Nigeria: #EndSARS Protests - Violence Continues As Buhari Sues for Peace

23 October 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday asked youths still protesting across the country against the brutality of the now rested Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, to stop their protests and engage constructively with the Federal Government to resolve issues affecting them, saying their voice has been heard.

The President made the call as rampaging hoodlums virtually held the nation hostage, attacking police stations and business premises, looting and burning them.

The President, who made the call after persistent calls by prominent citizens and world leaders to address the nation, in a nationwide broadcast last night, spoke against the backdrop of the large-scale destruction of lives and properties currently going on nationwide by arsonists who have taken advantage of the peaceful #EndSARS protests.

He also asked the international community to seek facts about developments in Nigeria before reaching conclusions, especially as global leaders, such as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, US Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, former US President, Bill Clinton, the UK government, among others, had, in the aftermath of the killing of protesters at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos by security agents, asked him to stop the killing of Nigerians.

Buhari's nationwide address came on a day a warder was shot dead at Warri Prison in Delta State, as inmates attempted to escape from the facility, with the aid of protesters.

While the incident in Warri was aborted by the Army, whose men quickly rallied to stop the prisoners from breaking out of jail, all the 58 inmates were freed by protesters who attacked Okitipupa Prisons in Ondo State.

This is even as attempt by inmates at Ikoyi Prisons in Lagos to break jail was equally aborted by a combined team of military and police personnel who were called in to help.

I've heard you, discontinue protests -- Buhari

President Buhari said: "I call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.

"It has become necessary for me to address you, having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the security chiefs.

"I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

"On Monday, October 12, I acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force by some members of SARS.

"The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law.

"As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.

"On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.

"Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.

"Violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalized; the sanctity of the palace of a peace maker, the Oba of Lagos, has been violated.

"The so-called protesters have invaded an international airport and in the process, disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors. All these executed in the name of the #EndSARS protests.

'Painful lives have been lost'

"I am, indeed, deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.

"The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.

"On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the well-being and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSME, Survival Fund, through which government is a. paying three months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small - and medium - enterprises,

"No Nigerian government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty alleviation like we have done. With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force. The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.

"In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers.

Let me at this point reaffirm the Federal Government's commitment to preserving the unity of this country.

"We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement. We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected.

"But remember that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence.

'Get the facts before taking a stand'

"To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements.

In the circumstances, I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration, designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy.

'We've heard you, we're responding'

"For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated. I, therefore, call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. "Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.

"I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect. Let me pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.

"I would like to thank those state governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint. I also thank youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands.

"This government respects and will continue to respect all the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people, but it will not allow anybody or groups disrupt the peace of our nation."

Prison warder dead in Warri jailbreak bid

Meanwhile, a warder was shot dead yesterday at Warri Prison in Delta State, as inmates attempted to make their escape from the facility.

While the incident in Warri was aborted by the Army, whose men quickly rallied to stop the prisoners from breaking out of jail, all the 58 inmates were freed by protesters who attacked Okitipupa Prisons in Ondo State.

Attempt by inmates at Ikoyi Prisons in Lagos to break jail was equally aborted by a combined team of military and police personnel.

The prisoners had, however, set on fire a building in the Prisons to facilitate their escape.

These developments occurred yesterday, as arsonists continued destruction of properties in different parts of the country, including Lagos, Anambra and Ondo states, among others.

Meanwhile, the Military High Command yesterday urged Nigerians to wait for the outcome of the investigation panel set up by Lagos State government into the shooting of unarmed EndSARS protesters by men dressed in military camouflage at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Tuesday.

It also asked Nigerians not rule out the possibility of the attack on the protesters being Photoshop to implicate soldiers, despite graphic pictures of the incident circulating on social media and accounts of witnesses, including journalists who were on ground.

On the Warri incident, sources told Vanguard that trouble started when some #EndSARS protesters who made their way to the Prisons tried to free the inmates.

It was gathered that the inmates who seemed to have been in contact with some persons outside the facility, snatched a rifle from one of the warders and allegedly shot him dead and set the administrative building on fire.

A source said that unfortunately for the inmates, officers of Sector One command of the Nigerian Army, led by Col. S. Ahmed, arrived at the nick of time to repel the prisoners' attack and contain the 1,007 inmates.

When Vanguard got to the scene, the army personnel were seen patrolling the facility, after the inmates had been contained.

Some youths who spoke to our correspondent, commended the Nigerian Army for averting the jail break, saying all the prisoners would have escaped.

Ikoyi jailbreak bid fails

In Lagos, a section of Ikoyi Prison was under attack, with smoke billowing from the building and gunshots heard.

In a video shared on social media by eyewitnesses, the inmates could be seen running and trying to escape.

Although arsonists who had been burning public and private properties in that axis of Lagos had tried to attack the facility, they were repelled by soldiers and policemen.

But the inmates had already set on fire a building within the Prison complex, as smoke could be seen billowing from it.

Spokesman of Lagos command of Nigerian Prisons Service, Rotimi Oladokun, who confirmed the development, said no inmate escaped from the attempted jail break.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria on telephone that personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Lagos State command and other security operatives were on ground to save the situation.

Operatives of the Rapid Respond Squad, RRS, also embarked on house-to-house search for the hoodlums that might be responsible for the attempted jail attack.

58 prisoners escape in Okitipupa

In Ondo State, no fewer than 58 inmates at Okitipupa prison were forcibly released by protesters who yesterday broke into the facility.

Spokesperson of the prison, Ogundare Babatunde, confirmed the attack and the forcible release of the inmates by the arsonists.

He said: "The hoodlums were over a thousand in number and they stormed the prison at about 10.30am.

"They overwhelmed the security men outside before they gained entrance into the premises and wreaked the havoc.

"When they first came, the security agencies around appealed to them not to carry out the attack, so they went back but later they reinforced, over a thousand of them, overwhelmed the soldiers and the NSCDC officer who were trying to stop them .

"They broke the wall of the place, moved into four of the six cells and burnt them down. They also set ablaze the van on the premises and some of our machines were destroyed. They also forcibly released all the 58 inmates."

Babatunde assured that the command was making frantic efforts to recapture the freed inmates.

Vanguard also gathered that the Okitipupa Divisional Police Station and Okitipupa Local Government Secretariat were set also on fire by arsonists.

Akeredolu's campaign office burnt

The campaign office of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Akure, the state capital, was also razed.

However, three of the arsonists were arrested by security personnel stationed at Akeredolu campaign office.

Over 200 seized motorcycles and valuable properties at the Police station at Okitipupa were released by the arsonists..

Eyewitness account said a vehicle was burnt, while several other items were destroyed by the arsonists at the prison.

Also, the private residence of a governorship aspirant under the APC , lfe Oyedele, was set ablaze at Okitipupa.

Attempt by the arsonists to set ablaze the Igbokoda police station was repelled by security personnel in the town.

Sources said the arsonists were marching to the university in Okitipupa at press time.

The plan of the arsonists to mobilize to Agadagba in a bid to destroy the Amnesty Office met a brick wall.

An ljaw leader who spoke from Arogbo, told Vanguard: "Already, we are aware that some thugs under the guise of the #EndSARS protests are mobilising to come to Agadagba Obon to attack the Amnesty Office here.

"But I can bet you, they won't meet us here, we will meet them midway and we shall level the community of their sponsor who we know very well.

"We have tracked his conversations with the boys and we are watching. If anything happens to any Arogbo son or any property of our son or daughter, we shall give an equal response. We are part of Yoruba in Ondo State but we are Ijaws and cannot be intimidated.

"If someone loses an election, this is not the first time, he should go and rest and not hide under a legitimate protest by the suffering youths to create tension. We know him. We shall go for him. He is spoiling for an ethnic war he will not survive."

Police image maker, Tee Leo lkoro, could not be reached for comment.

Lekki killings: Wait for outcome of inquest, says DHQ

Also yesterday, the Military High Command urged Nigerians to wait for the outcome of the investigation panel set up by the Lagos State Government into the shooting of unarmed EndSARS protesters by men dressed in military camouflage uniform at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos on Tuesday.

The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, who stated this while responding to allegations that soldiers in uniform opened fire on peaceful protesters in Lagos said: "People have asked if there was anything like that, if it is true. People have analyzed it.

"Secondly, the Lagos State governor came out some hours later and announced the setting up of a commission to investigate the incident. Let us allow the appropriate segment of the society to handle the investigation.

"It is an allegation for now. Let us not set the cat before the horse. The government of Lagos State has set up a commission of enquiry; let us wait for the outcome.

Recalling that he warned a week ago that columnists were out to tarnish the image of the military, Gen Enenche said: "For now, from all the evidences, and as a General, I will tell you that it may not be true that it was soldiers that opened fire.

"When somebody says we heard that they are shooting protesters, it is not evidence. Where are empty shells of the bullets shot?

Told that there were video evidence showing soldiers barking orders and opening fire, General Enenche urged Nigerians to be wary of photo-shop videos, saying it had been proven severally that people could sit in their homes and concoct such videos.

"We have a proactive military. Don't take seriously such allegation. Who will put its armed forces in place to destroy its own people? No Nigerian military personnel will carry hoodlums in their vehicles.

"We have warned of impostors. There is no week we don't arrest impostors in military uniform. That is why the Military High Command launched Operation Checkmate. Last week alone, we arrested four impostors in military uniform at Jere, Borno State.

"These impostors can fake anything to achieve their aim. That is why we require time to investigate some of these allegations."

Asked if any other group or security outfit, apart from soldiers, allowed to wear military camouflage and carry guns, Enenche said: "We deal with major operations across the country which Nigerians are aware of. Anything outside that is 'Operation Mesa' and Operation Mesa is strictly under the policy and directives of state governments.

"Operation MESA is a joint security outfit with a mix of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, NSCDC, FRSC, etc and the various state governments are using them for internal security."

Commenting on observations that thugs had been having a field day, destroying properties and looting with no visible security response, Enenche said: "For me, I have seen security personnel, especially the Police carrying out patrols and deployed at strategic locations.

"I think the situation is being monitored by Operation MESA and the various state governments."

Video of Lekki killings for panel, says Sanwo-Olu

Similarly, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, said yesterday that the video footage of the shooting at Lekki tollgate would be submitted to the judicial panel on police brutality.

The governor, who disclosed this via a live programme on ARISE TV, said: "Nobody ordered the removal of cameras at the Lekki tollgate. The MD of LCC said because of the curfew, they made the decision to take out installations.

"The cameras you saw are not security or motion cameras, they are laser cameras for vehicles. The security cameras are still available and we are using them for our security investigations."

On Tuesday, soldiers opened fire on protesters who had converged on the tollgate to protest against police brutality.

The judicial panel, which was set up following protests against police brutality, has already commenced sitting.

Obiano imposes 24-hr curfew in Anambra

Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has declared a 24-hour curfew in the state. The curfew began 8pm yesterday.

The governor announced this during a statewide broadcast in Awka, the state capital.

"The curfew has become necessary due to unpleasant incidents recorded so far, as well as rising tension in the land," he said.

While describing the anger of the #EndSARS, protesters as justifiable, Governor Obiano declared that all schools and markets in the state had been closed, stressing that all large gatherings in any form were also banned.

He said security agencies had been put on notice to do the needful, asking them to resist all efforts to provoke them to the use of extreme force.

The governor called on stakeholders, including the clergy, traditional rulers, youth leaders, among others, to lend their voices and help address the escalating situation.

According to him, N200 million has been approved to compensate families of those affected by SARS brutality in the state.

"This is not the time for destructive rumours, but a time to unite and keep Anambra State safe," Obiano said.

Prior to the declaration of the curfew, markets, street shops, banks and all commercial and business activities in Onitsha the commercial city of Anambra State, shut down as #EndSARS, protesters stormed the streets.

The protesters, who marched from Ziks roundabout to the Inland Town Police Station which they attempted to set ablaze, were resisted by the Police who shot sporadically into the air to disperse them.

A similar attempt was also made by the protesters to burn the Central Police Station Onitsha but were equally resisted by the Army who cordoned off the place as the Policemen on ground fled the station.

Consequently, all the banks, markets, street shops and all business outfits were under lock. Government offices were also shut, while Secondary and Primary School children hurriedly returned home for fear of attacks.

Traders of popular Onitsha Main Market who went to market early Thursday morning were turned back as the authorities of the market told them it was unsafe to open the market for business.

Police station burnt in Nnewi

However, in Nnewi, the Central Police Station, CPS, was razed by the protesters as they chanted war songs.

Vanguard sources revealed that most residents of the industrial town were not happy with the police officers in the town because of the activities of Anti-cult unit of central police station which had allegedly terrorised them.

A resident of Nnewi said: "The CPS has become notorious over the years, the traffic unit has always been extorting unsuspecting members of the public by making frivolous arrest of private and commercial motorcyclists.

"To make matters worse, the Police Anti-cult squad has also not been professional in their conduct. They go to people's residence in the middle of the night and make arrests. After that, they will ask the suspect to name his friends who will also be arrested and extorted."

All attempts to get the police reaction did not yield any result as the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO Mr. Haruna Mohammed, failed to pick his call.

Eight Police stations razed in Ondo

In a similar development, the Police authorities in Ondo State said yesterday that eight police divisions had been razed by arsonists in different towns in the state.

Spokesperson of the state command, Tee Leo lkoro, told newsmen in Akure that several policemen also sustained various degrees of injuries.

Vanguard learned that the Police Officers Mess in Akure was also partly torched by the arsonists.

Ikoro said: "At Okitipupa, two police divisions were razed, two divisions were burnt in Akure, while others were razed in Ondo town and Ore in Odigbo Local Government Area."

Calling for caution, the police scribe warned protesters and arsonists to refrain from attacking them and their stations in pressing home their demands.

The police spokesperson warned "the protesters not to push them to the wall as the Police have exercised utmost restrain in carrying out the curfew in the state."

Vanguard

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