Metro & Crime Top Stories

Many injured as pro, anti-SARS protesters clash in Abuja

Vehicles vandalised, say police
Protests spread to other cities
Ganduje, Kano youths back reform, SWAT

A twist was added to the #EndSARS protests yesterday as those for and those against the demonstrations engaged in a free-for-all at the popular Berger roundabout in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Trouble started when a group of youths, armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons infiltrated the #EndSARS protesters who had blocked all the roads around the area.

The FCT Police Command Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, who confirmed the incident, said that investigations had commenced to ascertain the causes of clash. Ciroma also disclosed that five vehicles were vandalised.

The commissioner said though no casualty was recorded, some people were injured. He added that anti-riot police officers were deployed to all the flashpoints in the town to prevent breakdown of law and order. The commissioner disclosed that no protester was arrested. He said: “At the beginning, there was convergence of protesters at Berger Roundabout. “Later, we discovered that the protesters were divided into two, those protesting against SARS and those against ending SARS.

“While we deployed our men to ensure law and order, these groups came into the arena, and before we knew it, there were hot exchanges between the groups. “The timely intervention of our men prevented the situation from deteriorating.” Ciroma called for calm to allow economic activities to return to normal in the territory. Meanwhile, the anti-SARS protesters, who seemed undaunted by the attacks, also vowed to continue with their peaceful protests.

The protesters, mainly youths without any notable leader, continued after the attack, chanting songs such “end police brutality now”. One of the protesters, who wanted to remain anonymous, said their demand now was for an executive order by President Muhammadu Buhari that would help to assure Nigerians that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had been banned. He said: “We are sceptical on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) that the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced to replace SARS.

“How can it be possible within 24 hours to hurriedly assemble a squad? It is a way to reintroduce SARS.” Also, Aisha Yesufu, in a video on her Twitter handle, urged the protesters not to relent in their agitation for a total reformation of the Nigeria Police Force.

She said: “Please don’t get distracted over this issue of who is this, who is not what; eye on the ball – forget the distraction. There is nothing yet for you to go into fighting mode over. Focus on your message and the results that you want.

That’s what is most important.” The protesters blocked Julius Berger junction, a major terminus of the city. Berger junction is a melting pot of major buses into the city. However, the EndSARS protesters grounded Awka, Anambra State.

They blocked the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway. The protesters also demanded the arrest and prosecution of former officer in charge of SARS, Mr. James Nwafor, for alleged extrajudicial killings while in office.

The leader of the protesters, Ifeanyi George, said the Federal Government had in the past announced the proscription of the body which never took effect. He said: “We want to make sure that SARS is banned in Nigeria and we are lending our voice to the protest that we should end SARS now.”

As at 6.39p.m., heavy duty trucks and other motorists heading to Enugu were stranded. Also in Kogi State, hundreds of youths marched on the Government House to demand an end to extra-judicial killings and police brutality. This came barely 24 hours after Governor Yahaya Bello appealed to the youth in the state to reconsider their protest on End SARS. Yahaya had, at a media briefing on Tuesday, urged the protesting Nigerian youths to trust the honesty of President Buhari towards reforming the police force.

He said: “I urge the Nigerian youths to trust President Muhammadu Buhari’s holistic moves towards the reforming of Police Service which he promised in the wake of the #EndSARs protests leading to the disbandment of SARS.” But the protesters gathered in front of the Government House, demanded to see the governor.

Pleas by the Chief of Staff to the governor, Jamiu Abdulkareem, that Bello was held up in the weekly Exco meeting fell on deaf ears. The protesters insisted on staying at the gate until the governor was ready to address them.

The spokesman for the protesting youths, Bernand Ajewole, said “the so-called government pronouncement on the disbandment of SARS” was a mere pronouncement with no effect. Ajewole disclosed that despite the disbandment, there were still men operating in SARS uniform.

He said: “What we want is beyond disbandment and replacing it with another. Just yesterday, they came to our campus in Prince Abubakar Audu University, Ayingba in their uniforms where they arrested some students and made them to part with N100,000 before they were released. “This is happening in spite of the IG’s directives that members of the disbanded SARS should report in Abuja for debriefing.

“The youth are gathered here today to give solidarity to fellow youths protesting police brutality across the country. We want a Nigerian Police that is refined enough to tackle various crimes without extra-judicial killings.” A Law graduate, David Oluboojo Anyebe, told journalists that the protest was a spontaneous reaction to what was happening all over the country.

He said: “We are also going a step further to ask for total overhauling of the Police Force, we want a review of the Police Act to reflect the modern reality.” According to him, Nigerian youths also want to know what punishment meted out to officers found to have violated the fundamental rights of the youths The former president, Students’ Union, Federal University, Lokoja, Anate Adams, said that the present police authority had failed in its entirety and must be reformed and not paying lip service by mere changing its nomenclature. But Kano State Governor Umar Ganduje and hundreds of youths yesterday expressed support for the ongoing police reforms and the creation of SWAT.

The youth, in their hundreds, marched to the Kano State Government House in support of SWAT and the entire police reform process. The youth, who were carrying placards with different inscriptions, cautioned the End SARS protesters to immediately vacate Nigerian roads and allow the ongoing reforms to be achieved. The National Coordinator of the Coalition of Youths, Comrade Khalid Sanusi Kani, said after closely reviewing the prevailing situation, it was discovered that the government had done the necessary thing. Kani said the youth had overwhelmingly supported the idea of setting up SWAT and commended President Buhari and the IG, Muhammed Adamu, on the reform process.

The coordinator, however, urged the IG to fully execute the reform, so that the aims of the overwhelming protests across the country could be seen to be fully achieved. Ganduje, on his part, congratulated the youth for cooperating with the security agencies to achieve peace in Kano State. He said youths in Kano took a positive stand that which was not condemning totally the police as an institution but the bad eggs among them. The governor reminded them that Nigeria could not survive without the police. He said President Buhari should be supported to achieve the reform of the police. “Kano is fully behind reforming the system,” Ganduje said.

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