Sanwo-Olu raises panel, floats victims’ trust fund
Nigerians have right to protest -Senate President
Protest, lesson for leaders, says Makinde
Thousands of demonstrators marched on the streets of major cities in several states of the federation yesterday in continuation of the #EndSARS protests. From Lagos to Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Ibadan in Oyo State, Osogbo in Osun, to Akure in Ondo, as well as Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nigerian youths called for the overhaul of the Nigeria Police.
They demanded, among other things, an immediate end to police brutality, extortion, harassment, illegal arrest and detention, release of those arrested in connection with the protests, as well compensation to the victims of police misconduct.
In Lagos, the protesters demanded a holistic reform of the police to put an end to the incessant cases of brutality and extrajudicial actions. Concerned by their demands, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said his administration would raise a panel of inquiry to ensure justice for the victims of police brutality and extra-judicial actions.
The protesters were led by Nollywood actors, musicians and comedians, including Debo Adebayo, popularly known as MC Macaroni, and Oluwatoyin Bayegun, also known as Woli Arole. The angry demonstrators, whose activities also led to a gridlock on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, also handed a communique, which detailed their five-point demand to Sanwo-Olu at Alausa.
Addressing the protesting youths at the State House, Alausa, Sanwo-Olu said government would set up a panel of inquiry that would comprise youth leaders appointed by #EndSARS protesters, members of the public, government officials and security agencies to look into the allegations of human rights abuses levelled against SARS operatives in Lagos.
The governor said the move would bring indicted officers to book and get justice for victims of SARS operations. He added that the government would also set up a N200 million Trust Fund to compensate the families of the victims of police brutality in the state. Sanwo-Olu, who also carried a placard and marched with the protesters to calm them, explained that the process of managing and disbursing the funds would be completely supervised by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) appointed by members of the public. Sanwo-Olu said he identified with the protesters in their campaign against police brutality.
He, however, pleaded with the aggrieved youths not to undermine the legitimacy of their grievances by being violent and destructive. Sanwo-Olu said government would address three of the protesters’ demands which were within the purview of the state and promised to engage President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Muhammed Adamu, on the remaining demands.
He said: “I understand a lot of youths have been battered and maimed by the people who are supposed to protect you. I understand you all are feeling the pain of brutality, which is why you have been taking to the streets to express your disappointment.
“There is a five-point demand which you have submitted to us today. You demanded the release of all protesters arrested on Monday. All of them have been released unconditionally. You demanded we set up a meeting that will lead to the process of getting justice and compensation for the victims of SARS brutality. I have instructed the Ministry of Youth and Social Development to set up a panel of enquiry as soon as possible that will get justice for the victims.
“We request that any citizen who has had a fatal encounter with SARS in Lagos to come forward and bring their cases to the panel. We will get justice for them. I have also set up a trust fund for the compensation of all victims of SARS brutality.
“For those who have died, we will be reaching out to their families. We request you (the protesters) appoint your representatives into the panel and the Trust Fund for transparency.” Also, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday said Nigerians acted within their rights to protest the killings of and brutality meted against citizens by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the country.
Lawan stated this in his concluding remarks on a matter of personal explanation into the murder of Jimoh Isiaka by the police, and the attack on the palace of the Soun of Ogbomoso during the #EndSARS protest in some states across the country. Senator Buhari Abdulfatai (APC – Oyo North), while coming under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules, noted with grief “the death of Jimoh Isiaka and several other promising youths, whose lives were cut short at their prime during the recent #End- SARs protest, which started on the 8th of October”.
The Senate President while commenting on the development which was sparked by SARS brutality against Nigerians, described previous conduct of the unit as “unacceptable”. He said: “SARS was funded by public funds and the entire essence of having the Nigeria Police Force is to ensure that there is law and order, and that there is security for our people. “When SARS turned against the people, it was right for the people to protest peacefully.”
He therefore prevailed on Nigerians to suspend the #EndSARS protest, particularly in view of the recent disbandment of the police unit by the IG, Adamu. Nollywood actors and musicians yesterday joined the protest against police brutality in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The protesters, who were led by the National President of the Theatre Arts and Motion Picture Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), Bolaji Amusan, popularly known as Mr. Latin, stormed the Secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to register their grievances.
They called on the Federal Government to not only disband the SARS but to also begin holistic reforms that would make the police to be civil in their conduct and operate according to international best practices. Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “FG must end police brutality now,” “Looking good is not a crime,” “iPhone is not a gun,” and “Don’t kill me because I am looking good,” among others.
Addressing journalists during the protest, Amusan said it was high time the government took decisive actions that could straighten police and make them discharge their constitutional duties without molesting anybody. Youths in Ondo State also joined their counterparts across the country in the protest. The protesters, in their hundreds, converged on Akure, the state capital, to show their displeasure against the activities of SARS.
While demanding the total and genuine scrapping of what they described as the most dreadful and deadly unit of the Nigeria Police, the protesters shutdown vehicular movement in parts of the state capital for hours.
The train of the protest moved through the popular Oba Adesida- Oyemekun Road to Alagbaka axis of the state capital before returning to Old Garage and Cathedral Junction with motorists stalked in gridlock for several hours while commuters were forced to trek long distances.
The protesters expressed their nasty experiences with SARS officers in various parts of the state. One of the protesters, Kola Akinsanmi, said he was a victim of SARS twice. Akinsanmi, a Disc Jockey, said in one of his encounters, the SARS officers forced him pay N50,000 so that he would not be detained on trumped up charges. Another protester, who gave his name as Kayode, said that he was forced to sell his IPhone to avoid constant harassment from SARS operatives. Addressing the protesters at the State Police Command Headquarters, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bolaji Salami, said the IG had addressed the situation by disbanding SARS across the country.
A similar protest was also held in Ondo town, headquarters of Ondo West Local Government as well in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of the state. Also in Oyo State, the protesters stormed major streets of Ibadan.
They blocked vehicular movements which forced the security operatives to shut the gates leading to the Agodi Government Secretariat. The protesters rejected the offer by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Rauf Olaniyan, to address them on behalf of Governor Seyi Makinde They insisted on seeing the governor for them to officially present their case before him. Many of them besieged the main entrance gate and prevented vehicular movement.
The protesters also besieged the overhead bridge that links the Government House to the Secretariat. Many youths were seen on the bridge even at 3:15p.m., while many civil servants complained they could not leave their offices.
The protesters divided themselves into two, with a group commencing its protest at the popular Iwo Road interchange, the other converged in front of the University of Ibadan. They walked through Bodija International Market to the Agodi Secretariat where they insisted on seeing the governor.
As at the time of filing this report, the State Secretariat was under lock and key while motorists plying Beere to Bodija and Ojoo were turned back to find other routes. However, while the protest was ongoing, Makinde, was on a visit to the palace of the Soun of Ogbomosoland, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III, which was attacked by protesters on Sunday. The governor said the ongoing protests rocking the country over calls to end police brutality, were a wake-up call to the leadership of the country to put things in order. Makinde added that unless the government at all levels quickly looked at what to do to address the challenges facing the country, including that of youth unemployment, the protests, which he noted were the outcome of pent-up anger, might continue.
Makinde, who approved an immediate release of N100 million to the Soun of Ogbomoso for the renovation of the palace. He also gave N1 million each to the families of the deceased. Scores of youths in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, also took to major roads and streets in the metropolis to protest alleged brutality and extortion by operatives of SARS. The protesters blocked the old Government House Gate, Abakaliki and insisted that SARS must be scrapped while its officers must be probed and prosecuted for alleged brutality and extortion. Protesters paralysed activities in Osogbo, Osun State. They had vowed to return to the street after blocking entrance to the Government Secretariat on Monday.
The youth again barricaded major roads leading to the state Secretariat as early as 10a.m. They prevented vehicular movement, particularly at Olaiya Junction, Osogbo, as commercial activities were grounded in the town.
The vehicle taking some accused to court was turned back by the angry youths as policemen stationed at the junction were watching the protesters. The protesters told residents of Lagos to either join them or stay at home as the protest would continue today. They warned that the Lekki Toll Gate, Ikoyi Link Bridge, Oniru Alternative Route, Ozumba, VGC Roundabout, Abraham Adesanya Roundabout, Muri Okunola Park, National Stadium, and Costain Roundabout would be blocked today.
“Lagos will be shut down tomorrow (today) until the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State produces the officers in Surulere that shot and killed that innocent man. “Stay home or join us! “NPF must produce the officers that shot that innocent man in Surulere,” the protesters said in a message on WhatsApp.
In Port Harcourt, the protesters defied the ban order placed on protest in the state by Governor Nyesom Wike. The protesters converged on the main entrance of the Government House, where the governor addressed them. The protesters who carried various placards demanding the reform of the Police and justice for the victims of Police brutality had marched across the streets of Port Harcourt. The protests also took place in Asaba, Delta State and Enugu.