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Aftermath of #EndSARS protest: Rebuilding amid security worries

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Two weeks and four days after the recent #EndSARS protest turned violent, resulting in unprecedented destruction of both private and public properties in many states of the federation, the rebuilding process have begun. Many of the affected states have unveiled some initiatives targeted at repairing/reconstructing public properties destroyed by hoodlums during the protest, compensating the victims of the protest and forestalling a reoccurrence in the future.

For instance, in Lagos State, which was the epicentre of the protest and the violence that followed, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, last Wednesday, signed an executive order establishing the Lagos State Rebuilding Trust Fund. According to him, the trust fund would drive the reconstruction of the state due to the huge destruction witnessed during the mayhem.

The governor also constituted an eight-member Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee headed by the Chairman of Citibank Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso, to oversee the rebuilding of every aspect of the state and also look at the future and healing of Lagos.

“In the next few days, our government will send a bill to the Lagos State House of Assembly for the Establishment of a Trust Fund to Rebuild Lagos.

“However, with the deluge of offers of immediate help and assistance that we have received locally and internationally, we can no longer wait until the bill is passed. It is expedient that our enumeration, recovery, and rebuilding efforts start as soon as possible.

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“Therefore, by the power vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I will today sign an Executive Order to set up an eight-man Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee, which will as a matter of urgency begin to oversee our recovery process.

“As I sign the Executive Order today, I am positive that we will attain new heights of development, we will build more resilient systems, we will become more united and accomplish our audacious goals and visions for Lagos State.

“I assure you of the committee’s utmost commitment to the reconstruction and upgrade of our dear state. In these challenging but interesting times, we realize that we have the potent opportunity to reform our state and upgrade our structures,” Sanwo-Olu said.

As cheery as the move is to law-abiding residents in the state, many of them are presently more concerned about their security as they go about their daily businesses. Their worries are hinged on the withdrawal of policemen and other law enforcement officers from the streets since the end of the protest. Even officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) are yet to return to duty in many parts of the state. The development has resulted in traffic gridlock across the state and other acts of lawlessness that have put residents in fear.

According to a resident in Ilasamaja area of the state, Adedoyin Afeez, the arms carted away by hoodlums from the police stations were already in the hands of armed robbers and cultists.

He said: “A lot of police stations were burnt down in the name of the protest while arms and ammunitions were carted away by hoodlums. Cultists are already using these arms to fight and kill each other in some places. Last Sunday, cultists identified as Eiye and Aye confraternities clashed at Salako Street in my area. The fight left one person dead and many others injured. Some shops were broken into and goods stolen. All these are happening because there are no policemen in sight to maintain law and order in the community. There is no policeman to restore sanity in the community as I speak to you; because some of the policemen are well known in the community, most of them have run away while some are still receiving treatment in the hospital due to the injuries inflicted on them by hoodlums on that ‘black Tuesday’. I just hope that all the burnt police stations would be rebuilt very soon. I want policemen to return to the streets. If not, this coming December will be hell for residents.”

Another resident in the state, Chidi Nwafor, also said: “#EndSARS protest brought a lot of negative changes in our society. The state of affairs now is that of the survival of the fittest. COVID-19 disrupted many things good about this year. So, the #EndSARS protest, indeed, added salt to injury. We all know that the Nigerian economy hasn’t been fine before the protest. A lot of people were struggling to survive.

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“Now, there is no security in my neighbourhood because the police station, which was meant to harbour the security operatives, has been burnt. Everyone has taken his/her security in his/her hands.”

The situation in Lagos also obtains in other states of the federation. Get the details in the following reports.

Forest Guards Step In As Police Desert Enugu Streets
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
In Enugu State, life is gradually returning to normal after the nationwide #EndSARS protest. For the few days the rampaging youths took to the streets of Enugu, many private and public properties were either attacked or burnt. The premises of many commercial banks and their Automated Teller Machines (ATM) were either destroyed or set ablaze. Some security officials were also killed while others sustained injuries. A similar fate also befell some of the protesters.

According to the Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Abdurrahman, some of the burnt facilities in the state include Emene Police Station, two operational vehicles, Amechi-Idodo Police Station, Akwatta Police Post under Central Police Station, Maryland Police Post under Uwani Police Division and Phase Six Police Post under Trans Ekulu Police division.

Others are the Nigerian Immigration Service complex in Emene, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office; Njodo Development Centre, Enugu North local council secretariat security house and the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) security house.

He added that First Bank branches in Abakpa and Gariki; Access Bank branches on Presidential Road, Agbani Road and Garden Avenue; and United Bank for Africa (UBA), Fidelity Bank, Ecobank ATMs in the areas were either destroyed or set ablaze.  Several shops were also looted.

He said that a Police Inspector, John Jesse, attached to Emene Police Division and Constable Ogboji Emmanuel attached to Abakpa Police station were killed.

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To forestall further loss of lives and destruction of properties during the period, the state government had imposed a 24-hour curfew on the municipal local councils of Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South. The police also barricaded movements around their stations to ward off attackers.

The Shoprite shopping mall in Lekki Phase 2 was looted on October 22, 2020, after the army repressed peaceful protestors gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate despite curfew. (Photo by Sophie BOUILLON / AFP)

The imposition of the curfew paralysed activities in the state. Government establishments were shut down while banks operating in the state closed their doors to customers. Although the curfew was meant to restore order, most residents ignored it and went about their normal activities, apparently because law enforcement officers were nowhere to enforce it.

However, the curfew has fully been lifted and life is gradually returning to normal in the state. Students are back to school while employees of various institutions and organisations have also resumed work. Some of the major roads earlier barricaded as a result of the protests have been reopened, thereby easing the traffic challenges residents experienced during the period.

But commercial banks in the state now operate between 10.00am and 3.00pm. Also, most ATM machines in Enugu metropolis are non-functional as they were either destroyed or burnt. Even where the ATMs are good, they are not being stocked with cash. As a result, making transactions in the banks is no longer easy as customers who hitherto used the ATM now throng the banking hall.

A resident, Mrs Ugomma Ugwu, stated that she has adjusted to the situation by “going to the bank early enough to collect number and wait for my turn until I am called.”

Also, policemen have deserted the streets of Enugu as they remain in their stations. Even to get to their stations, they do not wear their uniforms.  This is as any visitor to their stations is thoroughly questioned before being allowed entry and attended to. Following their absence from the streets, men of the Forest Guards and officials of the State Ministry of Transport (MOT) now control vehicular movements in the state.

Apparently not wanting to take chances or compromise the security of the state, the state government last week inaugurated the Forest Guards to provide some level of security pending when policemen would return to work. The government has also started rebuilding some of the facilities destroyed during the protest like traffic lights.

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To ensure that victims of the #EndSARS protest are adequately compensated, the government has set up a Commission of Inquiry to interface with them and make recommendations. There is also a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on police brutality in the state, which is yet to begin work.

‘Area Boys’ Control Traffic In Rivers
From Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
Human and business activities are gradually returning to normal in Rivers State especially in Oyigbo local council after the #EndSARS protest took a violent turn.

A week after a non-violent protest to end police brutality was observed in the state, hoodlums suspected to be members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) invaded Oyigbo local council. They killed six soldiers, burnt four police officers, set four police commands ablaze and burnt over 50 vehicles. They also set a court complex and a hospital ablaze.

The violent attacks forced the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, to impose a 24-hour curfew on Oyigbo, Mile One, Ikokwu, Emenike, Ilabuchi and a few other communities on Wednesday, October 21. Military troops were also deployed to the areas to fish out the hoodlums and recover the riffles taken away from the murdered security operatives.

The soldiers, who were apparently angry over the killing of six of their colleagues, allegedly harassed, arrested and shot some residents. Over 70 per cent of the residents reportedly fled to neighbouring communities for safety. Those who were caught by the curfew lacked access to food, water and medicals, as markets, pharmaceutical shops and banks in the area were shutdown. After a week, the governor lifted the curfew on other areas except Oyigbo and Ikoku, which further worsened their plights.

However, on Tuesday, November 3, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinus Nisirim, announced that the curfew had been reviewed by the State Security Council and would be observed from 7.00pm to 6.00am from Wednesday, November 4. The announcement brought some relief to the residents.

Some women who sell perishable goods like tomatoes, pepper, fruits, onions and vegetables, among others, lamented that their goods were damaged during the curfew period.

One of them, Mrs. Nneoma Ibeh said: “My market spoilt so much. I bought them to sell the following day but that same evening, the curfew was announced. We are happy to come out today after two weeks. We pray that absolute peace is restored in Oyigbo.”

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Other residents lamented that while they were battling to recover from COVID-19 woes, the #EndSARS protest has added to their hardships, citing the increase in the prices of goods.

Findings showed that during the protest, traders had challenges in bringing food items from the northern part of the country like cattle, beans, onion, yam, tomato and pepper, among others, to the South. It was gathered that trucks that bring cows and other goods into the state were targets of hoodlums during the unrest that followed the protest.

A member of the National Union of Butchers Association of Nigeria in Rivers State at Okoruma Slaughter, Suleiman Sule, said: “From Delta State, boys blocked the road and forced the drivers to go and offload. These boys were ready to burn the trucks and because of this, the truck owners warned their drivers to turn back immediately they saw situations like that. That is one of the factors that is causing scarcity of meat in the state and as it is, we cannot guarantee that Rivers people will see meat soon.”

However, checks around the city revealed that cow meat was relatively available in the state but very costly. This was also the case with other food items earlier mentioned.

A photograph taken on October 26, 2020 shows burnt buses at the deserted Ojodu Berger bus terminal, during a protest against police brutality, in Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Meanwhile, security operatives were yet to fully return to the roads and streets in the state as at last Thursday. This is even as Wike has redeemed his pledge of N20 million each to the families of the 10 security personnel killed in the Oyigbo attack.

The Guardian sighted only few police officers at some checkpoints when it moved round the Port Harcourt. Volunteers and ‘area boys’ were seen controlling traffic and maintaining law and order in some areas. Residents were also seen obeying them but that was not enough as there was gridlock in some parts of the city.

A public affairs analyst, Olalekan Ige, however, urged the Federal Government to use this opportunity to compressively reform the Nigeria Police Force such that it would meet the demands of modern day policing.

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Joshua Nte Rogers, also noted: “The protest was for the good of the nation including the politicians. The government should acknowledge its mistake in handling the protest and make sure the conversation about changing Nigeria gets better and is not suppressed in any way.”

We May Not Get Quality Service From Police Again, Say Plateau Residents
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
Plateau State also suffered loss of lives and property during the #EndSARS protest. Many people died in the state as a result of the protest while several public and private vehicles were burnt. People’s shops were also vandalised. Among the victims were 10 people from Plateau Agricultural Development Programme (PADP). Also, four bodies found at a dam in Lamingo Ward of Jos North were suspected to be hoodlums running away from arrest by security agencies after vandalising the house of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

According to the state government, looted and destroyed items could amount to about N75 billion, a claim many residents dispute.

But the security situation in the Plateau State is relatively calm presently. Business activities are going on without any hindrance. And because residents in the state were used to having rough encounters and brutality with the military and not the police, the police have been going about their normal duties. Ditto personnel of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

As part of efforts to restore normalcy, the state government held a town hall meeting with the youth where they voiced their demands, which the government pledged to address. The government also met with religious, political and community leaders in the state, where they were urged to dialogue with the youth in their localities.

A civil servant with the state government who did not want his name in print described the #EndSARS protest as a sad development, explaining that businesses and public service were interrupted during the period.

“I observe that the prices of goods and services still remain high. The state is just recovering from the COVID-19 lockdown, which lasted for months. Here we are now; the state government has not paid salaries and pensions of workers. Now they have added more excruciating pains and hardships on families,” he said.

Another resident said: “Many state governments have set up Judicial Commission of Enquiries on police brutality. Citizens have confidence that security agencies will respect the civil society. Unfortunately, the fear here is that police may not give 100 per cent performance, because they are torn between protecting the law and respecting the civil society, which is a difficult task. There could be increase in criminality because the police have reduced their action for fear of being tagged ‘brutes’ of civil society.”

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Red Cross Wades In To Maintain Order In Abia
From Gordi Udeajah, Umuahia
Abia State also recorded loss of lives, destruction of private and public properties during and after the #ENDSARS protest.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mrs Janet Agbede, said two police officers were killed during the protest and their riffles taken away.

According to her, the hoodlums looted and burnt Police Zone 6 Annex Building in Aba. They also attempted to attack police stations and the Correctional Service Centre in Umuahia but were repelled by a combined team of police and military operatives.  The hoodlums also looted and burnt five branches of commercial banks in the state, a High Court complex, a Magistrate Court, Aba South Town Hall and a church therein, Aba Fire Service Building and 102 government and private owned vehicles. They equally destroyed streetlights in Aba and Umuahia even as they dislodged traders at the Aba onions, yam and watermelon markets. Even the Aba Primary Health Centre was not spared as it was broken into and looted.

The state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, had described the level of destruction in the state as monumental, saying how long it would take to repair them was uncertain.

He declared that the government would do everything within its power to recover the medical equipment looted from the Aba Primary Health Centre. He urged the looters to return the equipment within seven days or face the consequences.

After the protest, police personnel withdrew from the streets. As a result, the state is presently witnessing traffic congestions/chaos. To ease the situation, personnel of the state Traffic Indiscipline Management Agency and the Red Cross Society have been controlling traffic in certain locations in the state. But residents are getting increasingly worried about the safety of their lives and property as they go about their businesses daily.

Some residents who spoke with The Guardian see the withdrawal of policemen from the streets as a kind of protest against the killing of their colleagues and the attacks on their stations that left many of them injured.

Meanwhile, the governor has inaugurated a panel of enquiry headed by a retired Chief Judge of the state, Justice Sunday Imo, to investigate allegations of brutality by the police, which triggered the #EndSARS protest. He has also set up another panel headed by the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr Chimaobi Ebisike, to ascertain the level of damages to private and public properties in the state.

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He said the report of the two panels would help government to determine its next line of action. On damaged private properties, he hinted that his administration was disposed to compensating the victims.

Bagudu Commends Security Agencies Over Prevailing Peace In Kebbi
From Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi
Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has commended security agencies in the state for ensuring that peace prevailed in the state during the recent #EndSARS protest that rocked the country.

The governor, who spoke during an unscheduled visit to the State Police Command headquarters in Birnin Kebbi, commended them for protecting lives and property in the state, saying he was satisfied with their performance.

He added that the peace the people of the state were enjoying shows the security agencies in the state had good intelligence.

He commiserated with all those who lost their loved ones during the protest.

Meanwhile, a retired civil servant in the state, Alhaji Usman Issa, has described Kebbi as the most peaceful state in the country.

“There was nothing like protest in Kebbi. We are law-abiding citizens. The state government through the SEMA has distributed all the palliatives given to the state to share to the people,” he added.

Soldiers Still Man Strategic Places In Imo
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
Imo State recorded human and infrastructural losses during the recent #EndSARS protest across the country. In fact, two soldiers were killed near a roundabout in Nwaorieubi, Mbaitoli local council. The Director of Accounts in the council also lost his life. In Okigwe local council, the protesters murdered two police officers. Two police stations, Nwaorieubi Police Station in Mbaitoli local council and Orji Police Station in Owerri North local council were also set ablaze. Four local council headquarters in the state were equally reduced to rubble by the protesters. They are Ehime Mbano, Isiala Mbano, Aboh Mbaise and Orlu. This is as a part the popular Afor Ogbe market in Ahiazu local council was also burnt. Even INEC offices and court buildings were not spared in some local councils in the state.

Governor Hope Uzodimma, who spoke on the level of destruction in the state in a state broadcast, said intelligence reports available to him showed the arsonists came from other states, adding that security agencies were on their trail.

The governor and the state Commissioner of Police, Isaac Akinmoyede, have visited some of the burnt facilities to assess the level of damage.

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Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in the state since the governor relaxed the initial 24-hour curfew, which he imposed at the peak of the protest. Soldiers have been deployed to some strategic locations in the state but policemen are hardly seen anywhere. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Orlando Godson Ikeokwu, however, insisted that no police operative was withdrawn from his/her duty post.

After the protest, some commercial banks have shut down some of their branches while some now operate from 11.00am to 3.00pm. As a result, depositors are finding it difficult to make banking transactions in the state. As an alternative, residents now patronise Point of Sale (POS) centres, where they pay as much as N200 to withdraw N5,000.

As part of efforts to restore normalcy in the state, the 16-member Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Police Brutality, Extra Judicial Killings and Related Matters set up by the governor commenced sitting last Tuesday.

Justice Florence Duroha -Igwe (retd), who heads the panel, however, regretted that it had received only two petitions as at that date.

In another development, Uzodimma has begun the implementation of his administration’s empowerment package for the youth.

While addressing the youth, he said: “My esteemed Imo youths, you will recall that during my interface with you, I assured you of a dedicated empowerment package, as part of my administration’s determination to address your needs. I am glad to announce to you therefore that my government has approved an immediate release of a take off fund of N2,000,000,000 out of the N6,000,000,000 earmarked for an accelerated  youth empowerment programme. The N2,000,000,000 take off fund will be deployed for the training of the first batch of the beneficiaries of this scheme which will commerce next week.

“The programme will train in the first, second and third batches an estimated number of 500, 000 Imo youths in different skills acquisition programmes within the next two years and provide them with start-up capital to begin their own enterprises.

“Known as the Imo State Special Youth Empowerment and Intervention Programme (IMYEIP), the state’s Ministry of Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship is directly charged with its immediate implementation.

“In this regard, the 5000 Imo youths who have already been trained in different skills would be given their start-up capital very soon. The ministry would work out the details for this in addition to the time table for other training sessions.”

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