END SARS Protests: Curfew, A Failed Government Counter Measure

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

The battle line appears to have be drawn between the  government  and the protesting Youths against  the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, brutality across the country. This is because the governors had resorted to the imposition of a  24-hour Curfew , described  as Counter measures in political circles to force the protesters out of the street  in their respective states.

The governors, particular, the Lagos state governor, according to political analysts , may have taken advantage of the 24-hour  curfew he had imposed on the state  to  seek the support security Operatives to stop the End SARS protests across the  state.

Pat Utomi, a Political Economy and Management Expert, while analyzing  the strategy, fears ,  if the 24-hour  ultimatum , if not  properly handled ‘’bearing in mind   the protesters  had accused  the Authorities  of being the ones sending  hoodlums  so they can  trigger reason  for attacking them’’, it would backfire. 

At present   Governors Godwin Obaseki, Edo, Dapo Abiodun, Ogun, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos and Kayode Fayemi, who incidentally is the Chairman of Nigerian Governor Forum, NGF, had  taken advantage of the alleged  hijacking of the protests by hoodlums to impose a 24-hour curfew in their respective states.

 Also on the list the governors that had  declared a 24-hour  ultimatum were the governors of Plateau and  Imo states. Some of the governors were said to have also set Up Judicial Panels of inquiry  on Human Rights violation  by the defunct SARS,  like Sawo-Olu, Nasir- El Rufai, Kaduna and Emmanuel Udom,of Akwa Ibom states.

END SARS Protesters At Lekki

Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo state , was  said to be  the first to declare the 24 –hour curfew in Edo, his home state. Obaseki  had said that the decision was necessitated because of the   hoodlums who   invaded  the  maximum security prisons, in Oko and Benin city, now baptised  Nigerian Correctional  Service, NCoS, centers,    in the guise of being  members of the protesting Youths. The hoodlums, he said had  used the opportunity  provided by the Protests to  open the NCoS gate , thus facilitating the escape of no fewer than 1,993 inmates .

Mohammed Manga, Director of Press, ministry of Interior, under the close watch of Rauf  Aregbesola, a former governor of Osun state,  had said  that the hoodlums invaded  the two NCoS centres in Edo in their large number, bearing dangerous weapons and attacked the officers on duty.

 The question on the lips of most people was: how can a protest, which had started on a peaceful note from the  onset turn violent overnight when the protesters are not bearing arms. Many believe that it may have  been an insider arrangement to give the government the ammunition to use force on the protesters to force them out of the street.

 Manga, the Director of Press, had made Nigerians to believe that the attackers were unmistaken in their mission  when they entered the NCoS  two facilities   as they  headed straight  to the cells,   to free the  inmates, who were said to have  had the time to carry their bag, loot the centres ,including   carting  away  the weapons of the armoury.

Again,  Manga had said  that ‘’with the support of other security agencies , the NCoS , fficials  have commenced the tracking  and apprehension  of the escaped inmates who were in legal custody before they mix up with the protesters to cause more harm in the society.

   Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos state, may have  taken a cue from Obaseki, the Edo state governor to declare a 24-hour  curfew in the state on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Unknown to Sanwo-Olu, the protesting Youths  had zeroed  in  their mind that   imposing a 24-hour curfew may be the next alternative   in order to give room for armed security Operatives to come in to quiet them.

Sanwo-Olu at A General Hospital To Visit END SARS Protests Victims At Lekki Toll Gate

 This may have informed why the   protesters had  prepared their mind for the worst as they were said to have carried  their cooking   pots,  food items, water and drinks  and  bail for protesters who  might fall into  the waiting hands of Muhamadu Adamu, the Inspector of Police , IGP, anti-riot policemen.

The Value News visited some of the converging centres of the End SARS,  protesters , between Ikeja and Lekki Toll Gate  including the Egbeda   at the Alimosho local government   to see things for himself. The Magazine witnessed the slaughtering  of rams which was roasted  for the protesters to eat at the middle of the road.The Lagos –Abeokuta, Express Way  was  blocked with heavy duty vehicles to frustrate  the  security Operatives who may be deployed by Hakeem Odumosu, the state Commissioner of Police,  to enforce the 24-hour   curfew.

Recall that on Monday, October 19, 2020, the governor while inaugurating a Judicial Panel on Human Rights Violations by  the defunct  SARS,  in the state, had urged the protesters  who had  blocked the major roads in the state to vacate  for a peaceful  resolution of the crisis through Negotiation. The appeals may  have fallen on  deaf ears as the Protesters  stayed put on the roads.

In declaring a 24-hour curfew in the state, the governor had said that he took the decision  ‘’following the violence  which has broken  out in some parts  of the state  as’’ criminals hiding  under  the guise of END SARS protesters  cause havoc’. He noted that’’ lives have been lost  as the criminals and miscreants  unleash mayhem on the state’’, stressing that no responsible government would sit-by and  allow anarchy persist in the state.  It was a clear message  to the protesters that he would not hesitate  to call for the deployment of security Operatives to calm the situation.

. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the Lagos state police Command Spokesperson said   the deployment of the policemen   follows violent attacks  on innocent Lagos residents. He had made it clear to those that cares to listen that with the curfey ‘’ protests, gatherings or processions  are no longer permitted  within Lagos state’.

 The protests may have take a turn for the worst since Saturday, October 17, 2020 and now. At the Orile/Igamu,  Local Government Area of the state, the alleged  hoodlums were said to have burnt down  two police stations  located  at Iganmu Community  in Apapa  Iganmu and Orile Community in Coker /Aguda  respectively.

Fayemi: Governor Of Ekiti State And Chairma, NGF, Declares A 24-Hour Curfew

 The hoodlums who had hijacked the protests were said to have  also burnt the Illasamaja Police Station, and  Ajerogun  Local government Headquarters at Apapa.  The governor had said that the 40 vehicles found  in the premises were burnt. He had said the  hoodlums    had    looted a bank in the area.  The hoodlums were said to have also made attempts to invade the Lagos seaports. In a Live broadcast on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, the governor had  described the events in the state between Saturday and Sunday had been worsened. He had described  what happened in the state as the darkest moment in the history of the state. ‘’I am  ‘’very saddenen’’, he had said.

There are reports making the round that the Igando police station  was set ablaze on Wednesday , October 21, 2020, over alleged shooting  of a defenceless protester by a trigger hungry policeman.

 News making the rounds was that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state , multi-milion Hotel and Television station, TVC, had  been set ablaze. Unconfirmed report said the Lagos state  BRT buses  at the Ebuta bus park including the burning the Nigerian ports Authority, NPA, corporate Headquarters, Marina,  which was reconstructed with billions of naira, which is a national Asset.

Political Observers  who spoke to the Magazine  said Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor should have contacted his Edo state Counterpart  to know  whether the curfew in the state is working or not  before going ahead to give such ultimatum in Lagos.

There was trouble at the  Lekki Toll gate, axis, one of the  gathering centres  of the protesters  as  soldiers who were drafted to the scene around 7 :00pm  threw caution to the wind  as they  opened fire  at the protesters , giving a clue that it may have been part of their briefing to kill one or two persons to force the protesters to flee.   The protesters who  were said to have   gathered in their large number   at the Toll Gate around 5:00pm, an hour after  the curfew  was said to have commenced across the state, had stayed put. There was shouts of sit down when they saw the heavily armed Tukur Buratai, a Lt. Genral and Chief of Army Staff  men at the Toll gate .  The Magazine had cited Police Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC, and water cannon stationed at the Toll gate.

Eyewitness  account  said the soldiers, who were armed to the teeth had shot sporadically at the protesters leading to several casualities, with many  sustaining  gunshot wounds . The Lagos state governor  who is now bearing  the heat  had said that 28 protesters were injured. He disclosed that  10 of the injured protesters  are receiving treatment  at General Hospitals, Reddington, while four were said to have been hospitalized at Vedic  Medical facility. He was said to have said that  two of  the  injured Youths  were currently   Intensive Medical Care.

 The Lagos state governor who is now under pressure may have realised that he had made a mistake  with the invitation  of the Army  , who are trained   to kill   to the END SARS protests as he had visited the Hospital where  the 25  protesters injured were in admission.The armed soldiers were said to  have also  made plans to storm Alausa, to disperse the protesters but the  information about their plot  leaked out  as the protesters had   waited for them.  

Already, the governor had suspended state government activities for the next three days in the state and ordering the lowering of the National  Flag,  Green White Green, in solidarity with the protesters.

 Many had queried  why  Mohammed Bello, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, who ought to have  declared  a 24-hour curfew in  the city, which accommodates the President, Vice President , ministers and other top government  officials including Embassy officials had failed  to do so.The  FCT, minister, may have known that  the 24-hour  ultimatum would  not force the protesters   out of the street  but persuasion  .  

Security watchers  fear that some of the governors who  had declared  a  24-hour curfew in their respective states would  aggravate the tension already generated by the protests. They noted that  the deployment of  armed  security Operatives would not  force the protesters out from the street.

Mohammed Adamu, the IGP, may have known that  the regular may not be able to contain the protesters thahe he has ordered the deployment  of anti-riot police personnel  from the Police Mobile Force, PMF, to protect lives and property and secure critical national infrastructure across the country. The IGP was said to have also ordered  massive  deployment of police Operatives to strengthen  the security  around Correctional facilities nation-wide.

Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and the Force Spokesperson said the orders are coming on the heels   of increasing attacks including acts of arson and malicious damage to public  and  private  facilities as recorded in some states of the Federation including the FCT.

There is no gain saying the fact that over N700 billion had been lost by the country since the protest started. Financial analysts fear that this may be worse  as the protests persist.

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