More than one week after the renewed call for the proscription of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the attendant street protests have turned violent in some parts of the country, with a protester identified as Jimoh Isiaka, shot dead in Ogbomoso, Oyo State on Saturday.
Apart from Oyo, the #EndSARS demonstration was marred by violence in Osun, Abuja and Ogun, where a crowd of agitators stormed Owu festival on Saturday, demanding to speak with former President Olusegun Obasnajo, who was at the event.
The nationwide protest was reignited last week following the shooting of a youth reportedly in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, by some FSARS operatives who drove away his SUV. The police have said the youth didn’t die.
The Nigeria Police Force consequently banned FSARS and other special tactical squads from carrying out routine stop and search.
The protesters, however, claimed that the police authorities had not shown enough commitment to reform the dreaded police unit over the years and called for its disbandment.
Despite the Force’s call for calm, the protest raged on in several parts of the country, including Lagos, Delta, Imo, and also gained traction in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada.
The protest was described as the most trended issue on Friday globally, according to @BBCAfrica, as Nigerians abroad joined in the demonstration. A rally is billed to hold in London on Monday.
Amid the protests in Nigeria, young Isiaka was reportedly killed by a trigger-happy policeman in Ogbomoso on Saturday, with seven others sustaining varying degrees of injury.
Confirming Isiaka’s death, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, via his Twitter handle @seyamakinde, described the situation as regrettable and promised that investigation would be carried out into the incident.
He said the killing and assault on peaceful protesters were an indication of government failure and urged the residents to carry on with their protests peacefully.
He said, “I have received with deep sadness the news of the passing of one of our children, Jimoh Isiaka, who was shot during the #ENDSARS protest in Ogbomoso. He later died at Bowen University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso, earlier today (Saturday).
Also, at this same protest, Abdulrasaq Olawale, Oluwadamilare Gbolohunmi, and five other persons sustained injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment. This situation is highly regrettable. I have contacted the Commissioner of Police, Oyo State, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, and other relevant agencies, and investigations into what led to the unfortunate incident are still ongoing.
“I pray that God grant the parents of Jimoh Isiaka the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss.”
Makinde said the situation called into question why state governors were called the Chief Security Officers of their states whereas they did not have the necessary powers to control the police force.
Peaceful protests are a big part of our democratic process. The right to freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed by our constitution, and I will never support any attempt to rob citizens of their fundamental human rights,” he said.
However, Oyo CP, Enwonu, debunked Isiaka’s killing saying that the police only repelled the protesters with tear gas.
Enwonwu, in the statement titled, ‘Re-Police kill protester in Ogbomoso,’ said, “The attention of the police have been drawn to the trending story/video that has been widely circulated on social media today (Saturday) that police killed a protester in Ogbomoso during the EndSARS protest.
The CP wishes to state that the police allowed the protesters to express their feelings during the protest and they were not hindered in any form until when they started throwing stones into the police premises and attempted to gain entrance into the premises.
“The police in turn used tear gas to prevent them from gaining entrance into the Owode Ogbomoso Area Command/Police Station and to prevent them from gaining entrance and attacking the station. The police did not fire a shot or kill any protester as widely circulated.”
But the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, expressed worry about the attack on the EndSARS protesters in the ancient town.
The minister urged the police not to deny the youth the right of expression and demanded a comprehensive police report on the incident, while calling on the youth to conduct themselves peacefully during their protests.
Also, there were indiscriminate shootings near Osun State Government House, Oke Fia, Osogbo, on Saturday as some people protesting against FSARS brutality
The state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Remi Omowaye, told Sunday said, that Governor Adegboyega Oyetola was in Government House during the incident.
Omowaye claimed that the protesters had fired some shots in front of Government House and the shots were returned by security men attached to the premises.
“Our security men later traced the protesters to the Freedom Park. Governor Oyetola was in the Government House when the shooting took place,” he added.
Some youths also protested at Oluwo’s palace in Iwo but Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi was not around to receive them.
In the Sango area of Ogun State, demonstrators flooded the highway, resulting in a gridlock while the protest was violent in Abeokuta.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the protests in both areas.
He said, “Those protesters in Sango conducted themselves very peacefully, but those who came to Abeokuta behaved as if they wanted to fight a war.”
He debunked the report that some policemen in Sango fled their duty posts during the protest.
At the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja, protesters were violently dispersed on Saturday. The campaigners numbering over 250 had blocked the entrance to Louis Edet House, vowing not to leave until the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, addressed them.
The campaigners, including #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore, #BringBackOurGirls campaigner, Aisha Yesufu and scores of others, had earlier walked across the city for about 8km, chanting solidarity songs and calling for the scrapping of the special tactical unit.
Yesufu said she was assaulted by the police but confirmed she was okay.
“I refused to run. I walked with my fist high up. @PoliceNG were all shooting at me as I walked away. I came out of the fence they cowardly built around themselves and about four of them came at me at the junction throwing bottled water this time (sic),” she said on Twitter
Several videos that emerged on social media show protesters trying to take cover as the police tear-gassed them.
One of the protesters, Chioma Agwuegbo, tweeted, “They’re shooting teargas. #EndSARS. I can’t breathe. They’re still shooting. I’m good. We’re running, but I’m good. #EndSARS #AbujaProtests.”
Agitators storm Owu festival, seek audience with Obasanjo
The protesters, who were calling for the scrapping of FSARS, stormed the venue of the festival which had former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Balogun of Owu Kingdom in attendance.
They stormed the palace of the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosumu, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
The demonstrators, including students, barricaded the entrance to the palace of the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosumu, where the event was taking place, and sought an audience with Obasanjo.
The refusal of security agents to grant them access into the premises reportedly infuriated them as they chanted EndSARS slogan repeatedly.
Policemen and operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps started shooting in the air to disperse the protesters.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Coordinator for the National Association of Nigerian Students, South-West zone, Oladimeji Uthman, disowned students embarking on protests against the alleged police brutality.
IG, others meet over reform report Monday
Over 16 months after receiving the report which recommended the disbandment of FSARS, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has yet to act on the report which made far-reaching recommendations for the reform of the police tactical squad.
Public outrage against FSARS made Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, while acting as the President during Buhari’s 10-working-day visit to the United Kingdom in August 2018, to order the then IG, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to reform the police formation.
Osinbajo, who had directed the renaming of the squad from SARS to FSARS, then directed the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the organisation and make recommendations on how to reform it.
The NHRC inaugurated a seven-man Special Investigative Panel in September 2018.
The panel headed by the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, after completing its work, submitted its 2,084-page report to Buhari on June 3, 2019.
A statement by the Deputy Director of Information at the State House, Attah Esa, said Buhari had directed the Inspector-General of Police, the Ministry of Justice and the NHRC to work out modalities for the implementation of the report.
The statement had said that the panel recommended among others, “the establishment of state and local government police and the renaming of SARS to Anti-Robbery Section, which was its original name, and to make the section operate under the intelligence arm of the police.”
But 16 months after Buhari received the report, no step has been taken to implement it.
As the anti- SARS protests spread to different parts of the country, the NHRC issued “a reminder” for the implementation of the investigative panel’s report.
Regretting the non-implementation of the report, Ojukwu said the “commission has continued to record cases of extra-judicial killings, series of extortion, harassment, and intimidation of innocent citizens by FSARS without much being done to change the status quo, thereby tarnishing the image of the country among the global community.”
The commission stated on Saturday that it had scheduled a virtual meeting aimed at the implementation of the investigative panel’s report.
The spokesperson for the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr Umar Gwandu, did not, on Saturday, respond to our correspondent’s message requesting to know why the minister, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), whose ministry was among those directed to work out the modalities for the implementation of the investigative panel’s report, failed to carry out the presidential directive since June 2019.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has met with Adamu, Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi and Executive Secretary, NHRC, Tony Ojukwu.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement in Abuja said that the meeting was held on Friday, to determine the next steps towards addressing the concerns of Nigerians on the excesses of FSARS.
“The Vice President and IG later briefed President Muhammadu Buhari who gave further directives to the IG on the matter,” he said.
Buhari had on Friday directed the IG to ensure that personnel of the Force remained fully accountable to the people.
Also, a non-governmental organisation, the United Global Resolve for Peace, on Saturday called for the empowerment of the Police Service Commission to enable it carry out the necessary reforms in the police.
Executive Director, UGRFP, Mr Shalom Olaseni, made the call in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, according to NAN.
Buhari, Osinbajo daughters join #EndSARS
As the agitation gathered momentum, daughters of the President and the Vice-President Zahra Buhari-Indimi and Kiki Osinbajo, on Saturday took to social media to support the #EndSARS protest respectively.
Zahra posted a photo of the clenched fists on her Instagram status with the caption: #EndPoliceBrutality.
Kiki also posted the same photo on Instagram with the caption: #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS.
However, many Nigerian youths asked them to convey the message to their fathers directly, saying that would be more effective than a mere social media post.
Cleric seeks reform, Oyetola, Abiodun, Bello caution agitators
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Martins, has called on police authorities of the Nigeria Police Force to listen to the legitimate public outcry against the excesses of SARS.
Martins, in a statement on Saturday by the Director, Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, said the allegations of police brutality on the masses required urgent attention.
He said, “The recent increase in allegations of police brutality, particularly SARS operatives, against Nigerians, mostly youths across the country, is not only a breach of professional conduct but also sheer wickedness. It also showed the lack of respect for the citizens for whose welfare they were set up.”
Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State appealed to the people of the state to exercise restraints in the course of protesting against FSARS, saying the government was responding to their outcry.
Oyetola, in a statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, on Saturday in Osogbo, urged the residents not to take the law into their own hands.
In a statement on Saturday, Governor Dapo Abiodun through his CPS, Kunle Somorin, said, “Whilst we respect the rights of citizens to ventilate their views on any matter of concern and not condon the excesses of SARS, such views should be expressed in manners that do not undermine law and order or security and safety of lives and property.”
The Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, expressed support for peaceful protests and appealed to the youth to shun violence.