…as Nigeria boils
By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
It was indeed a ‘Black Day’ Tuesday, October 20th, a day that has gone down in history as “the contrived tragic midlife of Buhari’s jackboots mentality’, as Professor Adeola Bamitale, a sociologist put it in his chat with Business Hallmark, when asked to comment on how posterity will see the event of October 20th, 2020.
The day before the Black Tuesday, Babajide Sanwoolu, Lagos State governor, in a bid to break the spirit of the protests, announced an unusual curfew regimen, meant to start at the unlikely hour of 4 pm in the afternoon, when many Lagosians were still abroad. He subsequently shifted it to 9pm in the night to allow people enough time to get to their homes.
The night of that day, some unknown soldiers reminiscent of the attack on Fela’s ‘Kalakuta Republic’ , under the cover of darkness; opened fire on unarmed protesters at Lekki killing yet to be unknown numbers.
This dark response to the protests sent shock waves across the globe, eliciting an orgy of violent responses, lootings and riotous moments in Lagos and other Nigerian cities.
The Protests Betrayed
When news of the shootings of Protesters at Lekki Toll gate came to public knowledge, street urchins, area boys and all manner of outlaws took advantage of the general feelings of angst and sorrow over the ‘night of long knives ‘ unleashed by soldiers of the previous night to commit mayhem.
The scale of violence and anarchic lootings and vandalism of public and private Properties that followed was horrendous and unseen in a long time.
It was as if ‘ mere anarchy was loosed upon the world ‘.
In response, security forces opened fire on hundreds of protesters in Lagos and elsewhere who were venting their anger over Lekki killings.
Graphic scenes posted on social media showed protesters fleeing as security forces, including soldiers, shot live rounds towards the crowds.
At least seven people were killed according to DJ Switch, a popular disc jockey, who broadcast live from the scene on Instagram. Protesters were seen struggling to remove shrapnel from injured protesters and in one case failing to resuscitate a casualty.
In other videos protesters carrying blood soaked Nigerian flags are seen pleading with security officials to allow medics to treat victims.
“They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd,” Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer told Reuters. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons.”
Lagos state government said it would open an investigation into the shooting, which witnesses said took place around 7pm.
Thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks against the federal SARS unit, now dissolved but long accused of extra-judicial killings, torture and extortion.
The demonstrations’ had “degenerated into a monster threatening the well being of our society”, said Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos, in a statement on Tuesday after a police station was set on fire in the Iganmu area of Lagos on Tuesday morning. The national police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces following increased attacks on police facilities, a police spokesman said.
Quickly, the violence became uncontrollable. Groups of armed people, often impoverished young men, are widely suspected of being paid by powerful interests in Nigeria, and most times, fired by criminality to loot stores.
Rights groups and protesters have accused “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” of attacking the peaceful demonstrations and seeking to discredit the movement.
Several protesters during the week targeted Lagos airport, blocking off entrances to its international and domestic terminals, causing flight delays.
The dimension of violence kept changing. Footage posted online showed dozens of young men with machetes, knives and sticks arriving at the scene of a protest sit-in outside the Lagos state government secretariat last Thursday, then attacking fleeing protesters.
In Benin City, nearly 2,000 inmates broke out of two prisons after crowds attacked. Footage on social media revealed several prisoners fleeing and climbing out from above the prison walls, joining groups of men in the city vandalising property.
In response, Edo’s governor, Godwin Obaseki, ordered a 24-hour curfew, blaming vandalism “by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters”.
In Obalende, a busy market area in Lagos, people put up road blocks with used tyres and rocks and extorted cash from drivers, as protests took place nearby, mirroring similar reports of unrest across the city.
In Plateau State, following the looting of the warehouse containing relief materials, the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, declared a 24-hour curfew in the state.
Mr Lalong had earlier declared a 24-hour curfew in Jos South and Jos North Local Government Areas on Wednesday in response to the violence that broke out when hoodlums hijacked the #ENDSARS protests.
Lives and properties have been lost to these acts of violence, the governor said.
Last Wednesday, hoodlums gained entrance into the warehouse housing COVID-19 relief packages in the Bukuru community of Jos South Local Government Area of the state breaking into the premises around 10:00 am.
The hoodlums asked the residents to pick whatever they could see in the warehouse and return home.
The lootings of COVID-19 relief materials was replicated in Lagos, Ondo, Kwara, Cross Rivers, Edo, Delta, Osun, Ekiti, Enugu, AkwaIbom and others.
Videos and photos obtained by this seen by Business Hallmark showed a multitude of people jostling for the food items, besieging the premises where those items were kept in those states.
The discovery of these items further angered the people who have been suffering from hunger.
In Lagos, rumours began to spread fast that the former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the brain behind the lights that went off at the Lekki Toll gate headquarters of the protests in conjunction with Sanwo-Olu, acting on the orders from powerful interest in Abuja.
An army of thugs who had been waiting in the wings for the situation to go awry went amok looting and burning public and private Properties.
First, the ShopRite in Lekki and other malls around that axis were looted by irate mob.
The TVC television station belonging to Tinubu was partially torched, uptill the time of going to press, the station was yet to come up on air.
The Nation Newspaper, part of media chain belonging to Tinubu was burnt, while Sanwoolu’s family house at Akerele, Surulere was set on fire, so was his Uncle, named Bayo, home’s in Lagos Island.
Not done, the palace of Oba of Lagos, Rilwa nAkiolu, a former Assistant Inspector General of Police, and Tinubu’s ally was razed down, while his staff of office was taken away by the rampaging mob.
Stores and private Properties and businesses along Eric Moore, Bode Thomas and other parts of Lagos were looted.
Baiting for more blood about 27 police stations in Lagos were torched while about six police officers lost their lives.
In Oyo State, two SARS officers were mobbed and killed, while the house of Senator Folarin was looted whose worth was about two hundred millions.
The rampaging mob was further enraged when they discovered a large warehouse in MazaMaza, close to Mile 2,where COVID-19 palliatives were being kept.
They stormed the place and helped themselves to it.
In Onitsha, Anambra State, according to report, the statue of Nigeria’s first president, NnamdiAzikiwe, erected in the city lately was taken down.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the statue, located at Denis Memorial Grammar School roundabout in Onitsha, was erected months ago by Governor Willie Obiano to further beautify the city.
While vandalising the statue, the hoodlums, armed with dangerous weapons including machetes, were heard venting their anger against the late Nigerian statesman.
One of Azikiwe’s kinsmen, Victor Ononye, described the incident as “heresy and sacrilegious’’.
Though believed to be in exile, Tinubu suddenly appeared in Lagos.
Mr.Tinubu said he had visited Mr.Sanwo-Olu to work through the puzzling controversy over the shooting.
“Did he order the attack? Or if he didn’t order the attack? Who ordered the attack? Was it to his knowledge that people were attacked? That is what I needed from him,” said Mr. Tinubu, revealing the questions he said he had gone to ask the governor.
In the wake of the shooting, Mr. Sanwo-Olu had said “forces beyond” ordered the shooting.
Up till now the Nigerian military has not taken responsibility for the Lekki shooting but according to information, the incident has unsettled the army command chain
Meanwhile, the IGP has directed that vandals be stopped in their track.
This directive was revealed by the Force Public relations Officer, Frank Mba.
According to Mr.Mba, the directive by the IGP is to reclaim the public space from hoodlums who have operated almost freely in many states.
Vandals have attacked public and private property, especially those belonging to politicians, since Tuesday when soldiers shot at unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
In many states, warehouses holding food aid meant for residents during the COVID-19 lockdown have been broken into and looted.
Meanwhile, Lagos State said about 226 people will be arraigned for destroying private and public properties during the disturbances.