By Suleiman Umaru
The last may not have been heard about the END SARS protests and the shooting of a crowd of over 1000 protesters at the lekki-Ekpe Toll Gate in Lagos state on Tuesday, October 20ied 20.
Even though ,the Army had consistently denied the allegations that it had no hand in the shooting of the defenseless protesters, they have finally bowed to pressure to speak out that they were invited by the Lagos government. However, they have not owned up to the shooting of the END SARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate. At press time, the Lagos state government had not reacted to the Army revelation. This confirms what Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and Chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID 19 And Beyound, ASCAB, had said that soldiers shot at the protesters with live bullet and lethal weapon..
The Human Rights Lawyer had said that the group had identified the military Barracks where the soldiers who shot at the protesters were deployed from to the Lekki Toll gate. The legal luminary should have saved Nigerians the troubles of trying to guess the Barrack as the military have Barracks located in the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Eki and Ondo.
In Lagos alone, the Army has Barracks at Victoria Island and the Ojo Cantonment, in Ojo Local government Area of the state. Also, the Army has Barracks at Abeokuta, Ogun state and Ibadan, Oyo state.
Onibehe, another Human Rights Lawyer had said that Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor is in a better position to tell Nigerians if it was Nigerian soldiers who had fired at the END SARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate. This may have informed why he had requested the governor to release the certified Close Circuit, CC,TV, mounted at the Toll gate by the government, which was said to have been handed over to the Lekki Toll Gate Concession Company managing the facility. The Army top hierarchy may have known the release of the CCCTV, to the public would be indicting that it had to push the blame to the Lagos government.
The rumour making rounds was that the CCTVs mounted at the Lekki Toll Gate were dismantled by some people who claimed to be Staff of the Company managing the facility to wipe out the footage of the security operatives who carried out the attack on the protesters , at the busy Toll gate, in which two persons , were acknowledged to have died from the bullet wounds sustained .
Sawo-Olu, the Lagos state governor who was said to have given his words never to shield anybody implicated to have had a hand in using live bullet and lethal weapon to shoot the protesters at the Lekki Toll gate may have shot himself on the leg. The governor was said to have told those that cares to listen that the security Cameras were left intact at the Toll gate and would be used in the Judicial panel Investigating Human Rights Violation in the state.
Recall that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state, popular, Jagaban, who had gone underground when the protest became too violent on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, had emerged late last week to pay a visit to Sanwo-Olu, the state governor, described in political circles as his godson . Tinubu, who pride himself as the god father of south west politics and incidentally the National Leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, had told Journalists after a closed door meeting with the governor at Marina House on Saturday, October 24, 2020, that he came to ask him if he knEw anything about the Lekki Toll gate incident.
‘’I came to ask him pointedly: did he invite the soldiers who attacked the protesters and if he didn’t , who invited them and order the attack? The former Lagos state governor was said ’’to have also sought to know whether it was to his knowledge that END SARS protesters were attacked’’. ‘’That was all the explanation that I needed from him’’, tJagaban, had told the crowd of Journalists that besieged him. He believes that people who were victims to the Lekki Toll gate gun shots were in a better position to volunteer valuable information to the Judicial Panel of inquiry set up by the government on Human Rights violation in state to carry out their investigation. The governor may have denied the state government to the Lekki Toll gate saga.
In a related development, Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, may have given an insight to the losses incurred by the Army in the two weeks of the EEND SARS protest . The CAS, had said at a recent meeting with the Principal Staff officers, PSO, General Officers Commanding, GOCs and Field Commanders of the Nigerian Army, NA, at Abuja , the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, that no less than 10 AK47 rifles was lost to the criminal elements and miscreants who hijacked the protest across the country with some military personnel losing their live to quiet the situation.
Perhaps , to prevent a repeat of what had happened in the country over the three weeks which had resulted in the looting of several warehoused stored with COVID 19, palliaties donated by private sector coalition, in some parts of the country, the Army General was said to have charged the senior Army officers at the meeting and directed them to warn their troops on internal security or on guard duties outside the Barracks to be on the red alert at all times to deal decisively with any attack by the hoodlums on their duty locations. This may have informed why the END SARS protesters, particular, the hoodlums quickly sheath their sword to avoid throwing the country into chaos.
The General who could not hide his feelings had told the senior officers that’’ Democracy remain the only panacea to development and progress in the country’’, pleading with them’’ to ensure its stability’’ without disruption.
He may have alluded to the events of the last three weeks where ‘’some individuals, and groups who had hijacked the END SARS protest had resorted to the wanton destruction of public and private property. He had said that the governors imposed a 24-hour curfew in their respective states to calm the situation.
Angered by the events of the past three weeks, the CAS, was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that he Army ‘’will not allow any force, elements or distabilising agents within or outside the country set the country on fire’’.
He noted that he was aware of the’’ grand design by the alleged sponsors of the protests to draw the Army into the crisis’’. According to him, ‘’the plan was to embark on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government so as to set the people against the Army once it is called out to aid the Civil Authorities. Buratai , who may have read the handwriting on wall disclosed why the soldiers were careful not to be dragged into the crisis as the Army restated its resolve to secure and safeguard a United Nigeria.
Many believe that what may have given the sponsors of the END SARS protest to win the heart of the International Community about the Nigeria situation was the shooting of over a crowd of a thousand protesters at the Lkki Toll gate on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, by unknown soldiers. Coming on the heels of the use of live bullets and lethal weapons by unidenfiied soldiers to shoot at the protesters at the Lekki Toll gate was the rumour making the round s that the state governors had hoarded the private sector coalition donation Against COVID 19, meant for the people, which may have forced the hoodlums in the gusise of the protest to loot the warehouses where the palliatives were stored in some of states particular, in the southern part of the country, including the FCT.
Inded, the private sector coalition Against COVID 19, donors may not have been happy over the looting of the warehouses where these palliatives were stored in Lagos, Kwara , Taraba and other states of the Federation including the FCT.
The Coalition had explained why the distribution of the palliatives was delayed f in some states which may have attracted the anger of the hoodlums in the guise of the END SARS protest to invade the warehouses.
The Organisation may have confirmed what Abdulrazaq Barkindo, spokesperson of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, had said that most of the state government s’’ did not receive complete delivery of items allocated to them early enough for the distribution. According to the CACOVID, as at the time they embarked on the palliatives effort in April 2020, they had decided to procure the food items directly from the manufacturers , to avoid distortion of prices in the market.
They believe that the large size of the order for locally milled 10Kg bags of rice, 5Kg bags of garri, /maize/semolina, a carton of pasta, two cartons of noddles 5Kg of sugar and I Kg of salt for the two million Vulnerable Nigerians may have overwhelmed the manufacturers and rice millers as they could not deliver the items on scheduled until last June that the crisis had erupted.
The first deliveries of the Food items , insiders told The Value News, could not start until last June. The Magazine gathered that as at this month of October 2020, a sizeable portion of the ordered food items had been delivered to the states but the governors were not able to distribute it, fueling speculations making the rounds that they were hoarding t for distribution to the electorates in the upcoming 2023 general elections.
There are indications that some of the states including the FCT, in where the CACOVID 19 food items were stored in various warehouses and locations had alrady Commenced the flagged off of the distribution of the items since early August but could not conclude the distribution as they were yet to receive complete deliveries of items allotted to them.
Osita Nwanisobi, acting Director, Corporate Communications , Central Bank of Nigeria had supported CACOVID explanation over the delay in the distribution of the Food items to beneficiaries. The CBN spokesperson had pleaded with Nigerians that in the ‘’interest of transparency and accountability CACOVID will in due course , be providing the full delivery schedule and Flag-off dates by each state’’.
He disclosed that the apex bank had been working with the state governors and the FCT, minister, Mohammed Bello, including the Chairmen of the each of the 774 Local government Areas across the country, because’’ they know their people best’’. He disclosed that CACOVID also utilised a combination of their own protocols and their existing structures and processes to ensure that the items reach the intended beneficiaries.
The group was said to have appointed an independent monitoring team to ensure that the food items were not diverted. There is no gain saying the fact that not every warehouse across the country where these COVID palliatives were stored are linked to CACOVID as the Federal government and other Organisations, like the Nigerian Customs ervice and the Nigerian Maritime Administation and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh, also made donations