Udora Orizu writes that trend of burning down police stations by angry youths shows that when citizens loose faith in the government and criminal justice system, they are less likely to rely on the law to solve issues
Following the recent shooting of unarmed #EndSARs protesters who converged on around the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos state to protest against police brutality and seek reforms for good governance, arson, killings, looting and all sorts of violence have trailed the once peaceful, particularly the burning of police stations across the country by the aggrieved youths.
On October 11, as the #EndSARS protests gathered momentum, across the country, the Federal Government heed the citizens cries and announced the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robber Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigerian police force, which has been linked to torture, unlawful imprisonment, extortion and murder of innocent citizens.
The #EndSARS hashtag dates back to 2017, when it was used to share experiences of assault and violence. Amnesty International reported at least 82 cases of torture and extra-judicial execution between January 2017 and May 2020. The vexation of the youths reached its peak, when on Tuesday, 20th October 2020, when men of the Nigerian military opened fire at Lekki Tollgate on unarmed, peaceful protesters.
Following the massacre, the protests degenerated into more killings, arson and looting as the angry youths unleashed mayhem in several states across the country. It was clear that the frustrations expressed on the streets of various states were not just about the crimes of a police unit. Obviously the youths felt betrayed by the government.
However, by channeling their anger at the police, with the razing of its buildings, the youths lost focus, and may not even come close to the real target. Yes, the guilty officers, who perpetrated those heinous crimes should be brought to book and punished, but burning down police stations won’t amount to anything and it’s doing more harm than good.
There are actually some policeman that are honest working people. The youths need to show restraint, empathy by remembering those good ones. We agree that they have to get better, starting by weeding out bad officers but violence is not the way to go.
The effects of the wanton attacks on police stations and officers, sometimes under very gruesome circumstances, also means the police themselves are vulnerable, this must be very demoralising to many officers, particularly the good ones and should also be of great concern to citizens.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, last Friday said 22 police personnel were killed across the country during the protests.
He said officers of the Nigeria Police Force acted professionally, exercised commendable restraints and some paid the supreme price for peace during the recent protests and ensuing violence in some parts of the country.
The statement said available reports showed that 22 police personnel were extra-judicially killed by some rampaging protesters and scores injured during the protests.
”Many of the injured personnel are in life threatening conditions at the hospitals. Two hundred and five police stations and formations including other critical private and public infrastructure were also damaged by a section of the protesters. Despite these unprovoked attacks, our police officers never resorted to use of unlawful force or shooting at the protesters as alleged in the report”, it said.
IGP Unveils fatalities
On October 30, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, unveiled the gory statistics of fatalities during a virtual meeting with commissioners of police in the 36 states and FCT, in Abuja.
The statistics showed that the death toll nationwide from the violence is now 73, with 22 of them policemen.
He also directed his officers and men to henceforth sturdily defend themselves if attacked by hoodlums again. The IG also disclosed that 71 public warehouses and 248 privately owned stores were looted in the course of the protests in 13 states and the FCT.
According to the IG, the affected states recorded major violence leading to attacks on critical national security infrastructure and other corporate and private properties as well as injuries or fatalities to civilians, the police and other security agents.
Adamu said 205 critical national security assets, corporate facilities and private property were attacked, burnt or vandalised.
”So far, a total of 10 firearms including eight AK 47 rifles stolen during the attack on police stations and a locally made pistol have been recovered from elements operating under the guise of the #EndSARS protesters. In addition, 1,596 suspects were arrested in connection with the violence and widespread looting by hoodlums, who hijacked the protests across the country.
The breakdown shows that 520 suspects were arrested in Lagos, 367 in Plateau State, 210 in the FCT and 142 in Kwara State. Similarly, 82 suspects were apprehended in Osun State, 60 in Adamawa State and 36 in Kano and Ogun states respectively.
He said 33 suspects were arrested in Edo State, 20 each in Kaduna and Akwa Ibom states, 15 in Abia and Delta states and 13 in Oyo and Ekiti states respectively. Furthermore, 10 suspects were arrested in Rivers State and four in Ondo State.
“Out of these figures, not less than 1,117 have been charged to court across the country”, Adamu added
Meanwhile, Adamu who spoke on the attacks on policemen during an assessment tour of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, same day asked all personnel of the force to protect themselves against attacks, saying his officers and men have the right to defend themselves in case of physical danger.
He also encouraged the operatives, who had abandoned the streets in the past five days following the killing of over 22 policemen during the #EndSARS violence, to return to their beats.
Adamu alleged that the #EndSARS protesters were out to demoralise the personnel, adding that the government and the Nigeria Police Force would soon roll out packages for the families of the deceased officers.
He said: “The unity of this country lies in the support that is given to police officers because if you are demoralised, the tendency is for criminals to take over the public space, and the country is relying on us to make sure that the public space is not taken over by the criminals. So, no amount of provocation, no amount of insult would make us shy away from our responsibilities.
“Inasmuch as we are aware that the government is behind us; so, we would encourage you to keep performing your duties. We would encourage you to be professional, to be civic, but if anybody touches you, if anybody comes to assault you, you can also protect yourself.
“When we talk of human rights, the police are human; so, the rights of police officers would also be protected. So, we are sending the message that legally, we have the right to protect ourselves but while we are doing that, we make sure that until we are endangered.”
Assessment Committee Inaugurated
The IG also inaugurated a 9-man committee to undertake an assessment of the loss suffered by the Nigeria Police Force across the country during the #EndSARS protests. He explained the setting up of the assessment committee was informed by the need to properly document the loss suffered by the police for the purpose of strategic planning, re-construction and re-equipment, as well as for future reference.
He said the force encountered huge losses in terms of human and material resources during the #EndSARS protests which commenced on a rather peaceful note but unfortunately degenerated into violence, loss of lives and wanton destruction of property.
The committee, whose chairman is CP Abutu Yaro, was charged by the IG to see the assignment as a call to service and that it must be undertaken with purposefulness, empathy, dedication and sacrifice.
The terms of reference of the Committee include the physical visit to the scenes of incidents and capture the pictorials of all damages done to police infrastructure and personnel; verify the fatalities suffered by the police; establish the weapons holdings that were lost during the incidents, amongst others. He emphasised that the committee should visit families of deceased police officers and the injured on behalf of the force.
Interventions by state governments for the slain officers
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, last Friday pledged, police officers lynched in the wake of the violence instigated by the nationwide youth demonstration against police brutality will not die in vain, The state government, directed Lagos State Scholarship Board to award scholarships to the children of the slain officers up to the university level.
Sanwo-Olu, made the offer to take the bill of replacing the logistics lost by the police when he visited the Command Headquarters in Ikeja to boost the morale of officers, following the demoralising events of the past week in which police officers and their stations were targeted by hoodlums.
The governor got the assurance of the police’s commitment to strengthen security across the state from the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu.
Sanwo-Olu said the statutory duties of the Police could not be wished away because of the actions of a few bad eggs, noting that the impact of the police officers’ absence on the roads was generally felt by residents.
He said the State must put the event of the past week behind it and move on to restore peace across the communities, and to achieve this, police officers, must regain their confidence.
He said, “Commissioner of Police has come forward with a number of requests, which we will need to address to boost the morale of officers after last week’s event. As your governor, I have come here to take full responsibility for the loss you have suffered in terms of logistics. From tomorrow (Thursday), we will start implementing these requests.
“Through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), we will be replacing the police operational vehicles burnt in the violence. We have a bigger plan for all the police stations burnt down. We will look for the funds and build befitting stations that will set the standard of what police stations should be.
“The most important request is to offer scholarship to the children of officers that died. I have directed the Lagos State Scholarship Board under the Special Adviser on Education to immediately award scholarship to the children of the slain officers.”
Sanwo-Olu said the state Government would also be compensating family members of the officers killed in the violence and take care of the burial arrangement of the slain officers, adding that the state would also be picking up the hospital bills of those injured in the mayhem. He also promised that police officers serving in Lagos are also to get life insurance from the state government, Sanwo-Olu promised
The governor directed the Executive Secretary of LSSTF, Dr. Rasaq Balogun, to establish the modality with the police leadership in the state.
The governor also approved the request to upgrade Police Cottage Hospital in Ikeja, directing the Commissioner for Health to inspect the facility for the required upgrade.
In addition to donating two 150KVa generating sets to the police, Sanwo-Olu said the Command Headquarters would be connected to the State’s Independent Power Project (IPP) for constant power supply.
Responding, Odumosu said the manner with which the slain officers were murdered brought down morale in the command.
He said the police officers remained committed to their statutory responsibilities, thanking the governor for approving their requests.
The gesture, the police boss said, would restore confidence in the state’s police workforce.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Leye Oyebade, said the Police took away valuable lessons from the EndSARS protest,noting that there was no better time to fully implement the community policing than now.
He said the protest had ended and it was time for the police to win back citizens’ confidence and trust.
He said, “As police officers, we must now go back to the drawing board and cultivate the goodwill of the communities in which we operate. I’m particularly charging divisional police headquarters to devise strategies tailored toward your local realities and employ digital tools.”
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers on its part announced N20 million compensation each to families of soldiers and policemen allegedly killed by members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples Organization of Biafra (IPOB) in Oyigbo during the EndSARS protest.
Wike made the declaration during a condolence visit to the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr Joseph Mukan, and families of the slain policemen at the Rivers State Police Command.
In a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Kelvin Ebiri, the governor also promised to rebuild all burnt police stations in Oyigbo and vowed to ensure that the IPOB ceases to exist in the state.
Some states whose police stations were razed by hoodlums
The police command in Oyo States said they lost 10 officers and 5 stations to hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests. The State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Chucks Enwonwu, said six policemen were killed while five police stations were burnt by hoodlums during the violence that trailed the protest in the state. Enwonwu, while bemoaning the killing of the policemen, said some of them were gruesomely murdered. He said nine suspects were arrested and the police are also on the trail of more suspects.
According to him, ”Six police officers were gruesomely murdered, police patrol vehicles were burnt down and exhibits looted in the exhibits room with many police arms and ammunition carted away due to activities of criminal elements who capitalised on the protest to perpetrate their heinous crimes.
”Nonetheless, the Oyo State Police Command has arrested no fewer than nine suspected arsonists and looters for allegedly attacking the Divisional Police headquarters , Iseyin on Thursday, 22 October, 2020 and thereafter setting the station ablaze under the pretext of #EndSARS protests that lingered for so many days.
In Anambra, four policemen were killed while 11 stations were burnt. Officers of the Anambra State police command wept over the killings of their colleagues
and burning of 11 Police Stations by the hoodlums.
The Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Mr. John Abang, disclosed this in Awka during the parade of 17 suspected hoodlums. Abang said 11 stations were burnt down and six vandalised during which the hoodlums carted away motorcycles, ammunition and other valuables.
He said about 20 vehicles were razed, including an Armoured Personnel Carrier and patrol vehicles. The Commissioner, who applauded his men for the professionalism with which they managed the crisis, said the lives of police officers in the state were still in danger as hoodlums were still on their trail and most cannot go home.
“In the course of these heinous acts, the hoodlums murdered four police officers including the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Osumenyi Division, CSP Akpan Joseph, ASP Agu Micheal, the Station Officer (SO), Osumenyi Division and a young PC Udegbunam Sunday Celestine, leaving two others injured.
“In their state of callousness, the hoodlums also murdered and beheaded Insp John Oche attached to the Anti-Cult Unit and burnt his body to ashes parading the streets with the deceased policeman’s head. In addition to attacking police formations, other government and private facilities such as the Revenue House, Ocha Brigade office and private trucks loaded with goods were attacked and valuable properties looted.
“Despite concerted efforts by the hoodlums to create a state of lawlessness in the state, the command stood its ground and repelled their attacks in various formations such as Area Command Onitsha, Ogidi, Awada, CPS Onitsha, Inland town and ‘B’ Divisions.”
“In light of this, the command would continue to put up spirited efforts to arrest all other hoodlums who have carried out massive looting and coordinated attacks on police stations and personnel.”
In Abuja, the Dutse Makaranta Police Station, Kubwa, was set ablaze by suspected hoodlums on October 20. The station and a church were said to have been razed during a clash between security operatives and hoodlums. The incident was also said to have led to the death of three persons.
Hoodlums on October 19, attacked three police stations in Edo state. The hoodlums, in addition to the earlier attack on the Correctional Facility along Sapele road, Benin City, vandalised the second Correctional Facility at Oko, also in Benin City, capital of Edo state.
The three police posts attacked were Ugbekun Police Station, Oba Market Police Station and Idogbo Police Station.
During the attack, they carted away arms and ammunition at the stations’ armoury, as well as other valuables before setting suspects free. It was gathered that the vandals took advantage of the #EndSARS protest to perpetrate the attack on the police stations and the Correctional Facilities. At the Oko Correctional facility, they were said to have broke into it and freed about 120 inmates.
Meanwhile in Ondo, on October 22, hoodlums razed the division police station at Adegbemile junction in Akure, the Ondo State capital, several vehicles within the premises were also torched.
Some policemen on duty fled for safety after the hoodlums overpowered them.
The Ondo State Police Command, few days later, gave details of how two of its officers lost their lives in the violent attacks that followed the peaceful #EndSARS protests. The commissioner of police, Bolaji Salami, while addressing journalists at the police headquarters, said the two sergeants, were killed in Ondo and Ore towns.
He said the officer killed at Ore ran into the hoodlums while riding on his motorbike and was lynched by a mob.
Mr Salami said the sergeant that was killed in Ondo town ran into the hoodlums around the palace road and was killed and burnt inside his car.
He, however, said a civilian was killed during the crisis, adding that the casualty was part of the three-man gang that attempted to rob a bank in Ondo town.
Salami’s submissions however, contradict media reports which indicated that more civilians died during the protest particularly in Ondo town. He also lamented the mayhem unleashed on the state, noting that the damage suffered by the police command in the state was unquantifiable. He appealed to the people of the state not to lose faith in the police.
Prior to the curfew, imposed by the state governor, Nyesom Wike hoodlums, who were armed with guns, cudgels and other weapons attacked and burnt the Afam Divisional Police Office and Police Area Command in Oyigbo Local Government Area (LGA).
The attackers reportedly killed three policemen in a bizarre manner cutting off the hand of one of the police operatives that attempted to shoot at them. Sources said the attackers, who stormed the police station last Wednesday eve at about 10pm hacked the police Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) driver to death, burnt the second victim alive and stoned to death the third policeman.
The miscreants took control of Elelenwo, Oil Mill, Ikoku and Mile 1 causing apprehension among residents, who ran to different directions for safety. It was learnt three of the hoodlums died while attempting to burn the Mile 1 Police Division in Diobu area of Port Harcourt as the policemen resisting them and arrested others.
The Ekiti State Police Command also arrested six suspects who allegedly burnt three police facilities in the state.
The police facilities that were set ablaze include two Divisional Police Stations and the Area Command office in Ikere Ekiti. During the parade of the suspects on Monday, the state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, said the minors were arrested at the scene of the incident.
According to the spokesperson, the suspects looted the exhibit room and set the station ablaze, not leaving out the vehicles parked around. He added that some policemen sustained injuries while others had to take cover for their life.
Abutu mentioned that the suspects were caught in the act and have confessed to the crime.
He said, ”When the EndSARS protest started, everything was done peacefully until the 20th of October when some hoodlums stormed our Area Command in Ikere Divisional Police Station and burnt the police station and vehicles there. They also went to two other divisional police stations, particularly the Afao Ikere division, and set the stations and vehicles there ablaze. Some police officers were even wounded while others had to run for their lives. A Joint Operation Team of the Police, the Military and other Security Agencies were immediately deployed to the scene to stop further damage.
”In the process, six suspects were arrested at the scene of the crime while others ran away. In their confessional statements, the suspects agreed that they actively participated in the burning of the police stations. We are spreading our dragnets and all the names mentioned by these suspects will be arrested. They are all at large, but we are trailing them and in the course of the investigation, they will be apprehended.”
A police station in the Abakaliki metropolis, the Central Police Station, was burnt by angry youths protesting against alleged hoarding of palliatives in the Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. A video trending on the social media shows the protesters singing war songs and throwing different objects into the burning police station. The video also showed some policemen running into a bush for fear of being attacked by the protesters.
Cross River State
Hoodlums last week brought Calabar – the Cross River capital renowned for peace and tourism to its knees, with arsonists and looters having a field day.
In an orgy of violence precipitated by looters searching for COVID palliatives, several private businesses suffered the same fate as government buildings, after the mob let loose without discrimination.
The roll call of buildings that have suffered from the activities of these hoodlums cuts across both public and private property, with prominent citizens like Senators Gershom Bassey and Udoma Egba’s houses raided and vandalised. Also Atakpa Police Station, Watt Market were burnt down.
In Enugu, miscreants gruesomely murdered two Policemen, burnt down Police Stations, operational and other vehicles after series of stiff resistance by Operatives.
They also set ablaze different office buildings, a hall as well as destroyed banks’ ATMs, buildings, shops and so on. Police Officers killed include, ”Inspector John Jesse attached to Emene Police Division, who was gruesomely murdered, set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition by the miscreants in the premises of the Police Station; and – Police Constable Ogboji Emmanuel attached to Department of Operations, who was also gruesomely murdered and set ablaze on his way to work at “T-Junction”, Abakpa, Enugu.
Police Station burnt down include, ”Emene Police Station with two operational Hilux and other vehicles, including exhibits, which was burnt down; – Amechi-Idodo Police Station, which was burnt down; – Akwatta Police Post under Central Police Station, which was burnt down; – Maryland Police Post under Uwani Police Division, which was burnt down; and – Phase 6 Police Post under Trans-Ekulu Police Division, which was set ablaze and partially burnt.
On October 20, two police officers reportedly died in clashes between security agencies and hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest in Abịa State.
One of the police officers was killed, even as the mob burnt a police station along Umuoba road axis of Ogbor Hill in Aba. It was gathered that the station was razed when a policeman fired shots at #EndSARS protesters, who refused to disperse when ordered to do so by the police. This led to a clash with the protesters during which the policeman was killed, while over 15 protesters were said to have sustained injuries from gunshots.
The situation degenerated further when reinforcements from other security agencies arrived and they also clashed with the hoodlums, leading to residents scampering for safety. The injured protesters were said to have been taken to a missionary hospital located in the area for treatment. The mob also attacked Eziama Police Division near the popular Bata junction along Aba-Ikot Ekpene Expressway.
Regrettably, the consequences of the infrastructure deficit which emerged from these destructions of properties nationwide, will be a burden on the nation, and if no solutions is found, we all have to put up with it for a very long time.
The breakdown shows that 520 suspects were arrested in Lagos, 367 in Plateau State, 210 in the FCT and 142 in Kwara State. Similarly, 82 suspects were apprehended in Osun State, 60 in Adamawa State and 36 in Kano and Ogun states respectively. He said 33 suspects were arrested in Edo State, 20 each in Kaduna and Akwa Ibom states, 15 in Abia and Delta states and 13 in Oyo and Ekiti states respectively. Furthermore, 10 suspects were arrested in Rivers State and four in Ondo State. Out of these figures, not less than 1,117 have been charged to court across the country