Nationwide protests demanding proscription of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad have gathered momentum beyond Nigeria, with #EndSARS trending on Twitter in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Canada. The protest was also the most trended issue on Friday globally, according to a Tweet by @BBCAfrica, as Nigerians continued to demonstrate across the country amid violent clashes.
#EndSARS protest was reignited last week following the shooting of a youth reportedly in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, in broad daylight by some FSARS operatives who drove away his Lexus Jeep. 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. Nigerians 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, Osun, Oyo, Delta, Imo, with Nigerians abroad joining the demonstration. A Nigerian-British actor, John Boyega, on Friday was among the international celebrities who lent their voices to the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.
The Star Wars actor also announced on Twitter that an anti-SARS protest would hold at the Nigeria High Commission in London, the United Kingdom, on Sunday.
Boyega posted an illustration via his handle, @JohnBoyega, showing protesters carrying placards with the inscriptions, “EndSARS, EndPoliceBrutality, and EndSARSProtest.”
“Nigeria High Commission, 9 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BX. Closest station in Charing Cross. Sunday, 11th October; 12:00pm,” the actor tweeted about the upcoming protest.
As of 6pm on Friday, Boyega’s tweet had attracted over 9,500 likes and 7,700 retweets as many Nigerians living in London vowed to join in the protest.
The #EndSARS was also one of the most trended topics on Twitter on Friday with some Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the UK, the United States, South Africa, and Canada, pledging to organise similar protests to amplify support for the calls to disband SARS – a police unit accused of serial human rights abuses.
In its tweet on Friday, @BBCAfrica noted that “The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending at no 1 worldwide today, as protestors continue to demand a notorious police unit in Nigeria disbanded.”
On Friday, many commuters were stranded around the Alausa and Berger areas of Lagos as protesters blocked the Alausa section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The protesters moved from the entrance of the Lagos House of Assembly to block the highway on Friday, marking the end of a 72-hour demonstration during which the participants passed two nights in front of the assembly.
One of the protesters, Elizabeth Ogunseye, said, “We are done with the protest having spent 72 hours. We had a meeting with the House of Assembly this morning (Friday). A lot of members were for scrapping of FSARS and the Speaker closed the session with a prayer that he was in support of it. He, however, said they had to speak to the authorities first.
“We are waiting for a resolution letter on Monday from the Lagos State House of Assembly. If they fail to give us a resolution letter on Monday, by 9am on Tuesday, we will start another round of protest. We slept over there for two nights. There was no harassment because the protest was peaceful.”
The House in a resolution on Friday called for the replacement of FSARS with a new and well-structured security outfit.
The resolution was contained in a statement by Mr Tolani Abati, the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, tagged, ‘Proscribe F-SARS, Secure Protesters – Lagos Assembly issues seven Demands In support of #EndSARSNOW.’
The statement read in part, “Among the seven-point resolution passed after an extensive deliberation was also that the Senate and the House of Representatives should carry out a probe of the allegations against F-SARS including killing, maiming and dehumanising of Nigerians.
“SARS should be proscribed and a new security outfit which will be more efficient with clearly spelt out code of conduct and rule of engagements be established while sanction is imposed for misdemeanor.
“Mr President should ensure that culpable officials of SARS receive the punishment as prescribed by the National Assembly. Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions liaise with the Commissioner of Police and Attorney General of the State to fashion out ways and means to address allegations of ruthlessness and extra judicial killings contained in the petition against SARS in the state.
“The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, should engage relevant institutions to protect lives and property in the state such that phones, laptops and other means of communication belonging to youths are not confiscated indiscriminately without warrant.”
However, the Lagos State Government appealed to protesters to remain peaceful while the authorities addressed the issue.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, in a statement on Friday said the government shared in the pains of victims of police brutality.
The statement partly read, “It is not good. The message of the protests is clear – such acts of brutality must stop. We agree. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is discussing the issue with the police authorities and hopes that the matter will be resolved in the interest of our teeming youths and in the spirit of democracy.”
In his call, the state Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, advised the demonstrators to be civil but noted that their outrage was in order and within their rights as citizens.
He said, “The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones. It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles.”
There was violence in Osun and Abuja on Friday as youths flooded streets in protest. In an attempt to disperse the protesters in Osogbo, policemen shot indiscriminately. It was learnt that the protesters put up resistance and pelted the security operatives with stones as the protest caused gridlock at the Ola-Iya junction in the state capital.
The operatives, who initially took cover beside their Armoured Personnel Carriers stationed at the junction, later shot to disperse the angry youths.
In Abuja, security operatives fired tear gas canisters at demonstrators and shot repeatedly. A viral video shows the protesters running helter-skelter. Some of them were heard shouting “they are shooting at us,” “Don’t kill us with teargas,” “You must #EndSARS.”
An activist and the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said he learnt someone was shot during the police attack on the protesters. But the police while confirming the protest stated that no one was arrested or shot.
The Federal Capital Territory Police spokesperson, ASP Mariam Yusuf, said, “I can confirm there was a protest but my findings showed that no one was shot or injured.”
Meanwhile, the British High Commission on Friday asked the Federal Government to respect the rights of #EndSARS protesters. The Political Counsellor, British High Commission, Abuja, Mr Dominic Williams, said the commission was closely monitoring the developments, adding that he hoped the protests would be positive for police reform in the country.
“We are following developments closely. [We] encourage authorities to respect [the] human rights of protestors and those protesting to remain peaceful. Hope that this moment catalyses progress on police reform,” he tweeted via @DomWUK.
Earlier on Friday, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, also said the #EndSARS protests showed the desire of the citizens for police reform.
“Significant protests over #SARS demonstrating Nigerian people’s desire for police reform. Peaceful protests are powerful. Police Act recently passed by @MBuhari provides [a] good foundation to build [a] more accountable community police force. @UKinNigeria @PoliceNG,” she tweeted via her verified handle @CatrionaLaing1.
EndSARS protesters hold rally in Oyo
Vehicular movement was paralysed for some hours at the entrances of the Oyo State Secretariat as the EndSARS protesters laid siege to the area, seeking a stop to FSARS operations.
The protesters, bearing placards with #EndSARS, insisted on seeing Governor Seyi Makinde to get his assurance on ending SARS operation in the state.
Earlier, the protesters were addressed by the Police Commissioner, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, at the Command headquarters, Eleyele, Ibadan.
Some youths, under the auspices of Coalition for #RevolutionNow and Concerned Nigerian youth on Wednesday protested against SARS operations in Ibadan. They vowed to continue with the protest until SARS was scrapped.
But the Police in Oyo State on Friday warned the #EndSARS protesters against violence and any act that might be inimical to the peace of the residents.
The state CP, while reviewing the activities of the protesting youth, expressed worries that some police personnel were harassed by some of the protesters.
Tension in Delta as police raid Ughelli for corporal’s killers
Residents of Ughelli in Delta State were in fears on Friday as security agents stormed the streets in the metropolis in search of protesters who allegedly murdered a police corporal, Etaga Stanley, during Thursday’s #EndSARS protest in the city.
It was learnt that armed operatives took over major junctions of the community, arresting persons suspected to have participated in the protest which left another policeman and a civilian injured.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had earlier ordered the Commissioner of Police for Delta State Command, Hafiz Inuwa, to fish out the alleged killers of the police corporal.
“The IGP has directed the Commissioner of Police, Delta State to carry out a discrete investigation into the unfortunate incident, root-out the perpetrators and bring the killer protesters to book”, a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba had said.
The statement added, “The protesters also carted away one service AK-47 rifle with breach no 56-2609008 and 25 rounds of live ammunition that was with the deceased at the time of the incident.”
Social media influencers using protests for popularity–Police
Similarly, Mba, while speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Friday, said many youths were using the #EndSARS protest to grow their fan base on social media.
He said, “I have seen some of those who are pushing for end SARS who are just pseudo-activists, people who are desperate for public validation, people who are looking to be seen as social media influencers and I will tell you these are the people that post false items, fake news.”
Mba said the media must be fair in its reportage regarding police brutality, adding that there were videos of protesters killing and slapping policemen which were not trending.
Thousands of youths have embarked on protests in several states calling for an end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings.
IGP briefs Buhari
Meanwhile, Adamu has briefed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the ongoing #EndSARS protest in the country. An aide to the President, Bashir Ahmad, disclosed this in a tweet on Friday. Ahmad assured Nigerians that the president would “take an action in the best interest of Nigerians.”
“Good people of Nigeria have every right to protest the #PoliceBrutality or anything they see is not going on well. The President was briefed yesterday (Thursday) by the IG of Police. I am very sure action will be taken and in the best interest of Nigerians. #EndSARSProtests,” he tweeted.
Buhari on Friday directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians participating in the ongoing #EndSARS protest across the country.
Buhari gave the directive at a meeting with Adamu in his official residence at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday evening. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo also attended the meeting. The President disclosed this in a message he posted on his Twitter handle, @MBuhari.
The President wrote, “I met again with the IGP tonight. Our determination to reform the police should never be in doubt. I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the police are fully accountable to the people.
“The IGP already has my firm instructions to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians regarding these excesses and ensure erring personnel are brought to justice.
“I appeal for patience and calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known. The vast majority of men and women of the Nigeria Police Force are patriotic and committed to protecting the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians, and we will continue to support them to do their job.”
I stand with you, Atiku tells protesters
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has declared support for Nigerian youths currently engaged in street protests across the country against SARS brutality.
Atiku, in a series of tweets on his verified twitter handle @atiku, on Friday, expressed his solidarity with the demonstrators.
He wrote, “I woke up to the peaceful #EndSARSProtest going on in Lagos and other cities in the country. First, I would like to commend the tenacity of our brave youths who have stayed out on the streets all day and night to make their voices heard. I stand with you all.
Super Eagles stars join #EndSARS protest
Also, some Super Eagles players, including Leon Balogun, Shehu Abdulahi, and John Ogu, have joined the protest against extortion and brutality by F-SARS.
“The reasons for the #EndSARSProtests have just come to my attention via very disturbing images and tweets. It is never good when those charged with protecting the citizens are now terrorising, extorting, or even killing the same citizens. I support #EndSarsProtests #EndSars,” Balogun tweeted.
Ogu, who has been without a club since the COVID-19 pandemic, also wrote, “I pray our first checkpoint will never be our last bus-stop. Enough is enough.”
“The voice of the people must be heard, @NigeriaGov must #EndSARS and protect the lives of our Youth from #PoliceBrutality. My brother @BashirAhmaad, kindly pass our message to the President @MBuhari,” Abdulahi added.
Plateau United striker, Sunday Adetunji said footballers should not be treated as criminals because of hairstyles.
The teammate of a Nigerian player, Zaidu Sanusi, at FC Porto, Malang Sarr, twitted in solidarity with Nigerians on the #EndSARS campaign.
He wrote, “I feel so touched by what is going on in Nigeria now. You have my full support! We all need to come together and make sure this ends now. Peace first before anything! #EndSARS #EndSARSImmediately #EndSarsNow #EndSarsProtests.”
Also, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, added, “If we stigmatise our youth as criminals, paint them all with one brush as ‘yahoo boys ‘within our borders, harass, attack and arrest them indiscriminately even before they get the chance to defend themselves – aren’t we as a country destroying their reputation and chances to succeed?”
Mothers join protest
Some Nigerian mothers have also joined in the anti-SARS protest in an unknown location in the South-West.
The video which went viral on Friday showed elderly women bearing placards calling for the government to stop the violence by police against the youth.
In the video, the women who came out in their numbers were chanting in Yoruba saying, “Our Children are our future; the police should stop killing our children. The government should have mercy on us and stop the police from killing our children.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, condemned the reported killing of a policeman in Ughelli, Delta State.
Etaga Stanley, a police corporal who is believed to be an indigene of Ughelli South and Omo-Agege’s constituent, reportedly lost his life on Thursday during the #EndSARS protest in the town.
Omo-Agege in a statement by his media office described the incident as serious and unfortunate, calling on the police to exercise restraint and follow due process in fishing out the alleged killers. ,,
He added, “I humbly call on our highly regarded traditional rulers to continue to urge our people to maintain the peace that we are known for in their various kingdoms and domains. Our royal fathers are a great force for peace at moments like this and we trust that they would help to ensure that those who wish to tear our communities apart do not succeed.”