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.
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.
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.
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.