By Olugbenga Ige, Richard Joshua and Justina Otio
In Nigeria, a country with one of the largest concentrations of youth, the strident voice of this critical segment of its populace appears not to be heard or rather being ignored by the older generation who hold and control the levers of power.
Exactly a year ago, the country witnessed one of the most participated protests in its history. This was the unforgettable nationwide demonstration against police brutality tagged #EndSARS protests.
Youths came out in their thousands to register their displeasure over rights abuses by the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) officers – a unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) – demanding an end to the impunity of rogue operatives in the now-disbanded unit.
Starting from Delta State to the nation’s centre of excellence, Lagos, the protest spread like wildfire to Enugu, Rivers, Kano, Kwara, as youths came out en mass to resist the trampling of their basic humanity.
Naija News recalls that the Federal Government created the SARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force in 1992 to tackle armed robbery in Lagos.
Members of the squad were operating undercover against violent crimes in plain clothes and plain vehicles without bearing arms in public and were tasked with preventing crimes and seeing to the arrests of criminals and armed robbers.
Subsequently, due to the high level of criminality across the country in 2002, former President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the establishment of SARS in all the state commands of the Nigeria Police.
However, the unit started to deviate from its core duties of arresting armed robbers and other criminals by setting up roadblocks and extorting money from innocent Nigerians.
Over time, the SARS officers became notorious and allegedly engaged in extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, alleged rape, extortion and unlawful detention. Operatives of SARS also developed the penchant for harassing fancifully dressed with funky hairstyles as internet scammers.
As the cases of extra-judicial killings and unlawful detention of Nigerians started to grow, a social media campaign with the hashtag #EndSARS was launched in 2017 to document abuses by SARS officers and demand an end to the notoriety of the squad.
With the atrocities of the SARS personnel, it did not take long before they were pitted against the youths of Nigeria, who make up almost 34 percent (33.65%) of the country’s huge population of more than 200 million people.
Despite their consequential number, the government has failed to enact meaningful and effective policies nor create an enabling environment for the youth who are regarded as the leaders of tomorrow.
With their prolonged neglect by the government, the aggrieved youths found their long-lost voices and latched on to social media as one of its tools to decry the unfortunate treatment meted out to them by the same people who are meant to be their shield.
In their demonstrations, the youths lamented unlawful activities of the security agencies, specifically fingering the police, while listing their five-for-five demands which they want to be addressed by the Federal Government.
The demands are the immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days.
Other demands are carrying out a psychological evaluation, retraining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can be deployed and the government should increase police salary and they should be adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
Responding earlier to the outcry of citizens against police brutality, the federal government on October 13 accepted the demands of the #EndSARS protesters and proposed some broad reforms of SARS to address the rules of engagement by the police unit.
However, members of SARS continued with impunity. In 2019, then newly appointed Inspector General of Nigeria Police, Mohammed Adamu, listened to the outcry of Nigerians and ordered the disbandment of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other special squads. Like other attempts to ban SARS, the new order by the new police boss failed, allowing the SARS officers to continue with their illegal arrests and other vices.
The unrepentant attitude of the security men birthed the October 2020 protest which eventually resulted in bloodshed, destruction and looting of properties, Naija News understands.
How A Peaceful Protest Ended With Property Destruction, Looting And Bloodshed
Findings revealed that over ₦47.12 billion in damages were recorded during the #EndSARS protest and another extension of raids birthed by the nationwide demonstration.
Naija News reports that a peaceful demonstration by the aggrieved youths was seized by hoodlums who took advantage of the situation to vandalize and wreck both private and public properties.
Serious security breaches across which include burning of police stations, patrol vehicles, prison breaks, looting of stores and warehouses were all recorded within this period of demonstration.
Reacting to some of the events that happened in his state, the main focus of the demonstration, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu during an interview in early 2021, said it would take the state time to rebuild the properties destroyed during the EndSARS protests.
Sanwo-Olu stated this while giving an update on the state 2021 budget of N1.164 trillion which according to him would be funded from a revenue estimate of N971.028 billion in the fiscal year, with a target on the expansion of tax nets.
Following the discovery of COVID-19 palliative stashed away in stores, demonstrations became more intense with a looting spree in town. But at this point, the otherwise peaceful EndSARS protest has become hijacked by hoodlums.
Correctional centres in Edo and Ondo State felt the aggression of mobs leading to the alleged escape of over 2000 inmates. And according to reports, the timely intervention of security personnel foiled similar attempts at Ikoyi, Lagos.
Some of the properties destroyed in Lagos were: Nigeria Ports Authority building, Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Secretariat; the Palace of the Oba of Lagos; Governor Sanwo-Olu’s family house, Lagos Theatre, Oregun; Lagos High Court, Igbosere; Oyingbo BRT terminus; Ojodu Berger BRT terminus and numerous police stations.
Others are Vehicle Inspection Office, Ojodu Berger; Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Ojodu Berger; Lagos City Hall and Circle Mall, Lekki; Shoprite Lekki; The Nation Newspaper, Television Continental (TVC), and numerous luxury shops in Surulere and other parts of the state.
According to the then Lagos police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, about 25 police stations were destroyed in the state.
He listed the stations to include Orile, Amukoko, Layeni, Ilasamaja, Ikotun, Ajah, Igando, Elemoro, Makinde, Onipanu, Ebute Ero, Pen-Cinema, Isokoko, Alade, Cele, Igbo Elerin, Shibiri, Gbagada, Onilekere, Makoko, Daleko, Asahun, Makinyo, Amuwo-Odofin, Anti-Kidnapping, Surulere. Other police stations that were vandalised were Ojo, Ojodu, Mowo, PPL and Morogbo.
Adejobi added that properties found within the premises of the police stations, including vehicles, were also destroyed, while valuables, including weapons, were carted away by the hoodlums.
According to the state Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, about 84 BRT vehicles were set ablaze at Oyingbo, Yaba and Berger bus terminals. The commissioner disclosed that 27 of the destroyed BRT vehicles cost $200,000 each, while 57 of them cost $100,000 each, all totalling about N3.9 billion.
Looting of COVID-19 Palliatives And Raiding Of Private Store/Warehouses By Hoodlums
Amid the nationwide EndSARS protest, while concerned youths were at the forefront expressing their dissatisfaction over the continuous extra-judicial killing by the police at various parts of the country, some hoodlums made a venture out of the situation.
Naija News reports that the hoodlums in different groups overrun several government-owned warehouses and looted food meant to be distributed to citizens during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdowns.
The looting and vandalization started after several state governments declared a curfew to create peace after observing that hoodlums had hijacked the #EndSars protests across the country.
The Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), consisting of Nigerian entrepreneurs and corporate organizations, had contributed billions of naira to help the country reduce the impact of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable citizens.
While places like Borno and Zamfara states had done justice to the distribution of the palliatives, other states hoarded the palliatives and delayed the distributions for unknown reasons.
The Civic Advocacy group, BudgIT, had claimed in a report that there was a partial distribution of palliatives in some parts of Lagos State.
The group, however, in the report titled “COVID-19 Fund: Fiscal Support, Palliative Analysis & Institutional Response,” lamented the poor accountability mechanism in the management of the Covid-19 fund and distribution of palliatives in the state.
BudgIT revealed in its report that in most monitored local government areas in Lagos, including Agege, Mushin, Ikorodu, Sururlere and Epe, palliatives were hijacked and diverted by politicians and shared among party members.
“Some residents who are not members of the party lamented the hijack and their exclusion from the whole distribution process,” the report said.
“Ward chairman is in charge of the distribution of the food in the Agege area in Lagos State. One “DeRica” of rice, one “DeRica” of beans and one sachet of tomato paste were given to a street with more than 30 houses,” the Civic group added condemning the disheartening events.
See below the list of warehouses, stores looted by the hoodlums in search of hoarded COVID-19 palliatives.
Taraba State – A warehouse was busted in Jalingo, the state capital on Saturday 24th September 2020. Hoodlums reportedly overwhelmed security forces to cart away palliatives found in the warehouse.
In this regard, the state government declared a 36-hour curfew in the state capital till the occurrence subsided.
Osun state – Residents of the state located a warehouse at Cocoa House, Ede and looted the Covid-19 palliatives they found in it.
Though a statement had claimed that it was waiting for permission from the CACOVID Office, Abuja to commence the distribution of the relief materials.
Kwara State – At the state capital, Ilorin, hoodlums were able to locate several warehouses on Friday 23 September 2020 and the palliatives discovered were looted without delay.
Naija News understands that a Shoprite store in the state capital was also raided by the hoodlums and peoples businesses were wrecked by the hijackers of the supposed peaceful demonstration.
In Plateau State – A warehouse was discovered in the Buruku community of Jos South Local government, and the store was well looted.
The state government though claimed in a statement released after the looting that they never intend to hoard the relief materials.
According to the government, they were waiting for the EndSARS protest to end before they begin the distribution of the palliatives it received from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Social Development, and Disaster Management on 16th October.
Kogi State was not left out of the hoarding as a warehouse was discovered by the hoodlums in Lokoja, the state capital.
The state government also claimed in its reaction to the development that it had shared palliatives to 21 local government areas in the state.
Ekiti State – It was a losing game for the hoodlums who attacked a warehouse in Ado-Ekiti believing COVID 19 palliatives were hoarded at the location, only to find out they looted a chemical store.
The hoodlums had mistaken the fertilizers for Garri (Cassava flakes). In its response to the incident, the state government said the attacked warehouses belonged to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
Kaduna State – A warehouse was discovered in the Gwari area of the state and Covid 19 palliatives were carted away by the desperate hoodlums.
However, the Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led government claimed in a statement that the warehouse looted is where NAFDAC keep expired medicine.
Adamawa state – In Adamawa, after the hoodlums had raided a warehouse, the State Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, said the state had shared palliatives to its citizens.
Fintiri insists that the distribution was done in four batches and the last batch which came from CACOVID was meant to be shared the following Monday before the store was looted.
Lagos State – Several warehouses were also burst in Lagos and this include the breaking of the warehouse in the Maza-Maza community of the state where palliatives worth a fortune were carted away by hoodlums.
The Lagos mass looting came after security operatives reportedly fired live ammunition on peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
An attempt was made to wreck a warehouse in Bauchi State – the hoodlums, however, met an empty store as the state government claimed it has completely shared the palliatives.
In an extended compilation of property destruction and looting that happened during the EndSARS protest, Dataphyte presented a table of wrecked properties during the demonstration. See images below:
|Nigerian Ports Authority||Marina||Lagos|
|Post office and local market||Osogbo||Osun|
|FRSC and VIO||Ojodu||Lagos|
|Local Government house||Enugu north||Enugu|
|Operational van of the Nigerian Airforce||Benin-Agbor road||Benin|
|Akwa Ibom state broadcasting corporation (AKBC)||Akwa Ibom|
|BRT and police vehicles||Lagos|
|Vandalized warehouse of COVID-19 palliatives and looted food items||Bukuru||Plateau|
|Federal High Court||Igbosere||Lagos|
|Cars and tents||Central||Abuja|
|TVC and lekki toll gate||Lagos|
|Samsung showroom and 18 other personal shops, which includes MTN stores, boutiques down to ShopRite||Bode Thomas, Surulere||Lagos|
|Oluwarotimi Akeredolu campaign office||Ondo|
|Oba palace of Lagos||Lagos|
|Shopping Mall, banks and ATM||Lekki and Surulere||Lagos|
|First bank, Access bank and 6 ATM machines||Abakpa||Enugu|
|Otigba Statue||Otigba roundabout||Enugu|
|Nollywood actress Uche Elendu’s shop vandalized, looted||Lekki||Lagos|
|Palace of the Soun of Ogbomoso||Ogbomosho||Osun|
|Vehicles, galaxy shopping mall, the lodge summit and chicken republic||Kano|
|De choice mall, Anchor Insurance, LG showroom, Zenith, FCMB and Access bank||Uyo||Akwa Ibom|
|Shoprite mall, Femkem electronics and phone store, agro mall, Ilorin cargo terminal stores and customs house||Ilorin||Kwara|
|Senator’s farm, APC secretariat, office of the health insurance scheme campaign office and others||Osun|
|Senator loses property worth over
|Actress Lilian Bach stored vandalized and looted||Surulere||Lagos|
|Protesters set Ondo APC secretariat ablaze, attack the chairman’s house||Akure||Ondo|
|Lagos Oriental Hotel||Lekki||Lagos|
|Oil Tankers set ablaze||Warri||Delta|
|Property||Number||Unit Cost||Total Cost|
|BRT Buses||84||$100,000 & $200,000|
|Oil Tankers with products||3|
|Police Stations, vans and barracks (Lagos)||25, 20 & 3|
|Lekki Toll Gate||$85 million|
|Lekki toll gate revenue||–||–|
|Pako Layeni Police Stations||Amukoko and Ajegunle||Lagos|
|Nworieubi Police Divisional HQ||Mbaitoli LGA||Imo|
|Ekeaba and Kpiri Kpiri police divisions||Abakaliki||Ebonyi|
|Ugbekun Police Station||Benin||Edo|
|Dutse Makaranta police station||Kubwa||Abuja|
|Dragon Squad unit of the State police command||ABA||ABIA|
|Iseyin Police Station||Iseyin||Oyo|
|Central Police Station||Nnewi||Anambra|
|SARS Office and a Police Division||Akure||Ondo|
|Division HQ Police Station and Vehicles||Ikere||Ekiti|
|Two Police Station||Benin||Edo|
|Police Station||OrukAnam||Akwa Ibom|
Casualties Recorded During EndSARS Protest
According to an investigation carried out by THISDAY, 62 people were killed nationwide during the #EndSARS protests. The news platform reports that 51 of those killed are civilians while 11 others were policemen.
A report by Amnesty International reveals that at least 56 people were killed across Nigeria since the start of the #EndSARS protests against police brutality on October 8.
In a statement, the group’s director in Nigeria, OsaiOjigho, said that at least 12 people were killed at Alausa and Lekki Toll Gate, while hundreds more were injured.
Government’s Response, Actions And Inactions To EndSARS Protest
It cannot be reported that both federal and state governments did not respond to the events that unfold during the EndSARS nationwide protest last year.
Oct. 20, 2020, will forever be known as Black Tuesday in Nigeria due to the alleged massacre that happened at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
Naija News reports that gunshots played out the music of terror to the ears of Nigerian youths who were bold enough to register their presence at the Lekki toll gate to protest against police brutality.
The army and police who were supposed to protect the life and properties of citizens were captured on camera firing guns into a crowd of young people who had gathered to demand better governance and protest against assault by the sister security agency.
Social media, Twitter precisely, was taken over with different hashtags and disturbing posts of events unfolding from Lekki toll gate and other parts of the country where demonstrations were being observed.
One of the events that acted as the Genesis for the nationwide protests, Naija News recalls was a video that showed a SARS officer shooting a young motorist in Ughelli, in Delta state.
In the video, the police officer was seen pushing the body of the victim out of a car and driving off with the dead man’s Lexus SUV. The incident stirred anger among the youths and a call for a demonstration across Nigerian cities was made to demand the abolition of SARS.
Nigerians on Twitter consequently began to share their experiences of how they had been treated. Hence, loads of accounts of how SARS carried out their operations most especially on youths began to unfold.
The campaign started to gain ground and the government was forced to speak on the matter. In a bid to calm the brewing unrest, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, shared a picture on his social media account to note that the young man attacked by the SARS operatives was not dead but sustained injuries and is in the hospital.
After series of outcry and reactions by Nigerians on and off the internet, the Inspector General of police consequently announced the ban of SARS and other tactical squads from carrying out routine protests.
This was not enough for the youths though, because what they wanted was an end to the existence of the security operatives and not a change of their modus operandi.
In a publication, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed to the nation that President Muhammadu Buhari was concerned with the ongoing chaos and wishes to see reforms in the Nigerian Police Force.
Also, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said that the House would draft new legislation to enforce accountability by the Nigerian Police.
Subsequently, after seeing that some aggrieved youths have begun to carry out jungle justice on police officers, the IGP of Police, Mohammed Adamu, warned against any attack on law enforcement authorities.
A directive was issued by President Buhari at some point asking the Inspector General of Police to address the issue while appealing to the youths to be calm. Responding to the president’s directive, the IGP announced that FSARS had been dissolved across the 36 states and the Federal capital of the country with immediate effect.
However, the news of the SARS operatives being dissolved by the federal government did not bring the expected respite as protesters claimed that the government had made the same move in previously, yet the unlawful actions of the operatives continued.
The president subsequently via a televised speech told the youths that the disbanding of SARS was only the beginning in the agenda of reforming the Nigerian Police Force.
Also at that point, Amnesty International announced that the police had killed ten persons at that time.
The Inspector-General of police then announced that a new police outfit known as SWAT was been set up to take over SARS. This enraged the protesters as they claimed that the new outfit was simply recycling the same individuals.
On October 20th which eventually turned bloody for protesters at the Lekki toll gate, the Lagos State Government had ordered a curfew which protesters could not meet up with due to traffic gridlock.
The protesters decided to wait it out, wrapping the Nigerian flag around themselves believing that no harm would come to them. But the reverse happened as operatives of the Nigerian Army operatives later that evening opened fire on unarmed civilians.
The development called for a declaration of 72hrs lockdown due to the unrest in the state.
The Governor Sanwo-Olu government later visited those that were wounded in hospitals and claimed that there were no casualties.
However, after series of lamentations, Sanwo-Olu later confirmed that two people had died as a result of the shooting.
Naija News recalls vividly that on the 22nd of October, days after the Lekki massacre, President Buhari addressed the nation in a nationwide broadcast but refused to speak about the killings of civilians by the security personnel.
The president omitted the most anticipated comment and went ahead to say that people felt his administration was weak because they promptly responded to the disbanding of SARS.
In another publication days later, the Lagos State government announced it will be prosecuting 229 suspects who took advantage of the Endsars protest to loot and vandalize properties.
Minister of Finance, Ahmed Zainab, also revealed in a statement that the federal government had launched an N25b youth fund to address Endsars protest while on the 26th of October, Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, issued a statement on behalf of the president stating that he refused to speak on the Lekki tollgate shooting because he didn’t have access to all the facts.
A dramatic event, however, occurred while Nigerians were trying to rest their nerves from the ongoing crisis that rocked the nation. Former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, visited the site of the massacre and said he discovered a hidden camera at the Lekki tollgate admiralty Circle Lagos.
A development that stirred a barrage of reactions as Nigerians lampooned the minister, suggesting that the camera was planted and the action was simply carried out to deceive the nation.
On their part, while refuting the claims that they fired guns on peaceful protesters, the Nigerian Army stated that their presence was at the instance of the Lagos governor. Later, the army admitted to shooting blank bullets at the protesters and not live bullets as claimed by several reports.
However, a recent report from a forensic expert revealed that the army fired bullets at the protesters at the Lekki tollgate. The experts though claimed that the bullets fired were blanks, adding that the live bullets that had injured and killed protesters did not come from the army.
Like a flash, the bloody Lekki toll gate event is now a year old and youths have maintained their call for justice for the killed patriots.
As youths take to the streets tomorrow to march in remembrance of those who lost their lives across the country, Naija News is forced to ask What’s Next After The Wanton Destruction, Looting And Shootings One Year After?