It started with peaceful protests by Nigerian youths against the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS), all over the country. But on Tuesday at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, the shooting of some protesters by some soldiers turned what was being managed by the government into a full blown mayhem. What followed subsequently could better be imagined as MURITALA AYINLA reports
It was a day of fire and fury in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial centre, Wednesday last week as the #EndSARS protests snowballed into wanton destruction of lives and property across the state.
Shortly after the state Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had a statewide broadcast to brief the residents on the development within the state, a Nigerian television station, Television Continental (TVC) headquarters and its radio station MaxFM in Ikosi axis, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus station in Oyingbo and Ojodu-Berger axis of Lagos State were set ablaze by hoodlums in the state. Also torched and looted were the governor’s mother’s home at Surulere and the palace of Oba of Lagos, which was said to be massively looted by the suspected hoodlums in addition to other public facilities. Notable houses of prominent personalities were also vandalised by the irate thugs.
New Telegraph gathered that the attack appeared to be well-planned, as the TVC headquarters, Oyingbo and Ojodu-Berger BRT stations and governor’s mother’s home were attacked simultaneously by thugs armed with cutlasses and other dangerous weapons, leaving many to scamper for safety. The popular TV station was attacked when the station was airing one of its most popular talk show programme, YourView, which also centred on the condemnation of the killing of protesters at Lekki on Tuesday night by the suspected soldiers.
The TV station only came back to life few days after. Staff of the station scampered for safety while all the vehicles in the premises of the multi-million Naira station were set ablaze. In a video circulated on the social media, the hoodlums, who were seen in hooded tops, went straight for the operational vehicles, set them on fire, resulting into pandemonium.
As at the time of filing this report, The Nation newspaper, which also said to be owned by National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, was also attacked, leaving many staff of the newspaper stranded. Also in a viral video, some armed thugs were seen carting away the staff of office of Oba Akiolu on Lagos Island. It was learnt that armed soldiers took the monarch away from the palace to prevent him from being
attacked. Confirming the attack, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Lagos Command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, stated that the law enforcement agency would repel the hoodlums in accordance with the law.
He added that the law enforcement agency was after the hoodlums that have decided to halt the peace and harmony that had existed within the state over the years. As gathered, the Oyingbo bus terminal owned by the Lagos State Government was set on fire by hoodlums that stormed the premises at about 11am with several of the buses parked within the premises. Over 500 buses were said to have been burnt by the thugs.
The buses, according to a civil servant, who does not want his name mentioned, were parked within the premises in compliance with the curfew imposed by the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to restore normalcy in the state. The stories of lawlessness weren’t different in other parts of the state as gunshots rent the air with many residents scampering for safety.
Earlier, in an emotion laden address, Sanwo-Olu said he was touched by the wanton destruction of lives and property in the state, lamenting the killing and destruction of property which took place on Tuesday. “I address you today with a heavy heart but not just as your elected governor. I do so as a father and a brother. I do so as one who is touched by the infirmities and feelings of his people. I do so as a part of the collective humanity that we all share.
“Yesterday’s events (Wednesday) were no doubt some of the darkest gradients of our history as a state and as a people. As you are perhaps aware, I have been engaging the #EndSARS protesters since Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 October 2020 respectively.” He said it was unfortunate that the agitation snowballed into bloody mayhem which, according to him, he tried to prevent with his administration’s efforts as agreed with the protesting youths.
He added: “I declared my affinity with their crusade against all forms of police brutalities. I took all of their #5for5 demands to President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in Abuja.
They were all acceded to. Indeed, I could say we were making progress together though the pace was slow and indeed very slow due to lack of an acceptable leadership amongst the #EndSARS protesters.
“However, events took a different turn from Sunday 18, October 2020 as criminal elements took advantage of the firm orders handed down to the officers and men of the Nigerian Police not to resort to shooting as a rule of engagement.
“In Ogolonto area of Ikorodu, armed gangs unleashed mayhem on one another. While this was happening, other criminal elements joined in attacking innocent citizens, who were returning from church services. There were reported cases of violent robbery of scores of citizens and rape of frightened women scampering for safety.
“They are mothers, wives and sisters of our fellow citizens. Other criminal elements in turn began to unleash terror on citizens in different parts of the state like Fagba junction in Ogba and Ebute Metta. In the Ebute Metta incident, 19 officers and men of our Rapid Response Squad (RRS) were severally injured by armed thugs in Adekunle, Ebute Metta.
The level of insecurity in different parts of the state became heightened with the multiple attacks on Police Stations. “The lawlessness blossomed into attacking and lynching of Police officers at Herbert Macaulay and Alapere areas of Lagos. Things took a more dangerous turn on Tuesday 20th, 2020 when the Orile and Ilasamaja Police Stations were razed by arsonists. Chaos took over as Ajeromi Local Government Area offices were completely burnt down and wanton destruction of property followed. In the same Ajeromi, the Local Government Area, Ajegunle in particular, branches of financial institutions were looted and hoodlums attempted to gain access into the Tincan Island Ports.
As these were unfolding, with the help of respected civil society leaders and some concerned parents; we intensified our efforts as a government to persuade the leading lights of the #EndSARS protests to suspend the protests in view of the rising insecurity in the state.
“We made the case that their battle has been won. We additionally conceded that they could resume their peaceful protests in Lekki and Alausa once we had succeeded in taming the rising wave of insecurity in the state. To achieve that, we needed a blanket stoppage of all forms of protests so as to make it difficult for violent tendencies to creep into the midst of peaceful protesters. “Our governance of security strategy requires that we do not make a different rule for one group of protesters and another for others.
Sadly, we did not succeed in persuading the group of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate to agree to this. “Unfortunately, while many of the protesters in Alausa dispersed peacefully ahead of the start of the curfew, many of our youths at the Lekki Toll Gate insisted on continuing with the protests. Sadly, there was no leadership to appeal to as they had continually maintained that remaining leaderless was a strategy.
“For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no sitting governor controls the rules of engagement of the army. I have nevertheless instructed an investigation into the ordered and the adopted rules of engagement employed by the officers and men of the Nigerian Army deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate yesterday.
“This is with a view to taking this up with the high command of the Nigerian Army and seek the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief to unravel the sequence of event that happened yesterday.”
However, Governor Sanwo-Olu said that in sensitivity with the mood of the nation at this time, he directed the immediate suspension of all state activities for 3-days except those connected with governance of security in the state and the management of the current issue and the lowering of the flags in all government establishments for 3-days.
He also constituted of a five-man Fact-Finding Committee into the Rules of Engagement ordered and adopted by the Nigerian Army to be headed by a retired military officer not less than the rank of a General. He added that the report will be presented to the President within 2-weeks.
“Fellow Lagosians, this may seem like the darkest hour of our history as a people, our sun will rise again. From the present ashes of our mourning today, a bright morning shall emerge from the womb of time and we shall rise again.” As the state observes the dusk to dawn curfew imposed by the governor, many citizens of the state are still counting their losses. That is ranging from looted shops to injured and killed people. Already, the state government has said it would take about N1 trillion to fix the damages done to the state.
Harvest of destruction
For many years to come, Lagosians will continue to bear the brunt of the destructions carried out by the protesters and hoodlums in the wake of the protests that eventually turned to a festival of destruction. It is on record that in addition to hundreds of properties set ablaze, other public facilities such as traffic lights, road signals were also destroyed and vandalized. Among those torched was the first DNA laboratory in West Africa, Lagos DNA and Forensic.
The multibillion Naira laboratory which was established was also established to focus on DNA analysis to in order support the justice sector in diverse areas such as collection and preserving reference and evidentiary DNA which can later be used in identifying criminals; decoding familial relationships of individuals which could also be a tool for the judicial system; and identifying victims and remains after natural and manmade calamities.
Other properties torched and looted were: Igbosere HighCourt, Oldest court in Nigeria burnt, Ajeromi Ifelodun Local government burnt, NPA building, Lagos Threatre building, Malls and shops attacked, Governor’s family house burnt, CMS, Lagos City Hall, Bus terminals burnt and destroyed, Media houses, police stations and others.
Role of fake News
Undoubtedly, fake news contributed to the arsons and wanton destruction of property in the state. The spread of fake news and videos, which followed an allegation of shooting by some soldiers with acclaimed heavy casualty figure at the Lekki Toll Gate, Victoria Island, Lagos, is primarily responsible for the subsequent loss of lives and property. While many blamed the violence on circulation of fake new, others were quick to attribute the crisis on the bottled hanger due to lack of trust of the government.
A renewed call CCTV Cameras in Lagos
Although Governor Babajide has called on Lagosians to reconcile in order to move the state forward, but experts are of the view that those engaged in the looting and vandalism in Lagos mustn’t go scot free.
They blamed the successive state governments of paying lips service to installation of CCTV cameras, saying the criminals who burnt the court buildings, BRT buses, vandalized public properties should have their faces published by now.
“That’s why I think the government also encourages crime in the country. Imagine if there are CCTV cameras at various looted and vanadalised places, Nigerians would have, by now, seen the face of the looters, who claimed to be protesters,” Kayode Segun, a journalist, said.
Rebuilding Lagos with N1 trillion?
Although analysts, said that it will take more than a decade to rebuild Lagos, the Speaker House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday revealed that the reconstruction of Lagos State turned into a war zone in the wake of the #EndSARS protest would gulp a whooping N1 trillion.
On their part, the Southwest Governors led by its chairman, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, as well as the ministers who also embarked on inspection tours of the devastating incidents at various scenes, commiserated with those that loss their lives and properties in the coordinated arsons on public assets and private properties.
The South West Governors included that of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, while the Minister of works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Minister for State of Health, Olorunnimbe Mamowora, Minister for interior, Rauf Aregbesola, Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, Solid Minerals, Olamilekan Adegbite, Trade and Investment, Tayo Alasoadura and Niyi Adebayo.