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ACROSS the country, governors are in the race to impose 24-hour curfews on their states in a bid to subdue the escalating #EndSARS protests, which are increasingly turning into violent uprising as hoodlums cash-in on the situation to wreak havoc.
States where curfew has been declared, so far, include Lagos, Rivers, Osun, Abia, Edo, Plateau, Ondo, Ekiti, Imo, Enugu and Delta.
The protests had started on a peaceful note as youths took to the streets to demand the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad ( SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force – an outfit that is known for the worst forms of police brutality.
The Federal Government gave in to the demand, just after a few days, by scrapping SARS but the development did not stop the protests.
Rather, the protests escalated, largely due to the government’s decision to replace SARS with another police special squad that is to be known as SWAT – the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.
With SARS disbanded, the protesters started pushing for the release of all arrested protesters, as well as a total overhaul of the Nigeria Police Force. The protests continued.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, was the first to attempt to use executive powers to bring an end to protests in his state.
On October 12, Wike issued a directive, banning all proposed protests by #EndSARS campaigners in Rivers State.
Wike, in the directive which was contained in a statement by his Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, explained that there was no need for any form of demonstration since the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had disbanded SARS.
“The Rivers State Government hereby wish to inform the general public that all forms of protests have been banned throughout the state. Therefore, all proposed protests under #EndSARS Campaign are hereby prohibited. The government took this decision because the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had already scrapped the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Therefore, there is no need for any form of protest against a Unit of the Police Force that no longer exists,” the statement issued by the state to prohibit further protests read.
Wike’s directive attracted widespread condemnation. But it also failed to stop the protests. In defiance of the governor’s directive, protesters continued converging on the streets of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state.
Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, was the first to opt for the imposition of curfew as a means of putting an end to the protests.
Starting from 4:00 pm on October 19, Obaseki declared a 24-hour curfew in Edo State until further notice, after hoodlums, numbering over 100, reportedly broke into cells and freed inmates at the Benin and Oko prisons. Officials of the Nigeria Correctional Service said about 1,993 inmates were missing after the Benin and Oko jailbreaks. Before the October 19 jailbreak, two people were reportedly killed when thugs attacked #EndSARS protesters who besieged the Edo State House of Assembly in Benin City, on October 16.
In addition to the jailbreak on October 19, property worth millions of naira were also vandalised by suspected hoodlums, who appeared to have hijacked the #EndSARS protests in Benin City.
Reacting to the situation, Obaseki imposed a 24-hour curfew across the state, till further notice.
Justifying the development, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said, “This decision has become necessary because of the very disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of the #ENDSARS protests.
“While the government of Edo State respects the rights of its citizens to undertake legitimate protests, it cannot sit idly when hoodlums have taken laws into their hands to cause mayhem on innocent citizens and the state.” The state government directed schools and businesses are to shutdown activities accordingly. Parents were advised to rein in their children, youths and wards to forestall further breakdown of law and order.
However, on the very next day, protesters converged on the streets of Benin, particularly at the Ugbowo main gate of the University of Benin. They mounted roadblocks, disrupting traffic while demanding, not only the end of police brutality, but also the restructuring of the country.
Lagos State has been the epicentre of the protests, with the daily barricade of the Lekki toll gate the most popular feature of the early stage of the #EndSARS protests. The initial fanfare mood surrounding the protests in the state took a violent turn when hoodlums exploited the situation to unleash mayhem. Protesters and security agents were attacked.
After a police station at Orile-Iganmu was set ablaze on October 20, the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, annouced, via his official Twitter handle, that a 24-hour curfew has been imposed on the state.
“I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society. Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state. As a government that is alive to its responsibility and has shown a commitment to the movement#ENDSARS, we will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.
I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4:00 pm today, 20th October 2020. Nobody, except essential service providers and first responders, must be found on the streets,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The directive failed to prevent incidents which culminated in the killing of protesters at Lekki Tollgate by soldiers later on that same day. The situation in Lagos has continued to deteriorate even after the imposition of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Having, reportedly, had a close shave with danger, when thugs unleashed violence on #EndSARS protesters in Osogbo on October 17, during which at least one person was killed, Osun State governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, also on October 20, declared a 24-hour curfew in the state. Oyetola, in a statement which announced the imposition of the curfew, noted that the situation had taken a dangerous dimension.
Parts of the statement read, “The Government of the State of Osun note with a high sense of responsibility the unfortunate dangerous dimension the #EndSARS protests have assumed across the country, particularly in the southwest States.
In our dear State, but for providence, the governor would not have been alive to preside over today’s security meeting following the attempt on his life last Saturday.
“In spite of the Saturday incident, we have allowed the protest to continue in the hope that the real protesters would take charge of the protest. Events of the last 48 hours have however shown clearly that the protests have been hijacked by criminals and hoodlums.
Consequently, the Governor of the State of Osun, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, hereby imposes a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the state, effective from 11.59 pm today, Tuesday, October 20, until further notice.”
Despite the curfew, on the next day, hundreds of protesters mounted barricades at Olaiya Junction, in Osogbo, the state capital.
Plateau was another state where curfew was imposed on October 20. Earlier on that day, valuable property, including vehicles and buildings had been vandalised, while shops were looted during violent incidents in the Ahmadu Bello Way area of Jos, the state capital. A place of worship, located along Gyero Road inside Bukuru, was also destroyed.
Responding to the development, Governor Simon Lalong imposed a 24-hour curfew in Jos South and Jos North Local Government Areas with effect from 8:00 pm on Tuesday, October 20, till further notice.
The governors of Ekiti, Ondo, Imo and Abia states also imposed curfews in their territories on October 20.
In declaring the curfew, Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, observed that the #EndSARS protests had taken a dangerous dimension in neighbouring states. The 24-hour curfew declared by Akeredolu in Ondo commenced by 12 midnight on Tuesday, October 20, till further notice.
In Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi imposed a 24-hour curfew, starting from 10:00 pm on Tuesday, October 20. The state government observed that the #EndSARS protests, which began as a peaceful movement, had turned violent after being hijacked by hoodlums.
Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, who also imposed a 24-hour curfew starting from 12 midnight on Tuesday, October 20, said the move was aimed at forestalling a loss of lives as a result of the protests in the state.
Abia State governor, imposed 24-hour curfew on the state capital, Umuahia, and the commercial centre, Aba, on October 20, until further notice. The development came on the heels of an attack on police officers at Azikiwe Road by suspected hoodlums. A policeman was reportedly killed, while the hoodlums made away with arms and ammunition collected from the security agent.
However, protesters, and hoodlums, have continued to march on the streets in Ekiti, Ondo, Imo and Abia states, in defiance of the governors’ orders.
On Wednesday, October 21, Rivers State governor, Wike, who had earlier attempted, unsuccessfully, to use executive fiat to stop protests in the state, imposed 24-hour curfew in the Emenike, Ikoku and Iloabuchi axis of the Mile 1 and Mile 2 areas of Port Harcourt. The curfew also extended to Oyigbo Local Government Area, and the Oil Mill area of Obio Akpor LGA. Wike directed security agencies to enforce the curfew from 6:30 pm on Wednesday in all the concerned areas. The governor also directed local goment council chairmen to mobilise local vigilante to work with security agencies to enforce the curfew. The governor’s directive, again, was flouted by protesters, and hoodlums.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State followed suit, imposing 24-hour curfew in Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South LGAS from 7:00 pm on Wednesday, October 21, until further notice. The Commissioner for Information, Nnanyelugo Chidi Aroh, in a statement said the decision “followed the observed hijack of #EndSARS protests, which had been peaceful in the past days, by miscreants who plan to unleash mayhem”. Enugu residents, who had earlier refused to heed entreaties from the state government urging them not to protest on the streets, have continued to protest despite the 24-hour curfew.
Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, followed the example of his colleagues by declaring a dawn-to-dusk curfew in a live broadcast on Thursday morning. The #EndSARS protests had taken a violent turn in Asaba, the state capital on Wednesday night. Hoodlums vandalised and set ablaze the newly reconstructed Koka Junction Recreation Centre in Asaba. Declaring the 24-hour curfew, Okowa directed all public and private primary and secondary schools in the state to shut down for two weeks. The curfew in Delta State starts at 6:00 pm on Thursday.
So far, the 24-hour curfew being imposed in the states by governors have not been able to stop the protests. It has also failed to stop hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to unleash havoc on innocent citizens, as well as on public and private property. In all the states where governors ordered restriction of movement, youths have defied the directives by continuing to converge on the streets to press home their demand for good governance and an end to police brutality.
Despite the curfew in Lagos, hoodlums are still having a field day. On Wednesday, barely 24 hours after the state government declared the 24-hour curfew, hoodlums attacked and set fire on many public and private institutions, including the offices of Television Continental, The Nation Newspapers, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Riliwan Akiol, the Lagos State command headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Corps, as well as banks, police stations and malls, among others.
It was the same story in Imo, as, on Wednesday, October 21, a day after the governor declared a 24-hour curfew, hoodlums razed the Nworieubi Police Divisional Headquarters in Mbaitoli LGA.
After the tragic consequences that followed the deployment of troops at the Lekki Tollgate, it is expected that the government would not dare to consider a military approach in resolving the crisis. And with the protesters having no clear leadership, negotiation is an uncertain option.