#EndSARs protest, over 300 still in detention one year after

Two hundred and five police stations and formations, including other critical private and public infrastructure across Nigeria were damaged by hoodlums during the hijacked protest.

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*Burnt stations yet to be fixed, policemen working like refugees

*How I narrowly escaped hoodlums’ attack — policeman

*CACOVID respond slow, yet to rehabilitate 44 burnt police stations

*Policemen still lack crowd control devices

Nigerians in general and the nation’s security agencies in particular, will not forget in a hurry, the violent twist that characterised the #EndSARS protests, last October, in which 22 policemen were killed across the country, scores injured and several others left in life threatening conditions by rampaging hoodlums that hijacked the peaceful protest.

Two hundred and five police stations and formations, including other critical private and public infrastructure across Nigeria were damaged by hoodlums during the hijacked protest.

Policemen were killed in Lagos, Oyo, Anambra, Benue Abia Ogun and Ebonyi states. Lagos and Oyo states had the highest figure of slain policemen, with six each, followed by Anambra State Police command with four, Abia and Ebonyi had two each while Ogun recorded one.

The highest ranked police officers that died, the late Akpan Joseph, a Chief Superintendent of Police as well as a Divisional Police Officer, were from the Anambra State police command.Lagos State Police Command also recorded the highest number of razed police formations with 48.

It also had the highest figure of vehicles burnt, with 58 patrol vans and 13 others vandalised.

Sixty two vehicles belonging to individuals and those connected with some pending cases (exhibits) were also burnt while nine vehicles were vandalised by hoodlums in various police formations in the state, thereby bringing the total number of vehicles destroyed in Lagos State Police Command alone to 133, with 15 motorcycles and tricycles burnt, and 65 vandalised.

In Oyo State, five divisional headquarters, including that of Iseyin, were razed by hoodlums who hid under the pretext of #EndSARS protests.

In Anambra, aside the killing of four policemen during the attack, 11 police stations and 20 vehicles including patrol and exhibit vehicles, and an armoured personnel carrier, APC, were set ablaze. Six other police stations, according to records available to Vanguard, were destroyed while motorcycles kept as exhibits were carted away. 

Umuahia, the Abia state capital, witnessed the looting of six annexes, while police formations in Aba were razed. As in many states, the hoodlums also destroyed five banks , two courts and the Aba Town hall.

They also torched the church inside the hall. In Edo and Delta states, hoodlums broke into the prisons and set inmates free.

Sadly, these inmates, some of whom were hardened criminals serving their jail terms, are back on the streets displaying their characteristic misdemeanours.

300 Lagos #ENDSARS protesters in detention – CSO

One year after, a civil society group, New Nigeria Network, NNN, has disclosed that 300 #ENDSARS protesters were still in detention in Lagos, and urged the State government to take them to court.

Co-convener of the group, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, told Vanguard: “It is disheartening to note how the system is mangling the lives and destinies of those captured by government over #EndSARS disturbances in October 2020.

“Hundreds of citizens who were arrested as ‘#EndSARS protest criminals’ by security agencies are languishing in prisons, with none of them undergoing trial at the courts.

“Information at our disposal does not indicate any arraignment at all of those already slated for trial at the High Court, courtesy of the legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Lagos State, acting on behalf of the Attorney-General of the state since 2020.

“For the other category slated for trial at the Magistrate Courts, there has been no significant progress in the ‘alleged prosecution’ which is more of window dressing.”

Ogunlana lamented that their bail applications were not granted, including those filed before a vacation judge because the office of the DPP opposed them. He cited the case of one #EndSARS protester, Seyi Awogbola, who he said had been in detention since 2020 as a case study.

“He was brought before a Magistrate Court in Yaba, where a holding charge was filed against him.

“The DPP legal advice submitted that information be preferred against him at the High Court.

“Till date, no information has been filed against him. Applications of two different counsel on his behalf have been turned down in two rulings by two different judges of the High Court of Lagos State on the ground of the severity of the offence,” Ogunlana said.

Corpses of officers not released

There are indications that bodies of the slain policemen have not been released to their families for burial one year after.

This was revealed by the widow of the late Inspector Aderibigbe Adegbenro, who was attached to Meiran Police division.

She told Vanguard her late husband’s corpse was still at the Ikeja General hospital mortuary. She said: “my husband’s corpse has not been released for burial. We have made the necessary moves to ensure its release.

“I have gone to the State CID, Yaba and all other places I was directed to. We went there several times but nobody wanted to assist us in the release of the corpse.”

Upon investigation, Vanguard discovered that an autopsy was yet to be conducted on the corpses, a reason some policemen who spoke on the condition of anonymity attributed to the possible delay.

Although the cause of their death is not in dispute,  Vanguard  was informed that it was a normal routine to get an autopsy report before the corpses will be released.

On further enquiry, sources said the Lagos State Government was yet to release money to conduct an autopsy.

Confirming this claim, Mrs. Aderibigbe said, “we were told that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has not released money to conduct an autopsy and that he hasn’t authorised them to release the corpse.

“Corpses of other policemen yet to be released in Lagos included those of Yaro Edward, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, who until his death was attached to Denton Police division; Inspector Ayodeji Erinfolami, attached to Anti Kidnapping unit; Inspector Samson Ehibor, attached to Ilasamaja division, Sergeant Bejide Abiodun, attached to operations department and Inspector Igoche Cornelius. 

Also, information at Vanguard’s disposal revealed that  in Lagos, families of the slain policemen received cash donations of N10 million each, from the State governor.

In addition, Governor Sanwo-Olu also announced scholarship awards to children of the deceased officers up to university level.

Apart from the cash compensation by Sanwo-Olu, no other compensation, either in cash or in kind , has been made to the affected families by the Police.

Gratuity of the slain policemen have not been paid either, as of October 7,2021.

Lamenting, Mrs Aderigbe told Vanguard  “October 23,2021 will be one year since my husband was killed. His gratuity has not been paid.

“But for Governor Sanwo-Olu’s compensation, I don’t know what life would have been like for me and my children.

“Apart from the Lagos State Government, no other person or organisation has assisted us in any way. All the promises that were made by the police and corporate organisations have not been fulfilled.”

State of police stations

It is heart-breaking that one year after that historic showdown,   some police personnel are still   hanging around their stations like Internally Displaced Persons.

A visit to Isokoko, Orile , Ilasamaja, Igando and Makinde divisions in Lagos revealed that policemen use  rented tents and plastic chairs   to enable them to do their work.

There was also no indication of ongoing repairs in all the affected police formations nationwide.

In fact, some of the police posts have been completely vacated. The Iyana Isolo police post, for instance, now serves as an abode for lunatics.

A mentally deranged man was seen lying down in the premises when Vanguard visited. Although some of the looted fire arms and police uniform have been recovered.

A larger percentage of them are still in the hands of   hoodlums a situation that presents a grave threat to society.

Replacement:  Since the destruction of police formations and operational equipment that characterised the hijacked #EndSARs protest, record showed that the Lagos State Police Command has received donation of  150 double cabin vehicles, 30 patrol saloon cars, 4 high-capacity troop carriers, two anti-riot water cannon vehicles and eight Armored Personnel Carriers, APCs.

Theses were from the Lagos State Government through its established Police Trust Fund. 

In addition to these are 200 security patrol bikes, 1,000 units of ballistic vests, 1,000 ballistic helmets, 1,000 handheld talkie talkies, office furniture, and other ancillary resources, for the command to effectively carry out its statutory responsibility.

On the other hand, due to lack of adequate wherewithal to efficiently perform their   constitutional mandate, policemen, right from the rank of Commissioner of Police, to Divisional Police officers and other units commanders virtually go cap in hand begging state governors and other well meaning Nigerians for financial support to meet these obligations.

Disenchantment:  Meantime, the  police authorities have announced that policemen attached to every police station attacked by hoodlums will be promoted to the next rank.

But the move did not augur well with those who did not benefit, particularly policemen who put up rare acts of bravery to ensure their stations were not overrun by hoodlums.

Some aggrieved policemen who spoke with Vanguard on the condition of anonymity explained that they deployed the services of youths and members of vigilante groups within their communities to resist attempts by rampaging hoodlums to bring down their stations.

They expressed disappointment that they did not benefit from the promotion despite the efforts put in.

Others who spoke with Vanguard blamed their bosses for the death of their colleagues, disclosing that they were warned never to react during the protest, only for their colleagues to be made sacrificial lambs.

They also stated that they were given orders never to retreat even in the face of attack on their stations by hoodlums.

Our encounter—Policemen

One of them, an Inspector, said some of them defied the order because the Police, as an institution and the country, was not worth being killed for.

Narrating  his close shave with death during the October 21 attack on his station, the inspector said: “Some of the DPOs who got wind of the invasion of their stations told police women to leave the premises for men to confront the hoodlums.

“Unfortunately, some of them are still  in hospital. In our case, we ran out of bullets. There were limited bullets at the station on that day.

“By the time the hoodlums realized we had exhausted them, they came after us in their numbers. I ran inside and scaled the fence.

“I landed in a compound, quickly pulled my uniform and was left with just my boxer and singlet. One of the tenants thought I was a thief and wanted to scream.

“But another one, a woman who knew me, identified me as a policeman and asked what the matter was.

“When I told her our station was under attack, she took me inside her apartment. By then the hoodlums had invaded the building and demanded to know where I was.

“The woman hid me inside her wardrobe . I suffocated in the process until I was brought out about five hours later.

She called in a nurse who revived me and I left for my house by 10 pm. By the time I got home, members of my family were crying.

“They thought I had been killed because they heard that our station had been attacked.  I only had a fracture on my right heel. Although life has returned to normal, things are no longer the same.

“We want sophisticated weapons to fight criminals. If we have these, no one can over run our stations again.”

A DPO’s escape

The narrow escape of a female divisional police officer in Lagos remains a story meant for Nollywood given how she managed to survive.

She reportedly withstood the onslaught of the rampaging protesters with her boys while the protesters were shouting for her summary execution because of alleged high-handedness while presiding over the very notorious area.

According to reports, when she saw that her boys were being overpowered by the hoodlums, she escaped through a back fence and landed in an adjoining street.

The hoodlums, who were bent on taking their pound of flesh, pursued her and scaled the fence too.

She ran into the next street and as she saw that they were still after her, she dived into a nearby dust bin filled to the brim with rotten leftovers. She ended up scooping the rotten debris which she used in covering herself.

While she was there, she was overhearing the hoodlums searching frantically for her.

They were even breaking into people’s homes in desperate efforts to locate and kill her not knowing that she was hiding inside the dust bin conspicuously placed in front of the area.

She said they later dispersed but stationed two of their members around the area to sniff her out.

When she made first attempt to raise her head from the dustbin around midnight, she saw the boys positioned in strategic areas, smoking weeds.

She quickly sneaked back only to spend about two hours more before she was able to crawl out, made frantic calls to her friends at the naval base in Apapa who swiftly rushed to the place and rescued her.

CACOVID intervention slows down

Meanwhile, there are indications that Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, the private sector initiative to support the government’s efforts in re-building and rehabilitating the institutions, businesses and citizens affected by the #EndSARS protest, may have run into hitches. 

Nearly one year after the extension of CACOVID intervention programme to #EndSARS victims, Vanguard findings reveal that the bulk of the funds raised by the group was deployed to the fight against COVID-19 while the #EndSARS has received little or no support.

There were also indications that the programme has been shackled by funding inadequacies which restricted the scope of the intervention programme for #EndSARS.

After the initial inflows for the programme, most of the corporate pledges were not fully redeemed, a development, Vanguard learned, has now created a huge funding gap of over 70 percent.

Vanguard gathered that contrary to the targeted N120 billion, only N40 billion was received by the Fund, though organisers of the funding programme said they are still expecting the various organizations and individuals to fully redeem their pledges.

Specifically, the CACOVID group had planned to extend the resources it was mobilising for COVID-19 containment to address the impact of #EndSARS protest on institutions, businesses and citizens of Nigeria.

The group had said measures it adopted will rebuild confidence in the economy, following looting and destruction of properties, and insecurity which trailed the #EndSARS crisis.

The measures they outlined include renovation of 44 police stations destroyed by the crisis that followed the ENDSARS protest; low interest rate loans for affected businesses; and a N175 billion fund to empower four million youths through skill acquisition programmes over five years.

Co-chair of CACOVID and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had said: “The Bankers’ Committee and critical stakeholders in the private sector, under the auspices of the CACOVID alliance, held series of meetings towards developing measures that will support the government’s efforts in rebuilding confidence in our nation’s economy.

“Some of the measures agreed upon by the CACOVID alliance include: Support for Police. “CACOVID has committed to fully rehabilitate all 44 damaged and destroyed police stations nationwide in a bid to restore provision of security in affected locations.

“To further strengthen the security apparatus in the country, CACOVID has committed to provide over N100bn to procure equipment and gadgets for the Nigerian Police Force over the next two years; as our contribution to fully modernize the Nigerian Police.’

CACOVID won’t hand over cash to police: Speaking further on the modalities for the Police support, Emefiele said that 44 police stations will be renovated by contractors appointed by CACOVID members while the group will also handle all the procurement under the N100 billion equipment support.”

N175bn skill, equipment scheme for youths: On CACOVID’s plans to address the problem of youth unemployment across the country, Emefiele said: “Our preliminary analysis indicates that unemployment particularly among the youth was a critical factor behind the unrest.

“As a result, CACOVID is committed to creating a high impact youth development programme that will provide technical and vocational education to over 4 million Nigerian youths over the next five years.

“Students will be trained on craft work, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, and other artisan-related skills for which sufficient demand exists in Nigeria. “Over N150 billion is expected to be deployed towards the set-up and implementation of the youth development programme, which will be available at select training centres across the country.”

Low interest loans for affected businesses

On plans to help businesses affected by the crisis, Emefiele said: “Banks and financial institutions would be required to extend relief through concessionary loans to affected businesses and firms, so they can rebuild and restock their stores and continue to conduct their business activities.

“Given the impact the unrest had on the conduct of business activities, members of CACOVID have committed to develop a business continuity plan that will enable businesses and firms to share timely information and resources to forestall physical or cyber-attacks, which could derail the smooth functioning of business activities in the country.”

The Group said it has spent N43.27 billion including N13.2 billion on medical facilities and equipment, and N28.767 billion spent to provide palliatives in the form of essential food items to 1.7 million households, which is equivalent to supporting eight million Nigerians.

Explaining how the money was spent, Emefiele said: “On the expenditure side, the CACOVID has so far incurred expenditure, in the sum of N43.27 billion on the acquisition of, not only medical equipment and supplies, but also food palliatives for the vulnerable amongst us. The funds raised by CACOVID were used to support three key priorities.”

Challenges:Some of them also attributed lack of adequate crowd control devices at their disposal to the major reason why police formations were overrun by hoodlums.

Vanguard reliably gathered that during the hijacked EndSARs protest, there was not a single teargas canister in the attacked Police divisions, especially those in Lagos.

There were also no Armoured Personnel Carriers to mount in strategic areas across the affected state commands, from where policemen would repel hoodlums.

Besides, policemen who spoke to Vanguard revealed that a major challenge that hampered the arrest of perpetrators of the destruction at police formation during the protest was the absence of close circuit television cameras in affected places.

They said video clips circulated on social media assisted in the arrest of some of the perpetrators.

One of them, an inspector, said: “Everyone blames policemen for allowing our stations to be overrun. But no one bothers to ask if we are adequately equipped to withstand the challenges faced.

“In a world where technology has overtaken all spheres, we are still operating  analogue-based mode of crime prevention, detection and control.

“For example, we don’t have   gunshot detection. This is a  system that uses a network of outdoor acoustic sensors to automatically detect, verify, and rapidly notify police dispatchers and officers of the specific times and locations of firearm discharges.

“The facial recognition software is another   technological minus in the NPF. This software is   capable of matching a human face from a digital image or a video frame against a database of faces.

“It is typically employed to authenticate users through identity verification services. It works by pinpointing and measuring facial features from a given image.

“Others are automated licence plate readers, body cameras, drones, and numerous databases to prevent, respond and investigate crimes.

“I have been privileged to go on foreign missions and the presence of these technologies and their usage have earned us accolades.

“But back home, we are being tongue-lashed for the   seeming lapses, without consideration of  the peculiarities and situational differences.

“An average policeman here faces men of the underworld almost with bare hands. Those on patrol both day and night are hardly seen wearing bullet proof vests that will protect them from bullets during encounters with armed men.

“They are also hardly seen with ballistic helmets or helmets with   cameras, communication systems or   Bluetooth light.

“There are also no adequate vehicles to patrol   the nooks and crannies of the country   as well as helicopters for aerial patrol and boats for adequate surveillance of the nation’s back waters and creeks.

“Before EndSARS, most of the vehicles were grounded while many of the  few remaining ones  were destroyed during the EndSars  protest last year.

“They are   still being destroyed by hoodlums at the slightest provocation today. How do you want us to perform magic in the face of these challenges?

A senior police officer told Vanguard that the Nigeria Police needed not less than 1,500 armoured personnel carriers, APCs, 300,000 assault rifles/corresponding ammunition, 250,000 riot gunners and smoke pistols, over 1,000 tracking devices, 1000 operational drones among other need, to adequately cover the length and breadth of the nation’s infrastructural and logistics deficit gap between the citizens and Police.

Aftermath of Endsars: How far, so far?

A former assistant director, Department of State Service, DSS, Mr. Dennis Amachree currently the Managing Director of Zoom Lens Security Consult said: “It is quite unfortunate that things have not improved as expected after the ENDSARS protest.

“The infiltration of miscreants and soldiers took away the message of ENDSARS, which even President Buhari was positively responding to.

“The police lost an opportunity to dialogue with the public and the public also lost an opportunity to dialogue with the police immediately after the protest.

“Governments should strive to understand the youths of this country and stop profiling them wrongly because they bear tattoos or live luxurious lifestyles. Not every user of the internet is a criminal.

” There are genuine and lucrative businesses that our youths are involved in. In the aftermath of the protests, nothing much has been gained, although the police brutality has drastically reduced.”

Barrister Mike Ejiofor, a former director of DSS, now a security consultant, said: “As far as Nigerians are concerned, in terms of ENDSARS and the protest, nothing has changed.

“In fact, I think, it is getting worse. I have on several occasions complained about the conduct of policemen in Kogi State.

“One can see what happened, yesterday, that the police management is already investigating which goes to show that police brutality and incivility to members of the public is continuing.”

Security situation still poor

Former Assistant Commissioner of Police, Opoola Taiwo, currently the Managing Director of Tatisan Security Limited said: “So far, the situation has changed, hence we have some peace in the Southern part of the country but it has not totally changed.

“The SARS protest was not only for the SARS to go but for the country to be in good order. The security situation is still poor.

“I told them severally to go and put plan in place like government did after the civil war.

“I was just recruited into the police that time and with the arrangement put in place, the situation was brought under control after the war.”

Director-General, Institute of Security, Nigeria, ISN, at the University of Lagos, Barr. Adebayo Akinade stated: “I am surprised that the comprehensive report has not been made public and the public is anxious to see what the outcome of the investigation would be.

“We urge government to bring the report out in the interest of democracy because fundamental human rights have been claimed to have been trampled upon.”

Former Deputy Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Dr. Brasca Ifeadi, told Vanguard: “To me, it has made a lot of changes.

“On the part of the police, there has been a remarkable change, but I am not saying they have completely changed.

“They have improved greatly because they now have the fear that people are now watching. Not a total change but the ENDSARS protest has gone a long way in putting a full stop in their naughty behavior.”

A former Director at the Presidency and ex-chieftain of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, now a private security consultant, Mr. Jude Mekwunye, said: “No condition is permanent, so I would say many things have changed.

“To live is to change and to change is to become perfect. At least, we are not hearing of ENDSARS as it was one year ago.

“We have heard of the compensations being advocated but I do not know the possibility of implementing them.

“It is still one of the things that make Nigeria unique, government can pronouncement but execution is the problem.”

Rapid Vigil Security Limited Chairman/Chief Executive, Prince Emeka Nwenyi, said: “The ENDSARS protest has come and gone and the effect has been felt. As a matter of fact the police have been reformed.

“From what I could see, there is a great improvement in their outlook and approach and since that protest, in all honesty, I have never come across any old negative influences in the operatives.”

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