With the address of President Muhammadu Buhari to the nation on Thursday, October 22, #EndSARS protests gradually ebbed, with protesters leaving the streets after more than two weeks and hoodlums taking to looting Covid-19 palliatives warehoused in different states. PAUL OKAH takes a look at the possible gainers and losers of the protests.
If there is any lesson to be learnt from the EndSARS protests that rocked the nation from October 7, it is that a hungry man is an angry man and that poverty is blind to colour, race, ethnicity, sex, language.
When Nigerians started gathering in different states across the country to protest against police brutality, no one envisaged that two weeks of gathering in the streets to dare the police, government and constituted authorities would unearth certain realities.
On Thursday, October 22, two days after the controversial #Lekkimassacre, in a nationwide broadcast, President Muhammadu Buhari urged the protesters to leave the streets, assuring that their voices had been heard loud and clear and that their demands were being looked into.
If Nigerians thought the address by President Buhari would end the protests, they had another think coming as the EndSARS protests assumed another dimension with the discovery of Coalition Against Covid-19 (CA-COVID) palliative warehouses in different states across the country.
The discovery of hoarded palliatives led to widespread looting in states wherever the warehouses were discovered, with people carting away bags of rice, cartons of noodles, bags of garri, cartons of milk, cartons of semovita, among others.
Not many states were spared as the looting took place in Lagos, Cross River, Kwara, Ondo, Taraba, FCT, among others, with even private businesses broken into and household items carted away, with security agencies some states turning the blind eye and allowing the hoodlums to have a field day.
Palliatives for sale
Interestingly, after breaking into the warehouse and looting the Covid-19 palliatives on Monday morning, youths in Gwagwalada area council found themselves a new business by selling off the stolen items to those who didn’t have the energy to invade the warehouse.
Speaking with our reporter, a buyer who refused to mention his name, said a bag of 10kg rice was sold at N15, 000, while 10kg Semovita was sold at N1, 000. Sugar, spaghetti, Indomie noodles, salt were also sold at give away prices.
He said: “I have bought three bags of rice and two bags of semovita because I couldn’t go in. It is better and cheaper. I don’t regret it because those selling suffered to get in. I tried to go in, but the entrance is overcrowded and lots of people have died and others are stepping on them to get in. I had to buy.”
Similarly, residents from neighbouring communities such as Gwako, Passo, Dagiri, also trooped into Gwagwalada to get their share of the palliatives.
“I have seen people from Kwali area council, Dagiri, Tunga Maje, and Zuba. In fact, I was coming from SDP Junction and there is go-slow now due to people coming from neighbouring communities,” a resident said.
Furthermore, beneficiaries of the endSARS protest can be said to be fake news peddlers as they had a field day doctoring videos, pictures and circulating fake information to unsuspecting Nigerians and whipping up sentiments.
Similarly, during the protest in Edo, many prisoners were set free. Therefore, they unarguably benefited from the protest as tasting freedom once for a long time may not allow them go back to the prison, like the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, has been demanding.
While many looters were successful in invading the warehouses and carting away the palliatives, others were not lucky as they died either of exhaustion or trampled upon by other looters.
Such incidents of people dying while struggling for palliatives were recorded in the FCT and other states, apart from security agencies allegedly shooting protesters down in self defence during attacks on private and public property in Anambra, Ebonyi, Lagos and other states.
With the protests in the streets, many are of the opinion that those who died lost their lives for nothing as the government can hardly compensate their families.
Also, many were arrested, paraded and are facing jail terms in the FCT, Lagos, Cross River and other states for taking part in the looting of palliatives or even buying the looted palliatives from “successful invaders.”
520 suspects nabbed in Lagos
The Lagos state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, on Tuesday, said 520 suspects were arrested in connection with the series of arson, vandalism, burglary, and robbing of unsuspecting members of the public of their valuables during the unrest occasioned by the #EndSARS protest in the state.
Odumosu, who disclosed this during a press briefing at the command headquarters in the Ikeja area of the state, said the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums, adding that the arrested suspects would be charged to court.
While stating the facilities affected in the state, the CP said, “A lot of public and private facilities were set ablaze, our police stations were also burnt and vandalised.
“Based on the incidents, the command swung into action realising that this is no more #EndSARS, where lives and property are lost, vandalised and burnt. We realised that the protest had been hijacked by hoodlums, so we moved in and we were able to recover some of the stolen items and arrested the perpetrators.
“So far, 520 suspects have been arrested for various offences, ranging from arson, robbery, murder, rioting, malicious damage, and unlawful possession of firearms. All the suspects we have arrested are not #EndSARS protesters and they will all be charged.”
NSCDC dismisses officer
On Tuesday, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) dismissed a Corps Assistant, Illiya Ibrahim, of the Gwagwalada Division Abuja, who was caught in a viral video joining hoodlums in looting Covid-19 palliatives discovered in a warehouse in Gwagwalada, Abuja.
In a statement in Abuja Tuesday, the media assistant to the Commandant General NSCDC, Ekunola Gbenga, said the Commandant General, Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, approved the recommendation of the Junior Staff Disciplinary Committee for the dismissal of Illiya Ibrahim.
“The recommendation was given after the officer was charged under the public service rule which is related to unbecoming conduct of officers. This disciplinary measure was taken after a series of investigations and deliberations by the junior disciplinary committee and recommendations were made to the management,” Ekunola said in the statement.
NGO makes case
On Tuesday, an Abuja-based NGO, Save Our Heritage Initiative (SOHI), described as unpatriotic the alleged diversion of palliatives meant for the poor and the less privileged homes by some politicians.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, SOHI’s chief executive officer, Ms. May Ikokwu, who is also the secretary-general Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN), explained that the post Covid-19 hardship would have been reduced if those palliatives were duly distributed as originally planned.
She said: “As a distinguished humanitarian, my question is, why should palliatives meant for the poor be rotting away in warehouses? It is totally wrong and inhuman to stock foods meant for the poor and vulnerable persons when they are in serious need of them.
“A hungry man is an angry man hence, the rage and looting going on in the country now. We condemn the act that led to the loss of lives and property and alleged militarisation of the peaceful protests, but we commend President Muhammadu Buhari for promising to give them the justice they deserved.
“They should be restraint in the looting going on in the country. If the government had monitored the distribution of palliatives very well, certainly the diversion and hoarding would have been detected on time. The president should ensure adequate compensation to the families of those killed and redress for police officers wrongly dismissed.”
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