As the protest of high-handedness of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) deepened yesterday despite the disbandment of the police tactical outfit, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts would be brought to justice.
The president said the disbandment of the organisation was only a first step to a wholesome reformation of the Police Force.
As the president spoke in Abuja, many protesters were feared killed in Lagos with the authorities confirming the death of a policeman and a civilian in Surulere area of Lagos as the #EndSARS protest turned bloody even as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who yesterday threw his weight behind the protest against SARS, narrated how his 25-year-old daughter almost lost her life in the hands of SARS operatives.
In Delta State, the police arraigned 14 persons before an Ughelli Magistrate Court in Ughelli North Local Government Area, in connection with last Thursday’s #EndSARS protest in the town.
Buhari spoke yesterday at the State House, Abuja during the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES), aimed at creating 774,000 jobs across the local government areas (LGAs) in the country.
The event was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State.
The president said he had directed an immediate investigation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of Isiaka Jimoh, one of the #EndSARS protesters, who was shot dead in Ogbomoso, Oyo State on Saturday.
The Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, had on Sunday, ordered the immediate dissolution of SARS unit following escalating protests across the country.
While regretting the unfortunate incident in Ogbomoso, the president promised that all those responsible for the misconduct or wrongful acts would be brought to justice.
He, however, reminded Nigerians that the majority of the members of the Police Force are carrying out their duties diligently, warning that the few bad eggs in the force should not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the entire force.
He said: “I will like to use this opportunity to say a word on the recent genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct of the men of the Nigerian Police Force.
“The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remain the protection of lives and the livelihood of our people.
“We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.
“We deeply regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations. I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.”
Speaking on the empowerment programme, the president restated his administration’s commitment to youth development and poverty alleviation.
He pledged that the federal government’s policies of social protection and people empowerment would continue on track, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The president, who described P-YES as a cornerstone of his administration’s social and economic development strategies, said it was part of the overall policy of ensuring that 100 million Nigerians were lifted out of poverty in ten years.
“The P-YES is also part of the plan that we adopted in 2016 in which we empowered One hundred youths from each of the 774 Local Government Areas with the necessary tools to acquire skills and establish small businesses,” he explained, adding: “Given the success of that initiative, we are now committed to creating 774,000 jobs across all the LGAs, through the P-YES programme.”
Many Feared Killed as Protest Turns Bloody in Lagos
Meanwhile, the #End SARS protest turned bloody yesterday in Lagos as many protesters were feared killed in Surulere area of the state.
The authorities, however, confirmed the death of a policeman and a civilian in circumstances. While the police confirmed the loss of one of their operatives to the protest, the Lagos State government in a statement last night said the deaths were caused by hoodlums’ attack on a police facility.
According to the statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, “A group of hoodlums stormed the Anti-Kidnapping Unit at Hogan Bassey Street, Surulere, to free two suspects standing trial for alleged kidnapping.
“They shot three officers. One of them, Inspector Erinfolami Ayodeji, unfortunately, died. The others are Inspectors Ekein Joshua and Peter Agabi.
“The hoodlums, while escaping, fired into the air. A bystander was hit. He also died – sadly.”
The police in another statement by its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, said three of its officers were shot by the protesters, explaining that while one had died, the other two were critically wounded and were receiving treatment in the hospital.
Thousands of #EndSARS protesters had also converged on the grounds of the ever-busy Lekki Tollgate and grounded it to a halt.
Chanting protest songs, they declared that they had declared a compulsory holiday for all Lagos residents, hence the blockade on roads.
The traffic snarl that ensued from the blockade spread to both sides of the Lekki Tollgate, spilling over to different parts of Lagos.
Not only were cars stuck in the gridlock, commuters and pedestrians alike were stranded, a move that forced some of them to join the protest.
While most motorists made their way to the alternative route, the huge flow of traffic soon became an albatross.
According to the protesters, their demands, tagged “5 for 5” were simple; immediate release of all protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10days); in line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and re-training (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed; and increase of police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.
Rejecting the announcement by the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu, who said the police unit had been dissolved, the protesters said it must be backed by a Presidential Executive Order before they would stop the protest.
According to the protesters, the police only changed the nomenclature as they did in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 with words like reformed, restructured, reorganised, reformed, and disbanded respectively.
In the Oyingbo area of Lagos, the protesters formed in front of Tantalizers fast food while in Ojo, the protest began in Lagos State University (LASU).
In Surulere, the protesters converged in large numbers, and also at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) gate from where they kicked off the protest.
Other areas with protests include Ebute Metta, Oshodi, Epe/Ita-Opo, Mushin, Ketu, Ikosi, Magodo, Shangisha and also Ogba, Maryland, Ikeja, Chevron, Airport Road, Ajah bus stop, Alausa (Secretariat), Ago Palace Way, Festac, Agege, and Ajegunle.
While the police allowed the protesters to exercise their fundamental right in most areas, some policemen brutalised and arrested protesters in Surulere.
The peaceful protests, according to eyewitnesses, soon turned violent after a protester was shot dead while others were shot with rubber pellets.
The angry protesters were said to have carried out a reprisal on Area C Command, where they reportedly killed three policemen to avenge the death of their fallen colleague and the injured.
The Lagos State Police Command, which earlier in the day confirmed the shooting of the three policemen but was silent on the alleged killing of four protesters by the police, however, updated the narrative last night, confirming one death apiece of the police and civil populace.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had earlier in the day left the weekly meeting of the State Executive Council to address the protesters.
The governor told the demonstrators that their protest was legitimate, but pleaded with them not to block the roads while passing on their grievances to the authorities.
Sanwo-Olu said he identified with the #EndSARS campaigners, noting that their agitations touched the essence of democratic freedom.
He said citizens must never be denied the rights to protest but urged the protesters not to employ wrong methods to drive home their message.
He said: “Your voice has been heard clearly and a clear pronouncement has been made on the activities of SARS. The operation has been dissolved by the police leadership and just a moment ago, Mr. President addressed the nation on the issues you have raised.
“The president has said all SARS officers that are involved in the killing of innocent people and engaging in human rights abuses will be brought to justice.
“My stance on this #EndSARS is unmistakable and I have told you that we identify with this protest because you have legitimate concerns. I am saying it again here that this protest is in good faith. But, we must not be unruly when going out on a protest like this. We want you to be peaceful and decorous in expressing yourselves.”
Ooni Narrates How SARS Almost Killed Daughter
In a related development, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, yesterday threw his weight behind the protest against SARS, narrating how his 25-year-old daughter almost lost her life in the hands of the SARS operatives.
Ogunwusi, who said on Twitter that he was happy that the youths of Nigeria were finally standing up for their rights, disclosed that his 25-year-old daughter once had a nasty experience with SARS operatives that almost cost her life.
Tweeting through his handle, @OoniAdimulaIfe, he said: “I understand your plight; my 25- year- old daughter had a nasty experience with SARS, almost losing her life. On her way to the airport, she was stopped and terribly ransacked and surrounded by fully armed plainclothes policemen in a bus, detained for close to 30 minutes of thorough questioning.
“Imagine a young female for that matter; all her belongings completely searched all because she was with a laptop on an official assignment from her office in Lagos. I can only imagine the countless ones that have lost their lives from such ordeals, may their souls rest in peace.
“I assure you that this is the beginning of greater things to come in Nigeria. I implore you to demand more, but plead with you to do so in a peaceful manner, as anything outside of that will cause unnecessary havoc for all.”
The monarch, who said he was aware that some protesters had been unjustly arrested by the police, urged the police to understand that the protests would also improve the welfare of men and women of the Force.
He said: “I have been informed of many innocent souls that were arrested and currently being detained, be rest assured that I am pursuing the matter and they will be set free.
“To the men and women of the Nigerian police force, be assured that this movement is also for you, we know you are humans also and your reality is as a result of your environment.
“This movement demands better on your behalf and is aimed at pushing the government to do better for you and elevate your standard of living. Do not persecute your advocates. God bless Nigerian youths and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
In Ughelli, the police yesterday arraigned 14 persons before an Ughelli Magistrate Court in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, in connection with last Thursday’s #EndSARS protest in the town.
Last Thursday’s #EndSARS protest which turned violent led to the alleged killing of a Police Corporal, Mr. Stanley Etaga, and an unidentified protester.
Also, a Police Sergeant, Mr. Patrick Okuone, attached to the Eagle Net Squad of the state command sustained a critical injury, just as a police patrol vehicle was damaged the following day.
In suit number MU/193C/2020, six of the accused persons were arraigned yesterday on a one-count charge of breach of peace by constituting themselves into a nuisance.
The six accused persons were Precious Mudiaga, Onome Ovie, Ovie Brume, Umukoro Joshua, Duku Evans and Oroghodo Friday.
The other eight were arraigned on a five-count charge bothering on felony and murder in suit number MU/194C/2020.
The accused persons included Iboyi Emmanuel, Umukoro Rukevwe, German Oghenekevwe, Moses Eduwekon, Oke John, Ogbonna David, Prosper John and Akpovwigho Eloho.
The court, which adjourned the case to October 29 for mentioning, granted the first six defendants bail in the sum of N50, 000 each with one surety in like sum.
The court ordered the other eight to be remanded at the Federal Custodial Centre in Sapele where they would be quarantined for 14 days before being transferred to Warri Correctional Centre pending advice by the Department of Public Prosecution.