No one had envisaged that the #EndSARS protest by Nigerian youths against police brutality which started peacefully about three weeks ago would turn out a nightmare for the entire country with the level of destruction that ended it after it had been hijacked by hoodlums.
At the initial stage, some state governors not only received the protesters and addressed them but even joined in the protest march to the police headquarters. But miscreants and hoodlums soon took advantage of the protest to molest and extort residents. The turning point was the shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Tuesday 20th October 2020 by soldiers where a number of protesters merely armed themselves with the national flags and singing the Nigerian national anthem.
This resulted in national and international outrage. Angry residents went on the streets to vent their anger by attacking both public and private assets.
The police withdrew from the streets to avoid bloody confrontation with the protesters while the hoodlums armed with cutlasses, axes and other dangerous weapons took over and had a field day breaking into shops, looting and burning.
READ ALSO#EndSARS: Fears, anxiety grip Edo residents
The discovery of a government warehouse in Lagos where COVID-19 palliatives meant to be distributed to the people were kept and which were looted by the residents appeared to have opened the eyes of the residents of other states of the federation who went in search of such warehouses and looted them. The looting and destruction reached a ridiculous level that even signboards of public institutions were uprooted and agricultural tractors carried away. It was a reign of lawlessness and by the time sanity returned, many lives had been lost, several police stations and other public buildings burnt and hundreds of vehicles set ablaze.
The victims have been counting their losses. They have been thrown into a state of hopelessness.
Their businesses have been ruined. They are completely at a loss as to how and where they would begin to put the broken pieces of their lives together again.
The major casualty in the whole crisis is the Nigeria Police Force. In spite of the directive by the Inspector-General of Police to policemen nation wide to return to the streets and maintain law and order, this has not been complied with. Most of the policemen kept away from the public claiming that they could no longer walk freely again as their lives and those of their families were being threatened by hoodlums who pretended to be #EndSARS protesters.
Few of the policemen who summoned the courage to come out would rather hide their uniforms in their bags until they got to their stations for fear of mob attack.
In his account of the magnitude of the damage done to the police, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu said 23 policemen were killed during the crisis and several police stations burnt.
He described as untrue report by Amnesty International that policemen shot at peaceful protesters while the #EndSARS protest lasted. Rather, the Police Chief affirmed that policemen acted professionally, by exercising what he described as commendable restraints, with some of them paying the supreme price for peace.
The IGP, in a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba, noted that “during the protests, officers of the Force used legitimate means to ensure that the protests were carried out in a peaceful manner and in most cases, physically protected and walked side-by-side with the protesters.
Even when the protests turned violent in some parts of the country, the officers still maintained utmost restraint and did not use excessive force in managing the situations.
“Available reports show that twenty-two (22) police personnel were extra-judicially killed by some rampaging protesters and scores injured during the protests. Many of the injured personnel are in life threatening conditions at the hospitals.
“Two hundred and five (205) Police stations and formations including other critical private and public infrastructure were also damaged by a section of the protesters. Despite these unprovoked attacks, our police officers never resorted to use of unlawful force or shooting at the protesters”.
Counting its own losses, the Anambra State Police Command said four police officers were killed, eleven police stations and over twenty vehicles including patrol and exhibit vehicles and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) set ablaze.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang, who spoke while parading suspected hoodlums that alleged participated in the mayhem in the state at the command’s headquarters in Awka, also said the hoodlums vandalized six other police stations and carted away some rifles and motorcycles kept as exhibits during the attacks.
The police officers who lost their lives during the attacks include the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Osumenyi Division, CSP Akpan Joseph, ASP Agu Michael, the station office, PC Udegbunam Sunday Celestine and Inspector John Oche, who was beheaded.
Two other officers seriously injured were receiving treatment in the hospital. Abang said that in the course of the decisive action by the Police, 17 suspected hoodlums were arrested in connection with the incidents with several exhibits, including one pump action, one axe, three cutlasses, one smoke grenade and one (1) AK47 rifle stolen from Ogbunike Division.
He said “it is a thing of regret that officers of the Command could no longer walk freely in the state as their lives and those of their families were being threatened by the suspected hoodlums operating under the guise of #EndSARS protests”.
Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa has described the level of destruction to Government and private property during the EndSARS protest in the state as a war against common wealth of the state. Fintiri who spoke shortly after an assessment visit to areas affected by the protest in Yola stated that the government was still compiling and itemising the losses during the three days vandalization and looting spree. The governor said that he was not happy with the level of the devastation and that the whole attitude was condemnable.
“I can’t imagine that the human beings can carry out such destruction because the magnitude of the devastation was beyond hunger or looking for food. The situation has gone to the extent that people began damaging all that they could see around them.
The situation was total anarchy. From what I saw the devastation had seriously affected many key sectors that include Health, Agriculture and Education”, Fintiri said while confirming that about 70 per cent of non food items as well as 60 tractors looted by the hoodlums had so far been recovered.
In Cross state over 54 government establishments, parastatals as well as private offices and homes of both current and past National Assembly members in Cross River were vandalized, looted and set ablaze with property worth billions of naira destroyed.
What merely began as looting of warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives were stocked turned into wanton destruction and burning of businesses, government buildings and some private homes including that of former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, Senator Gershom Bassey, Senator Ewa Henshaw and the office of a House of Representatives member, Hon Eta Mbora which were all looted.
Some of the affected persons who spoke with Saturday Vanguard including a Staff of the NTA Calabar, Mrs Umo Basi-Edet, who is also the State Chairperson of the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Cross River Chapter described the incident as her worst nightmare.
Her words: “Saturday, 24th October 2020, will remain unforgettable on my mind because on that day we witnessed the worst attack one could ever imagine. Hoodlums under the guise of the #ENDSARS protest took over the entire NTA Calabar station, looted everything and vandalised those things they could not cart away. As I speak, the studio is completely empty, no cameras, studio lights including all the props that were newly put in place.
The control room, editing suites, vehicles, everything is gone. No office furniture was spared including all the chairs.
I got to my office, it looked like a ghost place and I was close to tears. Right now we don’t know where to start from as we cannot transmit anymore.
That means no work to do. The level of destruction is better imagined as official documents were even soaked in water. It’s a clear case of wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man.
The property lost to that broad daylight robbery is massive and it saddens my heart”, she lamented .
Senator Ndoma Egba, whose house was vandalised, explained in a statement he issued that “at about 2 pm the intruders broke into my house and looted it to the ground leaving only the bare floor. All the toilets, baths, pumps and indeed every imaginable fitting were removed as were items of furniture, clothing, a huge collection of mainly rare, out of print books, documents and historic photographs.
“They also removed all the windows, railings, family pictures and burglary proofs. Even my private chapel was not spared.
They set the cars ablaze and parts of the building after more than four hours of interrupted operations in my house. It was methodical.
Among the intruders were obviously electricians, plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics, panel beaters and other tradesmen. Mercifully, no life was lost. The destruction of my house was clearly premeditated, wanton and unjustifiable but I understand the anger in the land especially amongst our youths.
However, if looting and burning my home will better their lives and bring positive change to our land then it is a sacrifice my family and I gladly make.
In Osun state, the hoodlums unleashed mayhem on public and private facilities while their targets mostly were present and former political office holders.
The hoodlums took advantage of the lack of security personnel on the road to wield dangerous weapons such as guns, cutlasses, axes and clubs among others. After exhausting the palliatives stored in two government warehouses in the state, they descended on private firms such as Tuns Holdings International, where one of its staff, Abdulrasheed Olawale was killed and raw materials, as well as baked products worth over N100 million were looted and operational equipment vandalised.
At the house of the lawmaker representing Ifelodun/Boripe/Odo-Otin Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Afolabi Rasheed, 17 motorcycles and 27 Generating sets meant for empowerment, as well as his personal belongings and that of his wife, including clothing and furniture were carted away. Other victims whose houses were looted and vandalised include, Senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf and the Chairman Irepodun local government, Mr Anthony Oladeji. Also, secretariat of Irepodun local government and that of Olorunda, Iwo, Ede-North and South, as well as the office and drug store of the State Health Insurance Scheme, where drugs and equipment worth N70.7million were kept were also looted.
Public and private property were not spared in Taraba state. The looting started last Saturday in Jalingo, the state capital where a warehouse containing food items donated to the state government as COVID-19 palliatives was invaded. In a matter of hours, the warehouse was emptied as both young and old trooped in to get their share.
The looting continued on Sunday as an office complex housing the Taraba State Radio Corporation was also invaded.
Other adjoining offices within the compound were not spared as the residents trooped in to pick items of choice. Windows, doors and office furniture among others were vandalised and taken away.
Though security personnel tried to disperse the crowd, but all their effort was futile as the crowd kept growing in numbers. The state NYSC camp was also not spared as mattresses among other items were carted away.
The losses in Ondo state include eight police stations, secretariats of the two major political parties, the All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, the campaign office of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, High court in Okitipupa, school shuttle buses, the prison in Okitipupa, the INEC fence and the private residence of a governorship aspirant under the APC in the state, Engineer Ife Oyedele which were all burnt. Speaking on the losses by the state police command, the police commissioner, Bolaji Salami said, “the carnage suffered by the Police Command cannot be estimated immediately.
For those who looted our property, burnt our homes, killed our colleagues, denied us the right to decent living, I am glad to say the law is not sleeping and will definitely take its course on you”.
In Ilorin, Kwara state capital, the residents stormed the warehouse in the CargoTerminal along Ilorin International Airport road, and looted all the Covid-19 palliatives such as bags of rice, semovita, packs of indomie among others. Having successfully looted the warehouse without any resistance from the security personnel, the hungry residents moved to Kwara Agro mall in Zango area where other palliatives and items meant for flood victims were kept and looted every item including roofing sheets planks and other food items.
Some perceived comfortable people were said to have participated in the looting as the looters came with Jeep, Sienna bus and other exotic cars to pack away the loot.
From Zango, the hoodlums started breaking into people’s shops to loot. Shoprite was the first casualty as the hungry residents and hoodlums moved into the premises and looted the multi million naira mall stocked with daily needs and other household items. Also,all the cars parked in the premises and the shops beautiful architectural structures were torched.
Some other hoodlums surfaced at Taiwo and looted the Multimillion naira FEMTECH Phone shop and other adjoining shops on the commercial road. Governor AbdulRazaq who visited the affected areas on Saturday announced a N500m support for the victims and urged them to register on the state website noting that modalities had been put in place to ensure that only people with genuine cases would benefit.
In Ogun state, the official vehicle of the State Deputy Governor, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele was vandalised where it was parked at the palace of the Olowu of Owu kingdom, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, where she went to represent the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun at an event.
Three police stations and a Police Post at Imoru, in Odogbolu local government area of the State were vandalised, while the Divisional Police headquarters in Atan Ota, Ado Odo/Ota local government area was set ablaze. Obada-Oko Police station was also vandalized seized items like motorcycles were stolen. The TRACE office in Atan Ota was equally vandalised by hoodlums.
The exact worth of property damaged by the hoodlums in Ekiti state has not been ascertained but report from relevant authorities revealed that it would take the state hundreds of millions of Naira to get things back in shape.
For instance, all the relief materials stored at the warehouse of the State Emergency Management Agency SEMA which were meant for victims of natural disasters were looted and the property vandalized.
The suspected hoodlums broke into the warehouse, located at Adehun area of Ado Ekiti, with dangerous objects and within a twinkle of an eye the whole warehouse became empty.
Similar incident occurred at the Silos where chemicals for the preservation of grains and other insecticides were looted while some local government secretariats were also burgled.
Three different lorries loaded with goods were looted and set on fire by another set of youths at Mojere market and Similoluwa areas of Ado Ekiti while three different police posts were burnt down.
About ten buses and a car used for distribution of goods and services by marketers at the popular Awedele market, Ado-Ekiti were totally vandalized by some hoodlums while some of the goods that were yet to be offloaded were carted away. The Sales and Facility Manager, Oodua Investment, Mr Olu Ogunride said that the hoodlums attempted to break into the warehouses in the area but their efforts proved abortive and angrily vandalized the vehicles parked at the premises.
In his reaction, Ekiti State Deputy Governor Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi, expressed shock at the level of damage done and sympathised with the victims of the looting.
In Ebonyi state, apart from the destructions that took place in the rural areas, others that were adversely affected by the protests were the Nigerian Police, business men and women, the State Government, the students, banks, owners of schools as well as state and federal institutions.
According to statistical analysis, the police lost four of their officers, two were injured while seven police stations were set ablaze.
The affected police stations include: B”Divisions Kpirikpiri, C” Division Ekumenyi, Central Police Station (CPS) (A” Division), Ohaozara Division, Okposi Police Station, the newly built Okposi Divisional Police Headquarters, yet to be commissioned and Ezza North Divisional Headquarters.
Apart from human casualties, police patrol vehicles and exhibits belonging to suspects including motorcycles, Plasma TV, cars, among others were carted away by hoodlums.