Nigeria: #EndSARS Protest Hijacked to Destabilise Buhari's Govt - Govt

19 October 2020

The federal government warned yesterday that it will not allow the country to be thrown into a state of anarchy by the violence that has trailed the #ENDSARS protests.

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said this maintained that the protest had been hijacked by hoodlums and people with ulterior motives to destabilise the country and bring down the Buhari administration.

This is coming just as the protesters have threatened to shut down all entry points to Abuja, the nation's capital, in a bid to ground government activities today.

Speaking during a late-night news programme on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), "Weekend File", Mohammed appealed to Nigerians to be objective in assessing the situation and to see that what is going on was beyond peace- ful protest.

Insisting that it was an attempt by some persons to destabilise the country, the minister stressed that the federal government had already met the demands of the group and was implementing them.

In the course of the programme en- titled, "ENDSARS Protest: The Way Forward," Mohammed said Saturday's assassination attempt on Osun Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, while addressing the protesters was a clear confirmation that the protests had been hijacked by hoodlums and people with ulterior agenda.

He stated that while the original conveners of the protests might have meant well, it was obvious that they were no longer in control of the initiative.

He said, "Peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy and that is why the Federal Government in the last 11 days has treated the protesters in a much civilised manner.

"But if you look at what happened to the governor of Osun State, it has gone completely beyond peaceful protest against excesses and abuse of power by the police."

The Information minister stated that there was nowhere in the world where a government would fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.

He said, "We are no longer dealing with #EndSARS but a volatile situation that can lead to anarchy if the government does not take some very firm steps to protect the lives and livelihood of innocent Nigerians."

Mohammed added that the protests have gone beyond being peaceful becau- se lives have been lost and innocent Nigerians, including workers and students, are passing through harrowing experiences.

Specifically, he said because the pro- testers are blocking the roads and high- way, workers are finding it difficult to get to their offices and back home while many Nigerians are stranded on the roads.

"We have nothing against peaceful protest but there are civilised ways of doing so. This is by going to a venue where you are not going to disturb other Nigerians because where your right stops, other persons' right begins," he said.

Mohammed urged Nigerians to also see the protests as a smokescreen staged to undermine the administration and destabilize the country because all the demands by the protesters had been met by the government.

He reiterated that after the government had responded and met all the demands of the protesters, they ought to have nothing doing on the streets.

He recalled that "the protesters on inception came with five demands including, that all arrested protesters should be released immediately and justice must be given to deceased victims of SARS including adequate compensation to be paid to their families".

He continued: "The protesters equally demanded that there should be an independent committee to oversee the investigations and prosecution of any members of SARS found guilty of extra judicial killings.

"They demanded that all personnel of the disbanded SARS must undergo a psychological and medical evaluation as well as retraining before they should be redeployed to other services of the Police.

"They also demanded that the salary of the police should be increased in a man- ner that will be adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

"In meeting the demands of the prote- sters, on October, 11 the Inspector-Gene- ral of Police (IGP) dissolved SARS across the 36 states Police Command and the FCT."

Mohammed further said President Mu- hammadu Buhari, on October 12 addressed the nation, stating that the disbanding of SARS was a first step in the comprehensi- ve reform of the police.

He noted that on October 13 the IGP had ordered all defunct SARS personnel to

report at Force Headquarters in Abuja for debriefing as well as psychological and mental examinations.

The minister said, "On the same day, the Presidential Panel on the Reform of SARS accepted the five-point demand of the protesters."

He said the National Economic Council (NEC) presided over by the Vice President with the 36 state governors and FCT Minister as members met on October 15 and directed the immediate establishment of state- based Judicial Panels of Enquiry across the country.

The minister stressed that with all the steps taken, the government has done more in meeting all the demands of the protesters.

Protesters Perfect Plot To Ground Govt Activities

Meanwhile, the #EndSars prote- sters have threatened to shut down all entry points to Abuja, the nation's capital, in a bid to ground government activities today.

As part of their plot, which was contained in twitter message, they in formed residents that that they were taking Monday morning protest to AYA roundabout at about 6am, adding that they would also block the road lea- ding to Karu, Nyanya, Maraba, Karshi, Jikwoyi, Masaka, Ado and others.

There is palpable fear in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs that protesters might ground the activities of governmen since over 70 per cent of civil servants in the FCT live in these axes.

Already, some civil servants, who spoke with our reporter on the threat have expressed their unwillingness to come to work tomorrow, being Monday, because of the threat from the group.

Michael Abeni, who lives in Nyanya told LEADERSHIP that since he had gotten the information about the protest, he would rather remain at home to avoid being stranded on the road or even being attacked by the protesters.

"I must tell you that tomorrow will be difficult for many civil servants li- ving in Nyanya-Maraba axis. This is because of the threat from the Endsars protesters.

For me, I will remain at home to avoid what happened during the protest at the Airport road where many people could not reach their homes after the close of work."

Meanwhile, Benin City, the Edo State capital, yesterday was on total lockdown by the #EndSARS protesters who blocked all entry and exit points to the city.

At the Benin-Lagos expressway end of the city, the demonstrating youths changed strategy by moving their point of convergence from the University of Benin (UNIBEN) main gate to Ageen Aluminum area of the road, thus making it impossible for anybody coming in or going out of the city to meander through the streets

roads.

While the protesters blocked the

UNIBEN main gate on Friday, motorists coming from the Lagos end could get to the City by using the road beside Precious Royal Palm Hotel to come out at the Edo Property Development Au- thority, EPDA, towards University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH.

Those going towards Lagos could detour to UBTH to come out Ekosodin village, using UNIBEN small gate.

With the Sunday convergence point shifted to Ageen Aluminum end, such detours became useless, thus a total lockdown was imposed on that end of the road.

From Ekenwan axis, the youths, who had earlier circulated information that they would be converging at the Evbotubu end on Monday (to- day), at about 11:00am started blok- king the road at Agho Junction, a short distance from the Ekenwan campus of UNIBEN.

Many worshippers who had gone for the Sunday services at Upper Ekenwan Road were left stranded, with those driving private vehicles forced to take the Evbodia Road and link up with Airport Road and Ighrighri area of the city.

Same scenario played out at the Aduwawa and Agbor Road axis as the Ramat Park gateway witnessed a total gridlock.

The youths in their thousands, apart from calling for the total disbandment of the SARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force, are equally calling on President Mohammadu Buhari to resign.

NECO Postpones Exams

Meanwhile, following the blockage of roads by the ongoing ENDSARS protest all over the country, the National Examination Council has postponed its examinations scheduled for today.

A statement by the Head of Information and Public Relations Division Azeez Sani stated: "This is to inform the general public, especially candidates, that the National Examinations Council (NECO) has been constrai- ned to reschedule the Paper I Computer Studies Practical's earlier scheduled to take place on Monday 19 October 2020, 10am to 1pm.

"The examination of this paper will now hold on Monday 16 November 2020, 10am-1pm. This unforeseen incident has been caused by the END- SARS protest that blocked the free movement of transport at the City entrance gate Benin".

"The NECO delivery truck had left its take off point well in advance two days earlier to deliver examination materials to some states and has been held up in the blockage since then".

He assured that the affected examination materials have been retrieved intact and was in custody of NECO's vault.

"While regretting any inconveniences this rescheduling may cause our esteemed stakeholders, the Council has however taken this decision in order to maintain the integrity and security of its examinations procedures for seamless conduct of the Council's examination", he added

Protesters Launch Online Radio, 'Soro Soke'

The ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country also took a new di- mension yesterday as the protesters launched an online radio called 'Soro Soke Radio'.

It was gathered that the primary objective of The Soro Soke radio is to educate and communicate with protesters and also coordinate their activities nationwide.

They are said to have drawn up a bouquet of programmes that would continue to inform the people about the ills of the society and what could be done to salvage the situation.

It was also gathered that the Soro Soke radio which has gone live will also serve as a platform to report missing persons during the protests.

The Soro Soke radio is also said to have opened a Twitter handle to serve as a link between listeners and the media outlet.

Meanwhile, In Lagos, thousands of #EndSARS protesters held a worship service at the Alausa protest ground yesterday in continuation of the protest which entered its 12th day.

The service which was held at the Alausa protest ground was tagged an Interdenominational Protest Sunday Service with the theme; "The Glory of the Latter House".

Son of Pastor E.A Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pa- stor Leke Adeboye, who presided over the service, read the book of Haggai Chapter 2: 9.

He said, "I am speaking from the good book; some people call it the Bible; I call it the Holy Book. The book says the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former, this is what is happening in Nigeria right now."

Commending the protesters for speaking louder against oppression in the land using the now popular mantra 'Soro Soke', which literally translates, speak louder, he admonished the youths to always speak up against injustice in the land.

"We are a generation that cannot be silenced; we don't off our mic here. We always speak loud here. We shall no longer keep quiet in the face of oppression and injustice in our own country", he said.

Pastor Leke later led the protesters in prayer to the nation. Prayers were also rendered for Lagos State and in- dividuals after which an altar call was made for protesters to align themselves with Christ so as to be partakers of the good of the land when God turns around the situation of the country.

Popular Saxophonist, Kunle Ajayi, led the protesters in singing the second stanza of the National Anthem in a prayer mood while the protesters were all on their knees.

NASS leadership meets president, says protest will worsen economic situation

Meanwhile, the leadership of the National Assembly has appealed to the #ENDSARS protesters to have a rethink, saying their continued agitation is bound to worsen the nation's economic situation.

Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, The Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, alongside the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said quitting the protests at this point would be the best step to take by the protesters.

He said the message from the protesters had been effectively communicated and had led to some responses, which he said included the termination of SARS as a unit of the Nigeria Police.

According to him, while other issues had already started receiving attention, government needs time to fully execute the demands.

Lawan insisted that since the government had respected their opinions and heeded their calls, the right thing to do now would be to call all the protests across the country off, free the roads and all other positions where protests have been hurting other citizens' freedom and peace.

He said, "It is also very critical at this point to mention this. Since the protests have taken place and the issues have been accepted, the time has come for the protests to stop because government needs to have sufficient time, a clement environment to implement the demands of the protesters.

"We also need to have our economy to continue to go on, when you try to stop everybody from engaging in their lawful business, closing roads to markets and other economic places, we distract the economy of the country and that is

not the best way to go.

"If the issues had not been accepted,

then there would have been genuine reasons to continue with demonstrations and protests, but since the issues have been accepted, we should give government time to implement the issues and therefore, I'm taking this opportunity to our youths who are protesting that the protests have already yielded the desi- red result.

"First they said #EndSARS; that was the beginning. SARS was ended, not by the IGP. SARS was ended by the president himself. President Muhammadu Buhari made a Presidential statement and that would be the first time when any president will say 'end SARS' and SARS has ended. The other issues follo- wed; they are being addressed and that's why we are here.

"I believe the time has come for this protest to come to an end to allow go- vernment to attend to the issues in a very short time. I also believe that other Nigerians have legitimate right to go about their lawful businesses without let or hindrance and we cannot have that when the roads are blocked.

"We don't want a situation where there will be a degeneration of law and order because somebody is blocked he feels he must have his way. So we belie- ve that withdrawing from this protest at this moment is the right thing to do, me- anwhile give us the opportunity to deal with matters that we, as a government, have agreed to handle".

On his part, Speaker Gbajabiamila said President Buhari is a democrat and has accepted all the demands of the protesters.

He said some of the changes will not happen overnight and pleaded for pati-

ence from the protesters.

The Speaker called on the youths to

sheathe their swords and give the go- vernment the time to implement the demands.

He said, "We have met with the president and I can assure you that there is no bigger democrat than Mr President. He gave us a listening ear, the same that he always gives Nigerians.

"He accepted absolutely everything that Nigerians asked for. I have heard the stories that we have heard end SARS like four times before. That is what people are saying.

"Like I said, you have never heard it from Mr President, but now, he has said so. So, let us tarry a little while. Let us sit back. We have got what we want, let us sit back and see what happens.

"If you like, you begin your protests again if nothing happens in two weeks. But let us not continue this thing and lose the plot. That is what I don't want.

"I don't want our youths to lose the plot. They have done so well in terms of expressing their grievances and it is im- portant we don't get side-tracked.

"Of course, there are tangential issues that they have discussed after the EndSARS. We have spoken with Mr President and he is looking at everything.

The Speaker continued: "Some of these things are policy matters that are not going to happen overnight. You are not going to have electricity overnight; it is not going to happen tomorrow. Free road is not going to happen tomorrow.

"My advice is that even if there is trust deficiency let us for whatever it is worth trust government for what it has done now. It has ended SARS; nobody can argue that. SARS is ended completely, never to be heard by anybody. We are talking about SWAT now.

"We interrogated the IGP about three days ago and we asked the question and he explained to us that in any security agency, particularly the police, if there is a special unit and you disband it, you don't leave a vacuum. It is apparently a police code anywhere in the world that you don't leave a vaccum, it has to be filled and that was why he came up with SWAT.

"Having come up with SWAT, the criteria, the engagement, the personnel, what they can do and what they cannot do, they are complete departure from what SARS was meant to operate.

"Let us remain focus and stay on track. Let us work with government. We are all on the same page. It is not you against us. We are all on one page and if we are on one page, we will get the desired result".

We're Worried About Discontent, Anger In The Land -Govs

Meanwhile, chairman of Nigeria Go- vernors' Forum (NGF) Ekiti State go- vernor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, yesterday said he and his colleagues were worried about the hunger and anger currently causing unrest in the country.

Fayemi who spoke at a special thanksgiving mass held at St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Ado Ekiti as part of activities to mark the second anniversary of his administration in office, expressed the governors' readiness to work with other stakeholders to find a lasting so- lution to the issues.

Fayemi said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government was committed to initiating various reforms that would transform the country in all facets.

He stated: "I can understand the youths who have been protesting for some days now. There is a lot of anger in the land, hunger, disillusion and dis- affection.

"We are committed to various re- forms, not only about SARS. We will be making a mistake, if we think so. Our ap- peal is that let the government take the necessary steps it is taking already to do what is right".

Fayemi called on Christians leaders to continue to assist the political leaders in their prayers for our country to get to the promised land.

The governor who noted that he is a

product of mercy, added that God has a purpose in life for everybody, which he said would be realised with prayers, tena- city and patience.

New Tactical Team, SWAT, Begins Training Today

Meanwhile, the newly created tactical team of the Nigeria Police Force, SWAT, formed after the disbandment of the de- funct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, will commence training today in Osun and Nasarawa States.

Speaking on the proposed training, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, reaffirmed that the new Police Tactical Team will operate within very high professional and ethical standards, rule of law and dictates of best international policing practices.

Force PRO, DCP Frank Mba explained that in pursuant of the above objectives, the NPF was partnering with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other development partners for the training of the tactical team which commences at the Police Mobile Force (PMF) Training School, Ila Oragun, Osun Sta- te and the PMF Training School, Ende Hills, Nasarawa State.

Our Correspondents

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