#EndSARS protests continue as government meets demands, NASS urges end to demonstrations

*Demands have been met, protesters are urged to give government time to work on other demands ─Senate President (Dr.) Ahmad Lawan

*Policy matters cannot be met overnight… protesters can continue with the protests, if their demands are not met in two weeks, says Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of House of Representatives

*It’s people revolting against bad governance, but using symbolism of Police brutality… it goes deeper ─Idayat Hassan, Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

With at least 13 people reportedly killed since the nationwide protests erupted Monday, October 5, 2020, in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, protesters against Police brutality and intimidation have continued to express their grievances across the major cities, and at public institutions in the oil-rich country.

ConsumerConnect reports the protesters’ demands are fast evolving more than ending Police excesses to calls for good governance and outright respect for human rights in the economy.

Mr. Mohammed Adamu, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), had dissolved the infamous Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police, following sustained protests across the country, to establish a new tactical unit christened, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).

However, the protesters would have none of that as reports indicated that they have rejected SWAT, whereas contending that there is no difference between the banned SARS and SWAT.

Mr. Mohammed Adamu, Inspector-General of Police (inset) at a recent media briefing in Lagos

In the past week, the protesters held vigils in major cities overnight, as regional strains emerged, with youth protesters in several Northern Nigeria demanding urgent steps to end insecurity and insurgency that have plagued the region of the country in the past decade.

Likewise, hundreds of thousands of protesters in Lagos, Centre of Excellence and commercial nerve centre as well as in Abuja, FCT, held candlelight processions to honour those killed since protests commenced October 5, and for others who had died at the hands of Nigeria Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), over the years.

No organ of our Union orders shutting down of fuel stations or oil installations

The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), in a statement Comrade Williams Eniredonana Akporeha, National President, and Comrade Olawale Afolabi, Secretary-General of NUPENG, jointly endorsed and issued Saturday, October 17 disclosed that it supports the protesters’ demands for Police reform.

The country major oil union also sympathised with all victims of Police brutality, including their members, who are also “victims of police brutality and abuses through extortion, illegal detention, harassment and intimidation nationwide.”

NUPENG, however, clarified that “no organ of our Union has ordered shutting down of fuel stations or oil installations” in Nigeria.

As regards Police reform, which is a major demand by the protesters, Nigeria’s Vice-President (Prof.) Yemi Osinbajo in a series of tweets via his verified Twitter account Friday, October 16, expressly apologised to protesters in a series of tweets.

Osinbajo, restated the Nigerian Government’s pledge to act expeditiously and reform the police.

President Buhari (centre), Senate President Lawan (left) and Rt.Hon. Gbajabiamila deliberate on the way forward at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, FCT  Photo: Channels TV

The Vice-President said: “We understand that you want to see action from us, and I’m here to tell you that work is ongoing.

“I chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT (NEC), where we resolved to set up judicial panels of inquiry so we can see justice served, and fast.”

However, Idayat Hassan, Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, in Abuja, was quoted to have said that “it’s people revolting against bad governance, but using the symbolism of police brutality. It goes deeper.”

Military plans to wage ‘cyber warfare’ to counter ‘negative propaganda’

But in its latest response to the swathes of protests across the Federation, the Nigerian Army has announced it will begin a military exercise October 20, that will include “cyber warfare exercises designed to identify, track and counter negative propaganda” on social media.

Col. Sagir Musa, Acting Director of Army Public Relations, who revealed this in an e-mailed statement Saturday, October 17, said that the military authorities would commence operation ‘Crocodile Smile VI’ from October 20 to December 31.

However, the protesters have vowed not to be intimidated by the threat of Nigerian Government to use soldiers to quell the #EndSARS protests rocking major cities across the country.

#EndSARS protesters at the Central Bank of Nigeria Headquarters, Abuja

It was learnt the protesters, who started camping in the Central Business District (CBD) in Abuja, meant business in this regard.

They had procured essential items, such as foodstuffs, mobile toilets, noodles, beverages, toothpaste, tissue papers, and toiletries among others for the camping.

Earlier, the military authorities had expressed support for President Muhammadu Buhari when they announced that the military was prepared to quell the continued protests across the country.

Nonetheless, the statement was construed to have signalled a potential escalation in the standoff between protesters and governmental authorities in Nigeria.

It also marks a change of stance from an earlier government directive that prohibited the use of force against marchers after Buhari disbanded the infamous Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police, a Bloomberg report said.

Freedom Onuoha, a Political Science lecturer at the University of Nigeria (UNN) Nsukka, said: “If they deploy the military that lacks appropriate training to deliver accountable protection, the tendency that they’re going to use excessive force is very high.

“We’re likely going to see human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and that could fuel a fundamental shift in the character and contour, and we’re likely going to have violence on a scale that we may not imagine.”

The don contended that unlike the previous protests that had been suppressed by security forces in the country, the nature of the current protests, without any clear leadership structure and being run via social media, makes it difficult for the government to manage.

Twitter, Google support protests against oppression, brutality & intimidation

Jack Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Twitter, one of the global tech giants, in reaction to the hashtag #EndSARS that has trended on the social media recently, also highlighted the protests in a tweet Wednesday.

Google LLC as well added its voice with a tweet Thursday, October 15, 2020, condemning Police oppression in the country.

Google in Africa stated: “We strongly oppose oppression, brutality & intimidation. We believe a fair and impartial police force is a critical element of a stable society, & that abuse of power infringes on people’s democratic & human rights.

“We urge a speedy resolution to the current situation.”

It is recalled that the protests erupted after a video clip was shared on the social media which allegedly showed the killing of a civilian by the anti-robbery squad.

Consequently, report says several young people have complained about being unfairly targeted by the Police on suspicion of being criminals, especially if they have tattoos or dreadlocks or carry laptops.

Aisha Yesufu, a leader of the demonstrations in Abuja, stated among the protesters are people who have had personal experience of the impunity for which the SARS unit became known.

Yesufu said: “They’ve been extorted, their family members have been killed, or missing or taken away by anyone.

“One of the protesters has a family member that has been missing for eight years; they were taken away and they don’t know whether they’re still alive.”

Protesters establish Soro Soke radio online

Perhaps to further amplify their grievances to the global community, the #EndSARS protesters Sunday launched Soro Soke, an online radio, even as the protests continue.

Soro Soke radio has a bouquet of programmes designed to educate, communicate with protesters and also to coordinate their activities countrywide.

The Internet radio which has gone live will also serve as a platform to report missing persons.

The mantra, Soro Soke, said to be a Yoruba phrase, which means ‘Speak Up,’ recently gained traction after protesters told Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to ‘Soro Soke’ while he was addressing them.

Soro Soke radio has also opened a Twitter account to serve as a link between listeners and the media outlet, report stated.

President Buhari, NASS leadership meet to resolve impasse

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has conferred with the leaders of the National Assembly (NASS) over the ongoing protests over the disbandment of SARS in the State House, Abuja.

Bashir Ahmad, Personal Assistant to President on New Media announced this in a tweet via his official Twitter handle Sunday, October 17.

The presidential aide disclosed that Senate President (Dr.) Ahmad Lawan; and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, attended the meeting.

He said following the meeting with President Buhari, the NASS leadership urged the protesters to end the protest marches across the country.

Lawan, when speaking to State House correspondents also said the demands of the protesters had been met.

He urged the protesters to give the government time to work on their other demands.

According to the Senate President, demonstrations that involve blocking of roads will have an enormous economic impact on the country.

ConsumerConnect reports the #EndSARS protesters blocked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Headquarters Sunday, in Abuja, while calling for an end to Police brutality, extra-judicial killings and intimidation of the innocent citizenry.

While calling for an end to the protests, Gbajabiamila stressed that policy matters cannot be met overnight.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, nonetheless, congratulated the protesters on a job well done.

He also affirmed that protesters could continue with the protests, if their demands are not met in two weeks.

Additional reporting by Gbenga Kayode and Alexander Davis

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