Activists, yesterday, moved to make good their threat to resume the EndSARS protest, triggering fresh concerns.
This came six weeks after a violent turn of events as the #EndSARS protests cascaded into an orgy of violence and destruction across the country.
Worried that there could be a repeat of the mayhem, President Muhammadu Buhari warned, yesterday, that while citizens were at liberty to freely express themselves in a democracy, such latitude did not include acts of hooliganism. He stated that anyone that would hide behind lawful and peaceful protests to commit crime would be dealt with decisively to ensure peace and stability in the country.
President’s warning came as police in Lagos, Cross River, and Ogun states took steps to prevent the protest, also for fear that hoodlums might hijack it.
Recall that in October, protests against police brutality and excesses of now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (tagged #EndSARS), were staged across major cities in the country. Following the alleged shooting by soldiers at the Lekki venue of the protest, some enraged citizens went berserk, leading to massive destruction of lives and property.
President Buhari warned against the second wave of the protest while declaring open the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference 2020.
Stating his government’s commitment to the rights of citizens to peaceful protests in accordance with the laws of the land, the President lamented that hooligans hijacked the October #ENDSARS protests and caused wanton damage across the country.
Buhari, who spoke through a virtual arrangement, commended the Nigerian Armed Forces for their efforts at swiftly restoring law and order in various states during what he described as “the large-scale criminality” that ensued in the wake of the #ENDSARS protests.
BUT despite threats, protesters hit the streets of Osogbo, the Osun State capital, demanding the release of all detained protesters and the unfreezing of their accounts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The protesters gathered in the Ogo-Oluwa area of the town and marched to the Osun State House of Assembly.
The placards read: “We are not fighting for any political party,” “#End bad judiciary in Nigeria,” “#End fake judicial panel of inquiry in Osun,” “Unfreeze all the frozen accounts,” ”We are Nigerian youths,” among others.
In Lagos yesterday, soldiers were stationed at the Lekki tollgate, Opebi, Alausa, and Ikeja areas to forestall the planned protests.
Scores of police officers and soldiers were seen patrolling the Ikeja, Opebi, Ojota, and Lekki tollgate areas, the epicentres of the October protests, in a show of force to forestall mass gathering.
It was gathered that security agents were deployed in the respective locations at midnight based on intelligence the police received. On Sunday, the Lagos State Police Command had said it would resist any planned protest, procession or gathering in the state.
In a statement on Sunday, the Police Public Relations Officer, SP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, had said the command would not allow any demonstration under any guise.
The Lagos Police Command, in a fresh statement yesterday, said, contrary to viral videos on social media, no #EndSARS protest was staged at the Lekki toll plaza on Monday. The Guardian correspondent who also monitored activities at the Lekki toll plaza at the time of filing this report also did not witness any protest or gathering as police officers manned the toll gate.
The police spokesperson said the police would deal decisively with persons with the intention of staging any fresh protest that could lead to the breakdown of law and order in the state.
The statement read: “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command has been drawn to a viral video of a protest at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos State, purported to have been staged on 7th December 2020. The Command wishes to debunk the fake video that has been circulated to create tension and destabilise the security network in the state. The video was one of the viral videos released during the recent violent #EndSARS protest before the Lekki Tollgate plaza was set ablaze by the violent protesters on October 21, 2020.
“The command, therefore, urges the general public to regard the video as baseless and mischievous. The Command also wishes to appeal to the general public to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses as the police are prepared to deal decisively, within the ambit of the law, with any act of lawlessness that could lead to the breakdown of law and order in the state.”
One of the viral videos showed a group of angry protesters at the Ladipo Police Station in Matori Road, Papa Ajao, Lagos with the youths demanding an end to bad governance and SARS.
MEANWHILE, the police have again arraigned an #EndSARS protester, Eromosele Peter, for alleged felony and breach of peace.
Peter, who was arrested at his house on November 7, was arraigned before a Yaba Magistrate’s court.
On November 17, the Magistrate Court in Yaba had granted him bail in the sum of N1 million and two sureties who must be family members. The court also rejected a request by the police to detain Eromosele for another 30 days to enable them to conclude investigations.
Eromosele is accused of providing financial aid to those who participated in the #EndSARS protest. During another arraignment, the three-count charge against him reads, “That you Eromosele Peter and others now at large on November 7, 2020, at about 0900hrs at Allen Junction, Ikeja, in the Lagos Magisterial District did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit provoking breach of peace and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
“That you Eromosele Peter and others now at large on November 7, 2020, at about 0900hrs at Allen Junction Ikeja in the Lagos Magisterial District did, Provoke Breach of Peace by offensive publication.
“That you Eromosele Peter and others now at large on November 7, 2020, at about 0900hrs at Allen Junction Ikeja in the Lagos Magisterial District did, conduct yourself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the Peace and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 168 (I) (d) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.”
The case has been adjourned till January 11, after the police asked for 30 days to finish their investigations.
In Cross River State, the state Police Command issued a statement to announce it was aware of the plan for another #Endsars protest in Calabar and warned that participants would be dealt with according to the law.
The statement signed by the Command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Irene Ugbo, noted that it received intelligence that some individuals under the guise of EndSARS had planned to embark on a protest on Monday (today) to cause another mayhem in the state.
The statement warned: “We wish to draw the attention of the general public against any gathering, procession or protest in Cross River as some unscrupulous individuals or group of persons are planning to embark on another similar destructive and fierce END SARS protest that left wanton destructions in the state.”
It added that the Command had actionable intelligence that certain individuals or groups had concluded plans to entice and lure citizens, especially youths, into their planned protest, which is proposed to commence on Monday in the State.
“Consequently, the Command wishes to reiterate that the memories of the government of Cross River State, private entrepreneurs and security families still lament losses recorded during recent ENDSARS protests which were highly condemned,” he added.
The Command warned parents and guardians to discourage their children and wards from being used for any act, gathering, or protest capable of causing mayhem in the state.
MEANWHILE, the police and other security operatives in Ogun State, yesterday, deployed officers to prevent the protest in the state.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the Command would not tolerate any form of protest as the country was just coming out of the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest.
He said residents had been warned to caution their children because misguided elements were planning to foment trouble in the guise of protest.
“You cannot build something on nothing. You cannot stage a protest against an outfit that is no longer in existence. SARS has been disbanded and there is no reason for anybody to be canvassing for a protest against an outfit that is no longer in existence,” Oyeyemi said