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#EndSARS: Military on red alert as protest spreads

The Nigeria Armed Forces was placed on red alert yesterday in Abuja as the #EndSARS protest entered its second week and the number of protesters on the streets grew larger by the day. As early as 7a.m., soldiers were sighted on strategic road intersections across the city.

They were deployed apparently in anticipation of the day’s protests. Also sighted were squads of policemen and patrol vans and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) stationed in various parts of the city. In spite of these preemptive security measures, the protesters clamouring for an end to the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS), took to the streets and blocked major highways.

This led to pockets of clashes between them and the security agencies. The street protesters took their campaign to various districts including Central Area, Wuse, Wuye and Mabushi all in Abuja.

In Karu, on the outskirts of Abuja, the protesters, who turned out in large numbers, were marching down to the city when some security operatives stationed on the road attempted to prevent them from advancing further and achieving their mission. Most schools in Nyanya and Karu, two satellite towns of Abuja, were forced to shut down for fear of #EndSARS protesters. Most schools visited in the Karu district were deserted following directives from the authorities instructing parents to keep their children and wards at home.

A visit to one of the schools, Faith Christian Schools, located on top of Karu hill revealed that no pupil was in sight as only teachers and casual workers were seen around the premises. A teacher in the school, who simply gave his name as Mr. Ben, said the school authority decided to close the school yesterday because “Nobody was sure of the nature of the protest that would be carried out in the vicinity.” According to him, “As you can see, the school leadership met at the weekend and accessed the situation and decided that we should shut down for Monday and observe the situation of things.

“This was because we wanted to avoid what hap-pened during one of the Shi’ite’s protest which inconvenienced a lot of our pupils and their parents who were stranded. So, we don’t want a repeat of that.” Similarly, several other primary schools in Nyanya, a suburb of the FCT were shut as no pupil was sited around their premises. Our correspondent observed that some schools, which were opened to students, had to close as early as 11a.m.

when news frittered that the protesters were heading to Nyanya from the AYA junction in Asokoro District. At the AYA junction and around the Mogadishu Barracks (Abacha Barracks), soldiers barricaded the roads to prevent the protesters who had earlier stormed the ECOWAS headquarters with their placards. Policemen and soldiers had a rough time trying to disperse the protesters who were adamant and kept pressing even with the blockage.

Some of the protesters who spoke to New Telegraph vowed that they will not leave the streets until the President addresses the nation and assured them of his readiness to reform the nation. Andy, a 27-year-old undergraduate of the Nasarawa State University in Keffi, told our correspondent that: “We are not going anywhere. Nigerian youths have been taken for granted for too long and we have resolved to take the bull by the horns this time.

“As you can see, it is aluta continua, no surrender, no retreat. And until President Buhari comes out of his comfort zone to address the nation, we will continue to come out. We need reform of the police and the entire nation. If anyone is dreaming that we will back out of this struggle, such a person is only fooling himself or herself.” Another protester, a young lady who gave her name as Daniella, said she lost her job in the bank during the lockdown and has been going through difficulties. According to her, “I joined the struggle because I can’t be suffering and other people enjoying as if they are better human beings. Let government create jobs for the youth and we will withdraw from the protest,” she stated.

The protesters also had a rough time with some hoodlums believed to have been hired to infiltrate their ranks and create confusion in order to discredit the protest. At about 5p.m., the protesters had taken over the Banex Bridge, blocking traffic flow on two major highways, namely the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway and the Ahmadu Bello Way. A stampede soon ensued as the protesters who were initially chanting #EndSARS and waving the national flag, suddenly began to chant “#ENDCorruption, Buhari Is A Bad Boy.” The change in the song triggered an instant physical attack from some hoodlums who were positioned under the Banex bridge.

The protesters also responded in a like manner as they pursued the hoodlums from their midst. Sporadic gunshots were also heard around the crowd, an indication that some security operatives had arrived the scene and were making attempts to clear the roads to allow motorists and commuters have access. Meanwhile, suspected hoodlums attacked #End- SARS protesters within the Central Business District of Abuja. Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that the invaders set ablaze a vehicle in the process.

Confirming the incident, however, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command said the incident occurred “following a clash between the EndSARS and ProSARS protesters”. According to the Command’s spokesperson, ASP Yusuf Mariam, “preliminary investigation reveals that no life was lost, however, one vehicle was set ablaze during the clash.”

Consequently, the Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of the FCT, Mr. Bala Ciroma, has ordered a discreet investigation into the incident. The Command has condemned the violent attack on a protester by unknown hoodlums along Kubwa axis on Saturday 17th October.

The police noted that: “The hoodlums, who infiltrated the ranks of the EndSARS protest, attacked one Anthony Onome Unuode ‘m’ and left him with various degrees of injury which eventually resulted in death.” While urging the protesters to be law-abiding, remain peaceful in their conduct and shun all forms of violence, Ciroma assured residents of the command’s unflinching commitment to the protection of lives and property within the Federal Capital Territory.

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