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EndSARS Memorial: Tension, as youths insist on anniversary protest

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One year after the #EndSARS protests that took Nigeria to the brink, there is tension in the polity as youths have vowed to commemorate the anniversary, today, with the police in Osun and Lagos state declaring there would be no street protest.

Indeed, stakeholders lamented, yesterday, that little or nothing has changed, 365 days after the sad episode, with the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, shaying security agencies had become more brazen in lawlessness. 

Action Group on Free Civic Space, AGFCS, concurred, saying Nigeria had progressed into a dangerous era of digital unfreedom unmatched in the history of the nation’s democratic journey as a country.

They spoke as Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said youths have reasons to demand for a better life in the country just as human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, urged governors to take control of the security situation in their respective states.

“In particular, state governors should, henceforth, exercise the exclusive powers conferred on them to manage public meetings, rallies and processions in line with the provisions of the Public Order Act and the relevant judicial authorities,” he said.

‘We’ll be at Lekki Toll Gate’

Speaking on what youths will do today, human rights activist and Executive Director of EnoughIsEnough, Yemi Adamolekun, said youths will be at the Lekki Toll Gate in respect of #EndSARS protest’s one year anniversary. 

She warned that the Nigerian police should not think of arresting innocent Nigerian youths who are only exercising their constitutional right to protest. 

“The police seem to forget that it is their job to gather information regarding criminals in the country and not to go after the peaceful youths.

“They forgot to focus on their job which is to find criminals. 

“Last week, they said there should be no protest. Three days ago, they said people have the right to protest. Yesterday, they threatened that the youths should not come out and protest.

“The truth is that the youths will be at the Lekki Toll Gate on Wednesday in respect of the #EndSARS protest of last year.

“These are families who lost their families, friends and relatives. There are agitations and the people are ready to be at Lekki Toll Gate tomorrow. 

They said, they want to arrest Mr. Macaroni and leave the thugs. Is Mr. Macaroni a criminal? The police are supposed to go after hoodlums.  The police should provide security for the youths and not to threaten anybody,” she said.  

No peace without justice — Aisha Yesufu

Another human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, said: “It is one year since Nigeria killed her own. The Nigerian youths were killed by those who should have protected them. 

“The government of Nigeria has gotten away with this atrocity because the citizens are silent.

“And what the citizens failed to understand is that as long as there is no justice in Nigeria, there can never be peace.

“When we keep quiet and do nothing, it seems that we have given the atrocity the permission to come to our door steps.

“Lots of people think, it is not their business, but I say,  it is everybody’s business. 

“Today, police brutality has continued. They have leaned on the fact that the government is keen on ensuring the citizens don’t come out to make demands that they should be allowed to live. That is not acceptable.

“Nigerians must understand that we are citizens, we are not slaves. And in this country, we have the rights as every other person to be protected and that protection should happen. Keeping quiet is not an option; we have to be active citizens. Nigerians need more active citizens than activists. 

“Making demands for the right thing to be done, for good governance, accountability, security of lives and properties is a responsibility of every citizen and that has to be done. 

“The youths of Nigeria came out to protest and they protested peacefully but the State unleashed havoc on them. 

“The question we should ask is that, why is it that after one year, no justice has been made and we cannot continue to look the other way while the citizens are been affected.  Nobody is safe in Nigeria. The fact that we do nothing, we give the government the opportunity to continue to make the country ungovernable and that is what we continue to happen.

Release detained protesters now — ERC

Another group, Youth Rights Campaign, ERC,  in a statement by its National Coordinator, Michael Lenin called for the release of the #EndSARS protesters still in detention as well as all political detainees.

“In view of the failure of the judicial panels set up by federal and state governments to dispense justice since a year now, we hereby call for the building of a mass campaign for justice and the setting up of an independent, democratic and open panel comprising representatives of youth groups, workers’ unions, human rights organizations, socialists, NBA, NMA, etc, to bring all those directly and indirectly connected to the killings of protesters to justice,” it said.

Security agencies more brazen in lawlessness — NBA

Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association, Dr Rapulu Nduka, said: “An anniversary is a milestone that dictates that people should look back to and ask if there has been any positive progress. 

“The #EndSARS protests were triggered by a number of events, chiefly police brutality and the like. Have we learned any lessons from the events? Have we made necessary amends to ensure that the issues that led to the protests never repeat themselves again in our Nation? 

“Your guess is as good as mine. We have moved on. Security agencies are more brazen in their lawlessness. Most #EndSARS panels have fizzled out. As a nation, we behave as if nothing happened. It’s sad that the police and government will want to stop the commemoration by the youths. What a country!”

No street protest in Lagos, Osun — Police

Meanwhile the Lagos and Osun Police Commands, yesterday, insisted that there should be no street protests in the respective states in commemoration of the one year EndSARS anniversary.

Reacting to a post circulating on the social media that the police in Lagos have agreed to allow street protests, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, faulted the post.

Ajisebutu, in a statement, said: “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command has been drawn to a post being circulated on the social media insinuating that the police in Lagos have agreed to allow street protests in commemoration of the one year EndSARS anniversary on 20th October, 2021.

“On the contrary, the police will only allow an indoor and virtual events in commemoration of the #EndSARS anniversary and will provide adequate security at the venue(s), if known. This is in recognition of rights of every Nigerian to express his or her interest.

“We wish we could permit such street protests. However, intelligence at our disposal has revealed plans by some faceless groups or individuals to stage an anti-#EndSARS anniversary protest in the state same day.

“In view of the conflicting interest between the pro and anti-EndSARS anniversary groups and threat to cause mayhem, the Command once again warns both groups against any form of street protest between now and 20th October, 2021 and beyond.

“It is acknowledged that citizens have the right to peaceful protests. However, in this instance having carried out a critical security assessment and intelligence report at the disposal of the Lagos Command in respect of the planned protests and attendant implications on public safety, the Command considers it inappropriate to allow such protests to hold. It will not stand aloof and allow breakdown of law and order which the protests may cause.

To avoid a recurrence of the gory protests of last year during which some innocent Nigerians including police officers were gruesomely murdered, private and public property plundered and maliciously destroyed, the police will not abdicate their responsibilities of protection of lives and property by allowing such avoidable incident happen again in the state

“Therefore, in the interest of security and public safety, the Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, wishes to warn the organisers of the protests that the police will deploy all legitimate means to stop or neutralise the planned protests.” 

Similarly, the Osun Police Command said it will not condone any form of protest in the state.

In a statement by the PPRO, SP Opalola Yemisi said: “The intelligence that availed the police command revealed clandestine plans by some youths/group of people to embark on protest in commemoration of one year anniversary of #ENDSARS saga which is scheduled to hold tomorrow 20th October, 2021.

“In view of this, the Commissioner of Police, CP Olawale Olokode warned individuals or group of individuals that are planning such in the state and their sponsor(s) to stop the plan or any of such action(s) forthwith as the Command will not allow a repeat of last year ENDSARS saga and is fully prepared to use all legitimate means to avert such intending protest.

“Consequently, the State Police Command will not tolerate any unlawful protest/gathering or assembly that will jeopardize the peace of the state as the last year ‘ENDSARS saga protest’ still lingers in the minds of Nigerians especially the Police and other security agencies which caused pain, anguish, needless loss of lives and wanton destruction of public and private property.

“Therefore, the Commissioner of Police has given marching order to the Area commanders, Divisional Police Officers and Tactical units to be at alert and nip in the bud any act capable of truncating the peace of the state.”

Power to manage rallies, protests rests with govs — Falana

Reacting to threats by the police to arrest protesters, today, Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said: “State governors should take control of the security situation in the respective states. In particular, State Governors should henceforth exercise the exclusive powers conferred on them to manage public meetings, rallies and processions in line with the provisions of the Public Order Act and the relevant judicial authorities. 

“Therefore, the Inspector-General of Police and Commissioners of Police should stop usurping the powers of state governors to infringe on the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to protest peacefully against public policies considered inimical to their interests. State attorneys-general are enjoined to ensure that police officers are prosecuted whenever they refuse to provide adequate security for participants in public meetings, rallies and processions in contravention of Section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act.”  

TeamNigeria4Change calls for sober reflection

A Pan Nigeria group, the TeamNigeria4Change has called on Nigerians, especially youths planning to mark the one year anniversary of the ENDSARS protest to see the occasion as time for sober reflection in the polity, owing to the destruction that followed the campaign last year.

President of the group championing the cause of youths, Chief Bestman Jumbo Nze, gave the advice in a statement yesterday, stating that the situation in the country calls for critical evaluation of what transpired during the EndSARS protests last year.

The group, while sympathising with those who lost loved ones and affected by the aftermath of the unfortunate incident, said, the way out is a reflection of what went wrong and a way out of the quagmire.

We’ve progressed into era of digital unfreedom — AGFCS

The Action Group on Free Civic Space, AGFCS, has revealed that Nigeria has progressed into a dangerous era of digital unfreedom unmatched in the history of our democratic journey as a country.

The AGFCS, in a statement, condemned the brutal attacks launched on unarmed young protesters demonstrating against police brutality during the October 2020 #ENDSARS protests, particularly at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza in Lagos on the dreadful night of October 20, 2020. 

“Indeed, forensic experts engaged at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality have confirmed that live military-grade bullets were fired at protesters and the cartridge casing obtained from the Lekki Toll Gate are of the same calibre as the Nigerian Army’s live ammunition. “What is most worrying is that one year later, despite overwhelming evidence gathered from earlier on-ground investigations, video footages, eye-witness testimonies, hospital reports, and most recently forensic reports that Nigerian security forces opened fire on protesters, no one has been held accountable. 

“We hereby demand the immediate arrest and speedy prosecution of every person responsible for perpetrating the horrid crime of police brutality in Nigeria and most importantly, the murderous attacks of October 20, 2020, now referred to as the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre.”

Nigerian youths’ve reasons to demand for better life, says Sanwo-Olu

Meanwhile, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, yesterday, said that heightened inability to live and prosper due to prevailing socio-economic and political conditions among other factors are responsible for youth agitation in Nigeria, saying they have the right to demand for better life and future where their ability to live and prosper is challenged.

Sanwo-Olu spoke at a Lagos Youth Symposium, organised by the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, themed: ‘Rebuilding For Greatness, Peaceful Conflict Resolution’, held in Alausa, Ikeja.

The symposium was organized to engage over 1,500 youths drawn from various voluntary organizations, uniformed organizations, non-governmental organizations, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, among others.

The governor noted that the primary objective is to use the platform to network and learn new ways of contributing their quota to rebuilding Lagos and achieving the greater Lagos dream.

Recalling last year’s protests against police brutality tagged #EndSARS, Sanwo-Olu said: “The protest culminated into wanton destruction of government facilities and individual properties across the nation after the riot on October 20, 2020 forever known as the ‘Black Tuesday’.

“This incident sparked global outrage and hoodlums took advantage of the situation and went on rampage looting and burning down destroying government properties and facilities. In what seems like a calculated attack, the hoodlums ravaged the city of Lagos leaving many parts of the state with burnt buildings, looted shops and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. The economy of the country that was already in decline due to some many factors suffered a huge setback

“Nigerian youth have many reasons to demand for a better life and future especially in a country where their ability to live and prosper is challenged by existing socioeconomic and political conditions among other factors. The proportion of people living in poverty continues to grow especially as COVD-19 rampage continues.

“Nigeria’s youth make up the majority of the country’s population which means that the youths are mostly affected by these statistics of poor people.

“The Lagos State Government being the most hit state in the nation by the effects of the EndSARS protest and the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic on its economic and social status swung into decisive and impactful actions immediately so as to mitigate the effects on its populace.”

Sanwo-Olu explained that despite the massive destruction of properties as a result of the protests and economic downturn occasioned by the COVD-19 pandemics, the state was able to cope with the challenges.

He said: “We embarked on rebuilding the city of Lagos gradually, not only the physical structures but the citizen’s hope was also rekindled with various palliative measures.”