• Apprehension over second wave of protest in Delta today
• Government responsive to protesters’ demands, says Minister
The more citizens tend to move on from #EndSARS protests, the second theme that defined 2020 after COVID-19, continued incidents of police brutality jolt a grim recall of the Soro Soke movement that lasted weeks in October.
Yesterday, December 20, made it two months since the Lekki tollgate shooting that changed the course of the nationwide #EndSARS protest against police brutality and end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) outfit, reportedly infamous for terrorising, extorting money, and killing young Nigerians. After nearly three weeks of sustained campaign that left the social media to the streets, October 20 saw a violent turn of events as the protests cascaded into an orgy of violence and destruction across the country.
In Lagos, Abuja and many other cities, the sky turned red on October 21 as arsonists had a field day torching public and private institutions and properties, following the alleged shooting by soldiers at the Lekki venue of the protest.
Since then, there have been social media mobilisation for a second wave of protests. Activists, two weeks ago, made good their threat to resume the #EndSARS protest, but it was soon quashed by security agencies in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Cross River and the FCT.
Worried that there could be a repeat of the mayhem, President Muhammadu Buhari, on December 8, warned that while citizens were at liberty to freely express themselves in a democracy, anyone that hides behind peaceful protests to commit crime would be dealt with decisively to ensure peace and stability in the country.
ALREADY, there is apprehension in Ughelli metropolis of Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, over a planned second wave of #EndSARS protest slated for today (Monday).
The protest, according to a rights activist in the state, Comrade Joe Israel, is in response to the re-arrest of the videographer, Mr Nicholas Makolomi, who shot the October viral video alleging the killing of one Joshua by a team of police operatives in Ughelli.
The protesters, while vowing to cripple all forms of commercial activities in Ughelli, also advised the police to exercise restraint and allow youths exercise their rights in a democracy.
Condemning the arrest of Nicholas, Comrade Israel said: “Personally, I would discourage any protest in the state due to the high level of insecurity. However, the government shouldn’t be negotiating with us on one hand and carrying out a vendetta on the other hand. I call on the state governor and all stakeholders to ensure the unconditional release of Nicholas.”
A security source yesterday hinted that policemen in the two police divisions in Ughelli have already been placed on high alert in readiness for any eventuality that might arise during the protest. Two months after the #LekkiShooting, which effectively took the wind out of the sail of the #EndSARS protests, the campaign against police brutality at the weekend got back on the Twitter trend list. Yesterday, twitter users remembered fallen heroes of police brutality and those who died in the protests.
The images of a stained national flag, youths at the Lekki tollgate and clenched fists of Aisha Yesufu were reposted, evoking strong memories of the weeks when Nigerian youths got the world’s attention in a viral campaign that reechoed the viral #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG) in the aftermath of the Chibok abduction of schoolgirls in 2014.
This second wave is triggered by continued police brutality and killings, freezing of bank accounts belonging to numbers of #EndSARS campaigners, and arrest/prosecution of some of the protest leaders.
One of the affected campaigners of the #EndSARS movement, Victor Israel, who offered medical aid to protesters, claimed the government had blocked all his bank accounts for more than two months; and last week, a caterer who provided free food to protesters was denied a passport. The caterer, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye, whose account was frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria since October, was denied her passport renewal by the Nigeria Immigration Service on ‘orders from above.’
One of the fallouts of the protest was establishment of judicial panels of inquiry into police brutality across the states to investigate historical allegations of human rights abuses carried out by operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
So far, 28 states have set up their judicial panels, while the FCT and eight states: Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Yobe and Borno are yet to set up panels. Already, 730 petitions have been received from 22 states, according to Dataphyte.
SPEAKING on the protest and government’s reaction, the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, blamed the fallout of the protests on the deficit of trust from the youths about the government. According to him, #EndSARS brought up issues beyond police brutality.
“The #EndSARS movement brought up issues of good governance, involvement of our youths more in governance and development. However, the government was sufficiently responsive to the demands that came with the protest. When you protest, there are stages. The first stage was prosecuted successfully. Five demands were made of the government and government was responsive.
“Some of the demands could not be met instantaneously, but the president activated every level of government to respond and we have seen efforts at the level of the federal government and the states. Whoever thought that we were going to end up with an Oputa-type panel.
“I have watched some of the judicial panels. I have seen ordinary Nigerians come forward to tell their story. That was what we experienced after decades of military dictatorship with the Oputa Panel in 1999. We had generals come and answer to what happened under their watch. It was a therapeutic moment that healed the nation. That is a huge win for the movement as it hopes to culminate in bringing solutions to the issues of #EndSARS and how it affects our youths.
“Part of the ways we have also responded on youth development is pursuing our guiding document, which is the National Youth Policy with a five-year plan and commitment to providing employment and opportunities for our youths, particularly political participation.
“The issue of youth development stands on three legs: education, employment and entrepreneurship. Education is now beyond tertiary certificates. In today’s economy, vocational/technical education is crucial to the other two, generating employment and turning our youths into entrepreneurs. And that is our focus as a ministry in conjunction with other agencies on vocational and technical training,” the minister said.
He reeled out some of the youth programmes undertaken by the Digital Skills, Employability, Entrepreneurship and Leadership (DEEL) initiative to include 75,000 youths trained this year via an online platform in partnership with IBM, another round of training in partnership with AfDB called coding for employment across 15 centres in the country, and a training in conjunction with Microsoft and Google to train young business owners on management skills, among others.