rights of other citizens and they deserve commendation. That the demand for documentation of victims and incidences of police brutality in the state was important and necessary for future actions. Therefore, as a responsible government, it constituted a hudicial panel of inquiry.

In Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and other extra-judicial killings, sequel to the EndSARS protests in some parts of the country.

His Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr Makut Macham, said the governor had approved the appointment of members of the panel.

Macham said the panel was required to investigate complaints of police brutality and related extra judicial killings in the state, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units

According to the statement, the panel is to be headed by a retired Judge of the Plateau State High Court, Justice Philomena Lot, and was expected to carry out its assignment and submit its report within six months.

QUOTE

Apparently reading from the same script, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Governor Simon Laling of Plateau State, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor the Actimg Governor of Kaduna State announced judicial commission of inquiries in line with the promise of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The Vice President said the powers to probe allegations of highhandednes, torture and outright extrajudicial killings rested with the states. No sooner a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which the governors attended rose than the constitution of the probe committees by various state governments came on stream