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Protests turn bloody

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Police teargas #EndSARS protesters at the Asokoro end of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as they marched towards the Villa …yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• Organisers consider Belarus option
• Protesters fault Benin ‘jailbreak’ claim
• Don’t overthrow Buhari, Miyetti Allah tells protesters
• Northern Coalition backs down
• Officials begin re-arrest of Edo jail breakers
• 12 killed in Abuja, Benin

Amid twists and turns, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, backed the ongoing protests to end police brutality. He said the youths have the inalienable right to peaceful protests and should be protected.

The president’s position came as Miyetti Allah, an umbrella body of Fulani cattle breeders in Nigeria, accused former Lagos State governor and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, of funding the protesters plotting to unseat the president.

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But Tinubu had dismissed the allegation that he was among those sponsoring #EndSARS protesters across the country.

The national leader of ruling APC, instead, urged Nigerians to disregard the news.

In a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Tunde Rahman, Tinubu said he could not have been sponsoring a protest that was affecting the economy of Lagos State.

Just as the drama was still unfolding, the Northern Coalition backed down from its EndinsecurityNow protests, asking other northern protesters to follow suit. It cited the raid of the Benin Central Prisons and release of inmates as reasons. ENDSARS protesters had raided the Benin prisons yesterday morning and freed about 2,000 inmates leading to the death of at least nine protesters as police allegedly fired on them.

The fiasco that followed the early morning jailbreak forced the Edo State Government to impose a 24-hour curfew on the state.

Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, announced that government had imposed a 24-hour curfew across the state till further notice.

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The curfew took effect from 4pm, October 19, 2020.

He said this decision became necessary because of very disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #ENDSARS protesters.

Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned infiltration of the protests by hoodlums, urging residents to comply with government’s directive on the curfew.

State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikare, in a statement in Benin City, said the party did not only support the #EndSARS protests, but also encouraged “our supporters and members to join in the legitimate protest.”

The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Ahmed Ja’afar, has ordered immediate re-arrest of convicts who were set free from the custodial centres in the state.

In a communique issued by the Public Relations Officer of the service in Abuja Anthony Njokwu Ja’afaru, the NCoS said the attack and setting free of inmates who were legally interned by courts of competent jurisdiction was an act of invasion.

He said: “This is unfortunate, as this does not portray the peaceful, no violence, no destruction mantra hitherto presented by the #ENDSARS protesters.

Protesters fault Benin ‘jailbreak’ claim
MEANWHILE, there are indications that protesters are considering adopting the Belarus option where agitators are to converge in one or two locations in a bid to prevent hijack.

The Guardian gathered yesterday that the arrowheads of the protests are brainstorming on ideas that will eliminate hijacking of the action.

Indeed, Deji Adeyanju stated that the Abuja protests will never stop abruptly until government addresses their concerns.

He said: “Abuja protesters will never stop. We have devised new strategies. It is you people that will get tired.”

In Belarus, protesters converged in one location in their numbers, which made arrest or hijacking almost impossible.

The protesters are presently considering Abuja and Lagos for massive protests. They are likely going to mobilise protesters from other states of the Federation to the FCT and Lagos for maximum effect. They reasoned that the Federal Government presence is more pronounced in the two states with the international flights predominantly domiciled therein, while Lagos also has the advantage of being the commercial nerve centre of the country.

One of the protesters told The Guardian the essence of the strategy thus: “If killings and molestations get to the law court, it won’t be easy to prove that thugs are government sent, as you can easily prove for uniformed men. Get the protesters in one or two safe spots with adequate security, people don’t have to be hurt or die unnecessarily. Secure lives.”

Amnesty International Nigeria said it had reports of violence against the protesters in Abuja.

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The body said: “We have received shocking reports of attacks by armed thugs on peaceful protesters at the Central Bank of Nigeria headquarters Abuja, this early morning. Dozens of protesters were severely injured.

“Many protesters and journalists were assaulted by the Police at Karu Abuja. One journalist was beaten and her equipment destroyed. Protest is currently going on in Kano around Kofar mata area, following the death of Sailullah – a 17-year old in Police custody. The protest erupted after it was alleged the lady was tortured to death by the Police.”

The protesters said the jailbreak in Benin, Edo state was an attempt by the Nigerian government to discredit the group.

A protester, Nedu Ekeke said: “I have visited this prison twice during outreaches. There are four gates before the main gate with each of them very gigantic.

How did hoodlums open all four of them to gain access to the prisoners? Something does not add up.

“No thug breaks into the Benin prison. The prisoners were released illegally by the authorities to pin it on protesters. I blame this on government, which allowed this to happen. Peaceful protesters cannot and will never do such, this is why we must come together.”

He wondered why prisoners that escaped captivity would wait to first shoot video, saying, “the prisoner did not run for his life to avoid being caught by prison authorities. The Nigerian state is populated by empty heads. We saw ‘prisoners’ wearing headsets, Nigeria 2020 jersey, some carried luggage, earpiece, chains etc. And the government wants us to pin it on the youths protesting. Who is fooling who here?”

Fisayo Soyombo, an undercover Journalist, said: “As someone who lived eight days in prison as an inmate during an undercover investigation, I can tell you that it is not possible for unarmed protesters or hoodlums to break into a prison in Edo State or elsewhere and set inmates free. No large-scale jailbreak can succeed without (i) the active connivance of prison insiders (ii) the tacit support of prison security or (iii) the disguised involvement of prison authorities.”

On his part, Amara Nwankpa said protesters had shown in the few days that they abhor violence and anti-social vices.

“Protesters, who rebuked themselves for bringing beer to the protest, treated their attackers and handed them over to the Police despite their cars being seriously damaged, and even protected a vulnerable Cop who was detached from his unit despite a civilian being killed, would spearhead jailbreak? Protesters who marched 21 kilometres from Awka to Awkuzu telling each other to look after one another and to remain peaceful despite provocation would never have been unruly or involved in any act that is unlawful.”

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Three hoodlums killed in Abuja
THE orgy of violence reverberated in Abuja: Three hoodlums were feared dead as protesters clashed with hoodlums at Sauka village, along Airport Road.

The protesters, who were headed for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, were at Sauka village when the two parties clashed. The hoodlums first attacked protesters carrying thick sticks and trying to prevent them from moving forward.

The angry protesters were said to have descended on the other party leaving three people dead.

An eyewitness said he saw three dead bodies lying on the expressway while the fourth body was still moving under attack.

According to him, there was a lot of blood seeping from the wounded dead bodies of the victims.

Another witness told The Guardian that she was on her way to drop a colleague at the airport when their car was halted by hoodlums carrying big sticks, trailing a distance behind the protesters and chanting that the protest must end.

“I had no idea that the protesters were on our path. I just drove in and saw some boys wielding big sticks coming towards my car.

My children were in the car; my hands and body began to shake when they approached us. After looking me up, they told me that they have no problem with me. So, I turned my car around and left immediately,” she said.

Meanwhile, another set of protesters blocked the central road in Jabi, near the office of The Guardian in Abuja.

Waving Nigerian flags, they marched towards Jabi Park chanting various ENDSARS slogans.

Miyetti Allah alleges plan to overthrow Buhari
THE Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Socio-cultural Association, yesterday, accused the #EndSARS protesters of planning to undermine and overthrow democratically elected government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Association said the ethnic and regional coloration of the protests also showed that some people from certain regions were trying to intimidate the North to give up its rights to rule beyond 2023.

#EndSARS protesters sewing national flags at Airport Road in Lagos…yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

The National President of the association, Adulahi Bodejo, whose statement disclosed this in Abuja, called on the sponsors to allow the president implement his programmes for the country.

He said, “Sponsors of this particular protest headed by the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as exposed by Prof. Adebesi of University of Ibadan” should “immediately stop this demonstration.

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“We will hold him accountable should anything happen to President Buhari’s administration. To avoid this, he must immediately put the protest to an end while the Federal Government put in modalities to address the challenges confronting the nation.”

In the wake of jail break in Edo State, Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, backed down from the #EndinsecurityNow protest in the north.

In a press conference addressed by Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the CNG Spokesperson in Kaduna, said it was disturbed by the trending reports of raid on the Benin Central Prisons and release of inmates allegedly in the name of the #EndSARS protests.

He said: “While the group watches as developments unfold, we shall articulate a comprehensive position stating our demands for presentation to the leadership of the Northern Governors Forum.”

Abdulaziz in the statement said the CNG also advised protesters across the country not to allow their agitations to degenerate into lawlessness and brigandage.

Buhari, governors back youths
ALL the same, President Buhari and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), yesterday, said Nigerian youths had inalienable right to protest against bad governance and police brutality.

The president said they would be protected but must not allow miscreants to hijack the genuine #ENDSARS agitations, a development that could derail them from their noble objective.

Buhari spoke to State House Correspondents in Abuja through his Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, after a meeting the minister had with the president on the ongoing protests across the country.
He said the President acknowledged the youths’ demands, saying that, as a father, he wanted them to be protected and not suffer unjust treatment in the hands of police operatives.

Dare said President Buhari assured him of government’s readiness to accede to the demands of the protesters, just as he appealed to the youth to give the authorities time to tackle the demands as the team set up had already begun work on the issues.

“Mr. President assured that the demands of the protesters are being met in a timely fashion, some have been met already. He said he accepts their demands and that government is already responding at various levels.

“Mr. President said the youths of this country have spoken and he has heard and he has since gone to work for the youths of the country, not just as a president but also as a father of the younger generation.

“He said as a father to this generation of our youth, his desire is for them to be well protected and live in a country where they enjoy their freedom and do not suffer from any form of police brutality.

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“The President promised that he would ensure that the reforms, as promised, were met, and that the reforms would be long-lasting to deliver for our country a police force that we will be proud of.”

The NGF, on its part, said it had endorsed the call by demonstrators for improved governance predicated on an enforcement regime that takes into cognisance the fundamental human rights and liberties of all citizens in the country.

NGF’s position was contained in a communique issued by it’s Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi at the end of their emergency meeting held on Sunday in Abuja to deliberate extensively on the nationwide protests, riots and demonstrations.

According to Fayemi, members of the forum resolved to act on all the demands made by the EndSARS protesters. Fayemi, however, raised some concerns on the shifting nature of the demands, which creates uncertainty regarding the exact expectations and ultimate goal.

Lamenting that criminal elements and hoodlums had hijacked the protests by maiming innocent citizens, looting and destroying properties, he appealed to protesters to call off the protests, maintaining that a continuation grossly exposes the fragile economic fundamentals of the country.

The Chairman said that the forum condemned the attack on Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State by armed persons while he was addressing anti-police brutality protesters in the state capital, Osogbo.

Fayemi noted that protesters were encouraged to engage with government appropriately, at both national and sub-national levels, to ensure that the protests were not taken over by hoodlums instigating a breakdown of law and order in many parts of the country.

He further disclosed that the forum had directed all states to activate panels of enquiry to receive cases of police brutality by officers of the disbanded SARS Unit.

“Each state is also expected to kick-start a compensation mechanism for all victims,” he said.

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