Insight

#EndSARS: Benumbed by killing, looting, vandalism, arson

Days after violence ended the #EndSARS protests, many states across the country are still counting their losses, Our Correspondents report

About a fortnight ago violence ended what started as a peaceful agitation by the mass of Nigerian youths to end harassment, extortion, illegal arrest/detention and brutality by a unit of the Nigeria Police Force, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and other atrocities by the police in general.

But several days after, Nigeria and Nigerians are still smarting from the debilitating impacts of the protests. It was a gale of killing, maiming, looting, vandalism and burning of private and public infrastructure and facilities.

From Lagos to Kano, Plateau, Edo, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross River, and Rivers as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the story is the same. The violence, which characterised the demonstration, brought about an unprecedented level of destruction to individuals and government facilities. It will take several years of deliberate efforts and a lot of money to fix what were destroyed or vandalised or looted or burnt.

For instance in Lagos State, it is expected that the impact of the disaster would be felt for about decade. The state Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, said six policemen were murdered during the protest. Odumosu listed the victims as Yard Edward, Olayinka Erinfolami, Adegbenro Aderibigbe, and Abejide Abiodun, as well as two others killed at Orile Division. According to him, 38 other policemen were injured. He also said that 58 police vehicles were burnt, 13 vandalised, while 62 vehicles belonging to individuals were also burnt. According to him, nine other vehicles were vandalised.

The police chief said 15 motorcycles and tricycles were torched, while 65 others were vandalised at different locations within the state. Odumosu also disclosed that almost 50 police stations were either torched or vandalised. According to him, 30 police stations and posts were burnt, while 18 police stations and posts were vandalised. Apart from the attack on the police, several other public structures were also either vandalised or burnt.

They include High Court Complex, Igbosere; Lagos State DNA Centre; Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) Secretariat; the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) Terminal at Iddo, where 67 buses were burnt; City Hall, Lagos Island; COVID-19 Warehouse at Monkey Village; BRT Terminals at Ojodu and Ikotun; Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Secretariat; the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Head Office, Marina; vehicles parked outside the main building of FRSC/VIO office at Ojodu were burnt; and Forensic Centre at Broad Street. Also, private facilities torched or vandalised include the Palace of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; Television Continental (TVC)/Max FM; Access Bank; GT Bank Victoria Island; The Nation Newspaper office at Mushin; Shoprite Malls at Ajah and Festac; LTV 8; Samsung outlet at Apple Roundabout, Festac and Oyingbo as well as Ebeano Supermarket, VI. No wonder Governor Babajide Sawo- Olu has said that Lagos would need N1 trillion to fix what was destroyed in the state in the wake of the #EndSARS protest.

In Plateau State, it is estimated that infrastructure and facilities destroyed run into about N75 billion. The hoodlums, who hijacked the protests in the state, looted the COVID- 19 palliatives stored in warehouses at Bukuru and Jos International Breweries (JIB) on Old Airport Road. Some of the vandalised facilities include SEMA Warehouse, Old Nitel, Bukuru; PRUWASSA, PADP, Dogon Dutse, Jos; Mineral Museum, Angul D, Bukuru; ASTC Vom; Plateau Publishing Company; SUBEB, Dogon Dutse; Government Technical College, Bukuru; Ryom Local Government Secretariat; School of Home Economics, Vom; Jos Foods; Jos Trade Fair, Polo; and private residence of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara. Governor Simon Lalong, at a recent interactive session with #EndSARS officials and youths in the state held at New Government House, Little Rayfield, Jos, disclosed that the destruction of government and private properties was estimated by experts at about N75 billion.

The governor described the level of destruction during the protest as unbelievable and unacceptable. He said: “We are still trying to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of the total cost of the damage. However, the preliminary report by a team of experts I constituted has estimated the losses to be put at about N75 billion for now.

“This clearly takes us many years backwards as we do not have the resources to replace the structures vandalised and the items damaged or stolen. We are yet to recover from the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19 which has greatly affected our capacity to provide services.”

But the youth groups, especially the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), Plateau State chapter, led by Mr. Markus Audu (a pharmacist), National Council of Muslim Youths Organisation and the #EndSARS representatives, in their submission, urged government to take advantage of the platform to engage and interact with the youths for a better future after the interaction. From October 23 to 25, Calabar, the Cross River State capital, literally went up in flames. The hitherto peaceful youths went berserk on Friday through Sunday morning and looted, vandalised and burnt whatever was in sight.

At the last count, about 50 public and private properties had been looted, vandalised or torched. Each of the places the youth were able to gain access, including banks, they ransacked and, depending on their state of mind at that particular time, set ablaze.

The hoodlums vandalised and looted Coldstone, Valuemart, Watt Market, INEC office on Marian Road, First Bank at 8th Miles, Ministry of Works warehouse, Carnival Calabar Treasure House and Access Bank on Mayne Avenue. Others were the NDDC office, Chronicle Building, SEMA office, Roll Back Malaria office, Senator Gershom Bassey’s house, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba’s house, Hilliard Etta’s (APC National Vice Chairman) Boulevard, Prison and NTA, among many others.

They also set fire to the Bakassi Police Station in Bakassi Local Government Area and that of Akpabuyo in Akpabuyo Local Government Area. Meanwhile, Governor Ben Ayade said the state would need about N7 billion to fix the damage done during the protest. According to him, it will take more than N3 billion to repair the damage done to the International Conference Centre alone. Apart from Lagos, Plateau and Cross River states, other states are yet to value the cost of fixing damaged infrastructure. However, tales of woes are still emanating from other states.

In Delta State, four people lost their lives during the protests. A policeman was killed at the Ughelli, while a 13-yearold boy fell from a moving truck carrying protesters in the oil city, Warri. He was crushed by another vehicle. The teenager died on the spot. In Asaba, the state capital, two persons were killed when hoodlums hijacked the protest and the High Court on Ibusa Road was burnt.

The Headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) was burnt while over 20 inmates from the Okere- Warri Correctional Centre fled when the centre was attacked.

Prior to this, the urban renewal beautification gardens of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at the popular Koko Junction and the Ekumeku Flyover, called Inter-Roundabout, were destroyed. A top government functionary at the Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency said the state would require over N1 billion to renovate the damaged infrastructure.

However, it is not an official statement. After the dust of the protest has settled, the enormity of the destruction wrought by the thugs who hijacked the protests in Imo State is still coming to light.

Imo State ranked among the states which suffered losses not as a result of the activities of protesters but by the actions of some hideous assailants many days after the protesters in the state had peacefully left the streets.

No fewer than 10 police divisions were attacked and burnt by hoodlums following the chaos that erupted after the shooting of the Lekki protesters in Lagos State. Three police divisions in Ahaizu Mbaise, Ezinihitte, Mbaise and Aboh Mbaise were torched. Nwaorieubi, Umuguma, Ngor Okpala, and Orji police divisions were also attacked. Ehime Mbano, Isiala Mbano also lost their divisional police stations to mob action. Also lost in the bedlam was the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) outpost in Isiala Mbano.

The Department of State Services (DSS) also lost its outpost in Isiala Mbano to the mob. In the heart of Orlu town, the Orlu Local Government Secretariat and a police Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) were burnt.

Two soldiers, three policemen and a naval officer reportedly died in the mayhem. While it is difficult to estimate the value of private and public properties destroyed in Enugu State during the protest, it was established that two policemen were killed, according to the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Abdilrraham.

It was also reported that eight civilians also died. However, the state government has raised two panels – a judicial panel of inquiry to look into SARS/police brutality and an administrative panel to look into loss of lives and property and recommend mitigation/compensation. It is hoped that the second panel will be able to come up with the exact value of property lost as well as the exact number of civilians killed during the protest.

The hoodlums burnt the Emene Police Station, two operational Hilux vans and other vehicles, including exhibits. They also torched Amechi-Idodo Police Station; Akwatta Police Post under Central Police Station; Maryland Police Post under Uwani Police Division and Phase 6 Police Post under Trans-Ekulu Police Division. Other public and private buildings either burnt or destroyed include the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) office complex at Emene; National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) building at Emene; Njodo Development Centre, Emene; Enugu North Local Government Council Secretariat’s security house; University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus security house; First, Access, UBA, Fidelity, Eco and other banks’ Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) as well as shops.

In Ebonyi State, seven police stations were burnt while three policemen were murdered by the hoodlums who severed the private parts of one of the policemen. The thugs also stole some AK47 rifles from the burnt police stations and set ablaze many operational and private vehicles parked inside the stations.

The burnt police stations include Kpirikpiri Police Sstation, Central Police Station (CPS) in Abakaliki metropolis, Obiozara Police Station in Ohaozara Local Government Area, Ezza North Police Division, Achiegu, and Okposi Police Station.

Many people, including traders in Abakaliki, died of stray bullets when a combined security forces engaged the hoodlums in a gun battle. About eight of the hoodlums were said to have been killed by security agents. Many lives were also lost while several private and public facilities were either vandalised or burnt in Abia State.

The worse hit in the state was Aba, the commercial hub of the state, although there were reports of looting in Umuahia, the state capital. In Aba, hoodlums invaded the Aba South Local Government Secretariat and looted all the valuables including air-conditioners and set the entire building ablaze.

They also did not spare the Aba Town Hall, the ancient cultural symbol of the Aba-Ngwa people, as they looted every-thing there, destroyed those they could not loot and also set the building ablaze. The hoodlums also destroyed and looted Abia State Dental Centre, Aba, and Primary Health Authority office in Aba South Local Government Area, and stole vaccines, X-ray machines, sterilizers, airconditioners, fans and other equipment as well as disposables and consumables.

They also destroyed Abia State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) office in Aba, burnt over seven newly acquired operational vehicles at the BIR office, burnt tax files and destroyed documented hardcopy evidence relating to taxes. They also destroyed the Aba Fire Service Station with a truck said to be worth over N350 million, Abia High Court building and the Aba South Magistrates’ Court building. The hoodlums also vandalised and looted several banks on Ngwa Road in Ndiegoro axis, Ehi Road, Port Harcourt Road and Faulks Road.

They burnt the Umuoba Road Police Station (Zone-6 Dragon Squad), but attempts on other stations such as Aba CPS, Eziama Police Division, Azuka Police Division and Ohuru-Isimiri Division met strong resistance from security agents. The police said 102 government and private-owned vehicles, street lights in Aba and Umuahia were either burnt or destroyed. In Edo State, by the time the dust of the protest settled down, about six people had been killed.

Apart from those killed, four warehouses, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) warehouse on WAEC Road/Aduwawa Road, Blessed Doris Dey warehouse on Benn-Agbor Road (a private warehouse), state-owned Central Medical Stores, Okhoro and Olam Nigeria Plc (a private warehouse located at Abic Junction on Upper Sakponba Road, all in Benin, were looted. In addition, five police stations, including the popular Oba Market and Ugbekun police stations as well as three others in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area were looted and burnt in the process. The hoodlums also attacked the Benin and Oko Medium Security Correctional Centres located on Sapele Road and Airport Road respectively, set free 1,993 inmates and looted the centres. Twenty-five inmates later returned on their own while 163 were rearrested.

But 1,818 of the inmates are still on the run. However, 10 officers of the centres sustained life-threatening injuries. Arms and ammunition were carted away from the Customs Service warehouse, police stations and others.

The administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki is yet to come up with the cost of the damage done to public and private facilities in the state, pending the outcome of the 20-man judicial panel of inquiry chaired by Hon. Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe (rtd). In Ekiti State, the hoodlums attacked two divisional police stations and the Area Command Office in Ikere-Ekiti.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Sunday Abutu, said the hoodlums also set ablaze three trucks belonging to a private cement company at Similoluwa in Ado-Ekiti. What started as a peaceful protest on Friday, October 9 in parts of Ogun State turned violent and bloody on Saturday, October 10, 2020.

The angry youths stormed the venue of the Owu Day festival in Abeokuta, the state capital, which had former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the state Deputy Governor, Mrs. Noimot Salako- Oyedele, in attendance and disrupted the event.

The protesters barricaded the entrance to the palace of the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosumu, where the event was holding and demanded an audience with the former President but security personnel confronted them, resulting in chaos. The protesters injured a policeman in the convoy of the deputy governor and shattered the back windshield of the car which was conveying Salako-Oloyede.

In the succeeding days, the protesters looted, vandalised and set fire to several police stations. The PPRO, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, said at least four police stations were either vandalised or razed.

Oyeyemi said the protesters killed a Divisional Crime Office (DCO), DSP Augustine Ogbeche, attached to Atan-Ota Police Station in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area and torched the station.

The protest equally claimed the life of a civilian. Also at Idiroko, a border community in Ipokia Local Government Area, a protester and an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) were killed. Hoodlums also hijacked the distribution of palliatives in Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu and Ifo local government areas and carted away the food items. The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communication, Remmy Hazzan, told New Telegraph that the state recorded a minimal loss during the protest. Hazzan said it would be difficult for the government to put a figure to the losses recorded but, according to him, the protest has adversely affected the state economy.

He said: “It is not something you can sit down and put a figure on but of course there are losses. “In Ogun State, the losses are those ones that can be immediately assessed and there are those that are consequential.

For example, for those days that the protests lasted, most companies could not work and if they could not work, they are not able to make money and at the end of the day it is going to affect their end of the year profit and performance which in turn will affect the tax they are going to pay to Ogun State. That is a loss whether we like it or not. “But the physical losses of properties and items in Ogun State are quite few because most of the protesters conducted themselves well.”

•Reports by:

Steve Uzoechi, Muritala Ayinla, Olufemi Adediran, Clement James, Adewumi Ademiju, Cajetan Mmuta, Emmanuel Ifeanyi, Uchenna Inya, Kenneth Ofoma, Igbeaku Orji, Dominic Adewole and Musa Pam

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