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#EndSARS: Thugs unleash terror on protesters in Lagos

Govt not behind attack –Commissioner Demonstrators barricade National Assembly
FCTA bans streets protests in Abuja Lawyers, students, artists join protests in Delta, Edo, Ebonyi

Again, violence erupted in Lagos yesterday as armed thugs unleashed mayhem on the ‘End SARS’ protesters. The attack occurred at Alausa, the seat of the Lagos State government. This led to insinuations that the attackers might have been sponsored by the government to end the protests which have been on since Sunday. However, the state government swiftly denied allegations it was behind the attack.

A viral video had alleged that the Lagos State government brought some thugs to attack the protesters via a BRT bus operated by the Lagos Bus Service Limited. But the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, explained that the bus in question was on its normal operation when it ran into a group of protesters. Omotoso said the passengers, who felt endangered, rushed out of the bus but returned to continue their journey after the charging crowd had left.

The commissioner said such wild allegations were obviously concocted by enemies of peace and orderliness to whip up sentiments against the government, which had been doing everything possible to resolve the crisis by identifying with Nigerian youths in their efforts towards police reforms.

He said: “The attention of the Lagos State government has been drawn to some unverified reports in the social media alleging that the government sponsored thugs to disrupt the #EndSARS protest. This is untrue and wicked….

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been preaching peace. So has the deputy governor, who addressed the protesters last Friday. The governor has addressed them twice – at the Lekki Toll Gate and at the House of Assembly. He even carried a placard and marched with the youth after assuring them that he felt their pains and that it was legitimate for them to protest. “Besides, the governor visited the President to tender their five-point demand. He ensured that all the protesters arrested by the police were released unconditionally.

“The enemies of progress, who are not happy that Lagos is not on fire, are the ones fuelling the infernal lies that the government was sponsoring thugs to attack our protesting youths. They have been posting on the social media pictures suggesting that a Lagos Bus Service Ltd (LBSL) vehicle was conveying thugs. The bus in question was on its normal operation when it ran into a group of protesters. The passengers, who felt endangered, rushed out of the bus.

They returned to continue their journey after the charging crowd had left.” Meanwhile, more residents and commuters groaned over the spate of lawlessness in the state following the ongoing protests.

Some residents of Ebute-Meta said vehicles parked on the streets were vandalised by the criminal elements who infiltrated the protesters. Also, following the allegations that BRT bus was used to convey thugs to attack the protesters, operators of the BRT buses, Primero Limited and LBSL suddenly stopped operations of the buses, thereby compounding transportation challenges in the metropolis.

Many commuters were forced to trek for several hours while most motorists were stranded in their vehicles. A commuter, who gave his name as Kamal, told New Telegraph that following the pandemonium in the metropolis, commercial drivers had hiked transport fares while banned commercial motorcycles became the only alternative for commuters as the protesters had blocked major roads. He said: “I had to take a bike from Abule- Egba to Oshodi for N1,500.” But the protest was effective in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The protesters besieged the gates of the National Assembly. This came just as the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held a parley with the party’s caucus in the National Assembly and charged them to pursue comprehensive legislative reforms in the Nigeria Police Force. The protesters stormed the main entrance to the National Assembly as early as 7am, barricaded it and prevented human and vehicular movements into and out of the premises. Security operatives promptly shut the protesters out to prevent them from advancing further.

The protest spilled over into the Federal Secretariat Buildings and created gridlock around the Eagle Square and the Three Arms Zone. Lawmakers and civil servants who work in the National Assembly were forced to make detours and access their offices through the back gates. Hours later, the protesters took their campaign to the Federal Ministry of Justice along Shehu Shagari Way and later proceeded to the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) located on Zambezi Crescent, Maitama District, Abuja.

New Telegraph also encountered some of the protesters as they marched through Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja. However, a group of youths was also sighted at the Unity Fountain, demonstrating in support of the Nigeria Police Force.

The counter-group, which was apparently against the #ENDSARS campaign, had banners with inscriptions denouncing the #ENDSARS protests. The group faulted the nationwide protest against SARS and SWAT and expressed concerns that such campaigns could demoralise the generality of police personnel and hinder them from performing their primary functions of protecting lives and property of the citizens. However, the PDP urged the Federal Government to urgently embark on a comprehensive reforms in the Nigeria Police Force to stem the tide of the ongoing protests across the country.

The PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made this call while answering questions from journalists, after he and other leaders of the party met with Senate Caucus of the PDP at the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has banned street protests within the territory, to forestall any further breakdown of law and order. The ban came a day after #ENDSARS protesters were attacked by some armed hoodlums at the Berger Roundabout in Abuja.

The attack saw the hoodlums cutting some protesters with knives and machetes as well as destroying their cars. The FCT Minister, Mallam Mohammed Bello, said the ban was part of the resolutions reached at a security meeting of the FCTA, specifically convened to evaluate the security situation around the nation’s capital. Bello said the ban became necessary to curtail the chances of hoodlums hijacking the protest to ferment trouble and unleash mayhem on innocent residents. He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the COVID-19 guidelines regulating public gatherings recommend physical distancing, temperature checks, the use of facial coverings, amongst others.

“Clearly all these guidelines were flouted by the protesters. Consequently, the committee directs that due to the dangers posed by COVID-19, all street demonstrations, protests and processios will not be allowed anywhere within the FCT.

“The committee also noted the progress being made in the fight against robberies in illegal and unregistered, commercial motor vehicles known as “one chance” and is committed to the introduction of innovative measures that will ensure the safety of commuters.”

In Edo State, motorists and travellers to different locations were held for several hours in gridlock as the End SARS protesters had blocked the Benin-Lagos Expressway. Commercial bus and taxi drivers hiked transport fares even for short distances.

The protesters refused to make way for vehicles and passengers travelling to Lagos and those coming into Benin, the state capital. They also took over the expressway and pedestal bridge opposite the University of Benin main gate while loud music blared from speakers stationed at different points by DJs. Among the protesters were student union leaders of the University of Benin who were coordinating the peaceful protest. Some of the stranded commuters were compelled to abandon their journeys to join the protesters, pledging their support for their call for reforms. Policemen drafted to the area watched from a distance as the protesters conducted themselves peacefully for over seven hours, which the protest lasted.

In Ebonyi State, human and vehicular movements were halted as thousands of demonstrators comprising human rights lawyers, notable artists from the state and students took to the major streets of Abakaliki, the state capital, to protest police brutality, extortion and harassment. The protesters demanded an end to SARS and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) which was announced by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Muhammed Adamu, after scrapping SARS. The protesters blocked the entrance gate to the old Government Secretariat for hours. One of them, Steve Ugama, a human rights lawyer, accused SARS of extra-judicial killings, harassment and intimidation.

The protesters, who besieged the streets of Asaba metropolis, especially the gate to the Government House, threatened ‘no retreat, no surrender’. They carried placards of various headlines, including “SARS and SWAT are the same,” “IGP stop playing politics with human life,” “FG end SARS, stop SWAT now,” “SARS and SWAT are evil,” “Police is no longer our friend,” etc. For several hours, the protest caused gridlock around the Ekumeku Flyover, popularly known as Inter-Bau Roundabout as youths, comprising boys and girls, and students of tertiary institutions, lamented the harassment and extortions they have suffered in the hands of men of the special squad.

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