After days of playing cat and mouse on the actual number of lives lost to the #EndSARS protests, led by youths across the country which climaxed with Tuesday’s shooting at Lekki, Lagos Toll Gate, by armed security men believed to be soldiers, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally accepted that the protests that engulfed many cities
After days of playing cat and mouse on the actual number of lives lost to the #EndSARS protests, led by youths across the country which climaxed with Tuesday’s shooting at Lekki, Lagos Toll Gate, by armed security men believed to be soldiers, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally accepted that the protests that engulfed many cities took lives.
The President told an extraordinary meeting with former Nigerian Presidents that the #EndSARS protest took 69 lives which included 51 civilians, 11 Police officers and 7 soldiers. This revelation has come in sharp contrast to the disclosure by the Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo Olu that only one person died from the Lagos shooting. The Nigeria Army also washed off its hands from the dastard shooting of protesters, claiming that none of its men were involved. The Defence Headquarters even said videos showing military men shooting from were photoshopped.
Coordinator of Defence Media, Major General John Eneche who dismissed the videos as concocted, said they were not real. “I even got analysts. People that have analysed the various videos that were cropped and photoshopped put together. If not that I’m not permitted, I could have forwarded it to your Instagram,” he quipped.
Buhari, who had commiserated with the families of Police officers lost to the protests without any empathy for the families of other victims of the carnage, told former Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria during the meeting that held virtually on Friday, that it was unfortunate that the initial genuine and well-intended protest of youths in parts of the country against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was hijacked and misdirected.
He reiterated that the government will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism in the country.
At the meeting were Gen. Yakubu Gowon, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Recounting the initial concessions made by his administration on the demands of youths protesting against the excesses of some members of the SARS, the President.recalled that the youths had demanded that the squad be disbanded, and further articulated the additional demands, including:
”The immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for deceased victims of Police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of Police misconduct within 10 days and psychological evaluation and re-training of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be re-deployed; and increase in Police salary.”
The President declared: ”We accepted all the demands and proceeded immediately to scrap SARS and started the process of addressing the other demands.
”Unfortunately, the protesters refused to call off the protest and engage the government to address their grievances. Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent.”
Buhari expressed concern that in the mayhem that ensued, many lives have been lost, a number of public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalized.
Reiterating his pledge to Nigerians from the nationwide broadcast Thursday, the President reaffirmed:
”We will continue to improve good governance through our democratic process including through sustained engagement.
”We shall also continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected. Here, I want to also reaffirm our commitment to preserving the unity of this country.”
The President thanked the former Heads of State for attending the meeting and their invaluable comments, observations and advice, adding that ”Nigerians expect nothing less from responsible statesmen.”
Hours after the Lagos shooting which left many protesters dead with scores injured, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Mohammed has reiterated the UN’s call for maximum restraint in security forces’ response to the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.
“The UN and I are following the protests in Nigeria calling for an end to human rights violations.
“I join the UN Secretary-General in stressing the importance of respect for peaceful protests and freedom of assembly, and call on the security forces to exercise maximum restraint,” she said on Twitter on Tuesday night.
The message was in response to a tweet by Afrobeat musician, Burna Boy, urging the UN to intervene shortly after security agents allegedly opened fire on protesters in Lagos.
“UN, Amina Mohammed, UN Watch, the situation in Lagos is now out of control!!!
“You guys need to intervene even though I know there’s a protocol. This is SERIOUS!!,” Burna Boy twitted.
Tuesday’s incident occurred five days after UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres advised security agencies not to use brute force against peaceful protesters.
Addressing newsmen through his spokesman, Mr Stephane Dujarric in New York, Guterres said he was keenly following the #EndSARS protests.
Stressing the importance of respect for peaceful protests and freedom of assembly, he urged the “security forces to exercise maximum restraint in the policing of the demonstrations.”
The Joint Action Front (JAF) which condemned “in its entirety the mass murder and genocide committed last night at the Lekki Tollgate, Lagos-Nigeria end of the #EndSARS Protest by the Buhari civilian dictatorship,” saying “October 20, 2020 will go down as a SAD DAY, in which the Nigeria Army committed one of its worst atrocities when it unleashed genocidal venom on patriotic Nigerian youths and women, gate in Lagos, Nigeria using the guise of curfew imposed by the Lagos Government and in which scores of peaceful and defenceless Nigerians were injured and several murdered for daring to continue the #EndSARS Protest.”
The group in a statement by its Chairperson, Dr Dipo Fashina and Secretary, Mr Abiodun Aremu, maintained that , “The stage for the massacre of armless youth yesterday, has been on rehearsals in Abuja,, Jo’s, Benin, Port Harcourt, Osogbo, Ilorin, Kano, Ibadan, Lagos, etc and other centres across the country where state sponsored violence, employing the use of rented crowds of mercenaries (called thugs and miscreants) were for over a week ago and on daily basis, used to attack the peaceful protests, carried out arsons targeted at destruction of some public properties, especially Police stations, all as part of the premeditated design to criminalise the protests and provide the excuse for the notorious and merciless military killings of hapless Nigerians.
“In other for the Buhari regime to carry out the military’s blood thirsty and monstrous crimes, the CCTV cameras and lights in the Lekki Tollgate, were suddenly cut off few minutes to the dastardly operation.
“We commiserate with all Nigerians on this particularly sad development of unwarranted blood letting, most especially the family and relations whose children, became victims of the state murder.
“We urge all Nigerians in Lagos and across the country to make public cases of family members and friends shot, killed or missing, since the commencement of the #EndSARS Protest two weeks ago, in order to ascertain the numbers of Nigerians who might have been victims of the Buhari Government’s overt and covert state violence.
“Our duty as JAF in such a moment of national tragedy as this, is to reiterate and intensify the National Mobilisation of Nigerians on a long drawn struggle for SYSTEM CHANGE, which we commenced on September 16, 2020 in our demands for the unconditional reversal in the hikes of the prices of petrol and electricity tariffs.
“The latest act of massacre of Nigerians brings to fore once more the point we in JAF have consistently made that: *”… there is a very tiny group of Nigerians who have cornered the wealth that belong to the working people and the poor, who are in majority. They loot the treasury and use their stolen wealth to sustain themselves in power through their political parties. They use their power to get richer and richer while the poor get poorer and poorer.
This is the system of exploitation and oppression. It is the system that brings out the army and the police to kill poor people when they protest against exploitation and oppression. We want to change that system and replace it with a system where the working people and millions of people who are suffering under the system of exploitation will win power and ensure that the wealth of Nigeria is used to ensure a good life for the majority of the people who are now exploited and oppressed,” the group said.