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#EndSARS and questions Lagosians want answered

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It was something they never bargained for. Yet, the reality is that the Lagos State House of Assembly and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu are currently in the eye of the storm in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests.

Apart from the celebrated standoff at the prestigious Lekki Toll Plaza, the protest left tears and blood in its wake as it claimed many lives and property in the state and some parts of the country.

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Several citizens and residents of Lagos State are anxious to see how Governor Sanwo-Olu would wriggle out of the contradictory actions and statements associated with his handling of the situation. Some commentators believe that the actions and utterances of the administration tended to have complicated the outcomes. That the poor handling was what led to the loss of young lives, especially at the Lekki Toll Gate, where his political godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his son, Seyi Tinubu, are alleged to be among the prominent investors. That seems to add to the burden on the government.

Bees on the ‘gavel’
Apart from the burden on the administration, some observers are also keenly watching to see if the state Assembly would be courageous to summon Sanwo-Olu to explain some of his actions that are currently generating concerns across the state.

Expectations are that the Assembly should interrogate Sanwo-Olu to ascertain the details of what transpired on that dark Tuesday, October 20.

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Residents also want the Assembly to interrogate some of its members accused of hoarding the COVID-19 palliatives, whether or not the items were converted to personal use and as electoral giveaways.

Some youths have also expressed their desire for the House of Assembly to impress it on the member representing Surulere Constituency 1, Desmond Elliot, to throw more light on his negative remarks concerning the #EndSARS protesters, which not only cast him in bad light before the electorate but also pit the Assembly against Lagos youths.

Then, the Assembly is being looked upon to investigate social media reports alleging that the member representing Amuwo Odofin I, Mojisola Alli-Macaulay, converted COVID-19 palliatives to her personal use as birthday gifts. The affected lawmaker is also being vilified for asserting during last week’s plenary that most Nigerian youths are permanently high on drugs.

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Counter action
IT should be noted that the protests, the first of its kind in the country, had no identifiable leader or financier, but lasted for two weeks and almost paralysed economic activities and governance across the country. The protesting youths, who at a stage turned the exercise into a carnival of sorts, had access to free food and drinks while several entertainers thrilled the audience.

Following fears that the protest could bring the federal and many state governments to their knees, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was compelled to dissolve SARS and promptly replaced it with Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). That carrot was, however, also rejected by the agitating youths.

Complications set in Lagos, when hoodlums armed with dangerous weapons allegedly drove in Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles to attack protesters somewhere along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in a bid to quell the protest. The belief among some residents that some government officials actually contracted the hoodlums to scare the protesters and frustrate the agitation, especially given that nobody knew who authorised the release of government vehicles for such dangerous counteraction.

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Lagosians are also eager to see how the lawmakers take on Sanwo-Olu on the issue of release of BRT buses that were used by the hoodlums to attack protesters, which seemed to have prompted reprisal damages to the BRT resources.

The expectations of the lawmakers do not stop there. It was gathered that Lagosians want the Assembly to unravel who directed a team of some police officers to seize the musical instruments and tents being used by the protesters at the entrance of the Lagos State Assembly complex. Although the police backtracked almost immediately and returned the instruments after serious criticisms, the Speaker of Lagos State Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, was alleged,0zto be in the know of the development, which was said to be a calculated attempt to displace the protesters from the entrance to the Assembly complex. The Speaker was however quick to deny the allegation.

As the #EndSARS protest continued to gain ground in the South, a coalition of youths in the North, also moved the idea of another developed protest against insecurity across the region. Most governors in the South and North Central had no choice, but to identify with the protesters, promising to attend to their demands. Sanwo-Olu specifically joined the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, where he was booed and told to speak louder, ‘Governor Soro Soke’. Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State joined the protesters in his state to the extent that he had to ride on a motorbike. For Rivers State governor, Nyelson Wike, it was a puzzle. He had earlier ordered the protesters to leave the streets but had to rescind that order almost immediately to identify with the youths.

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In contrast, efforts by some prominent musicians and individuals in Lagos State to identify openly with the protesters were rebuffed on the grounds that they were either not youths or were labeled agents of politicians. There was apprehension that the persons could hijack the protests and destroy their objectives. Some of those personalities include Chairman Lagos State chapter of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Mukaila Oluomo, (aka MC Oluomo). The protesters were said to be uncomfortable with Oluomo’s close affinity with the APC National leader, Bola Tinubu. Some youths alleged that he was the leader of the hoodlums that wanted to foil the #EndSARS agitation. But he denied it.

In a similar vein, the attempt by Convener of #RevolutionNow, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, to join the protest was rebuffed on the grounds that he is no longer a youth as well as having contested an election in the past. A popular fuji musician, Pasuma, also tried to warm himself into protesters but was rebuffed. His sin, according to the youths, was that he shares similar attributes with Oluomo.

Dark Tuesday at LTP
TUESDAY, October 20, 2020, dawned like every other day. There was nothing in the air to suggest the darkness that was to envelop the gaiety at the Lekki Toll Plaza (LTP). Perhaps, realising the dangerous dimension the protest was taking, the governor decided to suspend all government activities, even as he declared total lockdown for 72 hours to contain the escalating tension and violence in the state.

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Few hours to the curfew reports filtered in that some persons were removing surveillance cameras mounted on the Lekki Toll Gate, where the protesters had massed themselves. Within a few hours after that worrisome development, armed soldiers swooped on the place and opened fire on protesters.

Spontaneous and angry reactions trailed the soldiers’ actions as hoodlums, who seem to have anticipated such opportunity, unleashed mayhem. They torched several police stations and other monuments, including the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu.

The effect of the Lagos mayhem quickly reverberated across other states in the country. And in its aftermath, aggrieved Nigerians also stormed stores, where COVID-19 palliatives were kept, believing that politicians deliberately hoarded the palliatives for election purposes.

Monday plenary
By the time the Lagos State House of Assembly reconvened on Monday, October 26, 2020, the stories about the Lekki Toll Plaza carnage were making headlines. It was as if what happened in the state from Tuesday, October 20 to Sunday, October 25, would be rehashed during plenary.

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As expected, the Obasa-led Assembly set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to ascertain the level of damage and proffer suggestions. For a start, the lawmakers called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify moves for the creation of state police and urged the National Assembly to include State police in the proposed amendment of the 1999 constitution.

Members of the Committee included the Deputy Speaker, Hon Wasiu Sanni-Eshinlokun, Hon Abiodun Tobun, Hon Rotimi Olowo, Hon Ajani Owolabi, Hon Ganiyu Okanlawon, Hon Victor Akande, Hon Rasheed Makinde, Hon Ibrahim Layode, and Hon Akeem Shokunle.

Thereafter, the Assembly carried out on-the-spot assessment/ inspection tours of various scenes of the carnage, particularly the Lagos High Court, BRT Oyingbo Terminal, Fagba, Isokoko and Pen Cinema Police Stations, Oba Akiolu Palace, which were torched by arsonists, as well as, City Hall and Public Works Corporation.

While debates opened on #EndSARS protests and its aftermath, remarks by Elliot and Ali-Macaulay stirred up the hornet’s nest. The development sparked reactions and the two lawmakers were accused of making denigrating comments about the youths, especially Ali-Macaulay, who declared that Nigerian youths are always high on the drug.

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Sources within the Assembly leadership said efforts were on to manage the fallout of the unsavoury utterances. It was gathered that the leadership directed members to hold town hall meetings at their various constituencies on Thursday. But despite those interventions, nothing seems to have changed as more Nigerians, especially in Lagos, have continued to attack the House, vowing to vote against members come the 2023 election cycle.

On his part, one of the affected lawmakers, Elliot, has however apologised for calling the Youths ‘children’.

“I did not mean to be insensitive with this, it was borne out of the magnitude of destruction and looting of businesses I witnessed when I went on a tour of my constituency. I saw women crying and my constituents distraught as a result of damages inflicted on their sources of livelihood.

“I was moved by this while giving my submission on the floor of the House.

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“Please, understand that even the best of us make mistakes. This is why moving forward; I ask that we all try to engage constructively on the issues that affect all of us. I promise to do the same,” he pleaded.

The Guardian could not reach Ali-Macaulay for her comments, but Spokesman of Lagos APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo, when contacted over the need to investigate the lawmaker for allegedly converting COVID-19 palliative to personal use, said: “I need time to find out the true state of things. I cannot just rely on the information on social media.”

However, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), called on Sanwo-Olu to consider the honorable option of resignation in view of the obvious multiple collapses of pillars of good governance in the state, particularly in the last 10 days.

Lagos PDP Spokesman, Taofik Gani, maintained that the party’s admonition was in good faith and for the overall interest of the state, adding that “it was expedient for Sanwo-Olu to consider the option since the Nigerian Army, which allegedly shot at protesters has exposed him as the person who invited the soldiers to go quell the Lekki protests.”

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