Buhari warns EndSARS protesters to stay off streets
•Agitators retreat over tight security in Lagos, FCT
•Soldiers, police back at Lekki Toll Gate
Bolaji Ogundele, Okodili Ndidi, Nicholas Kalu, Abuja; Precious Igbonwelundu and Toba Adedeji, Osogbo
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Monday vowed to “decisively” deal with hoodlums hiding behind peaceful protests to disrupt public peace.
The President, who recalled that the #ENDSARS protests in October were hijacked by hooligans, commended security operatives, especially the Army, for restoring law and order across the country.
Buhari spoke on Monday while virtually declaring open the Chief of Army Staff (CAOS) Annual Conference 2020, from the State House in Abuja. His address was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
Organisers of the planned second wave of the protests in Lagos could not make good their vow to return to the streets yesterday following a warning by the state police command on Sunday.
But, in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, #EndSARS protesters resumed street agitation, calling on the Federal Government to unfreeze the accounts of #EndSARS promoters and the release of all persons arrested during and after the protests.
Also in Abuja, the FCT Police Command denied a viral video showing protesters on the streets.
Buhari told participants at the yearly conference that hoodlums hijacked the peaceful protests, killing, maiming and destroying public and private properties.
Lauding the Army for intervening in the “large-scale criminality that ensued in the wake of the #EndSARS protests,” he said: “I am pleased to note that the Army remained resolute in the discharge of its constitutional roles. “
The President however, assured that his government was still committed to ensuring that the rights of Nigerians to peacefully protest were protected.
He added that such rights must not only be responsibly explored, but must be in accordance with the laws of the land.
The planned resumption of #ENDSARS protest in Lagos was stalled, following heavy deployment of police and soldiers across the state.
Its organisers early yesterday advised their supporters to stay home on learning of the presence of policemen and soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate, National Stadium, Freedom Park, Ojota and other strategic locations.
Their supporters had dared the police on Sunday, following the latter’s statement banning any form of gathering,
In one of their chats on WhatsApp, some of them hinted as early as 7am they were about hitting the streets, but were advised otherwise by the admins who reminded them on the need to stay alive.
Information was subsequently syndicated through various social media platforms that supporters should stay at home until it was safe to carry placards on the streets.
The organisers urged their supporters to continue to agitate on the social media until their demands, including the resignations of President Buhari; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State; and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
They also want the trio to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Other demands by the organisers include the release of all persons arrested during the first #ENDSARS protests, unfreezing of accounts of their promoters; and an end to insecurity and bad governance.
As the online protests continued, some mischievous persons shared pictures and videos, claiming that protests were ongoing at Lekki Tollgate and Mushin areas of the state. They urged youths to turn out en masse.
The Police command condemned the fake news and urged the public to go about their normal businesses.
Its spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the videos and pictures were shared to cause tension and destabilise security network in the state.
He said: “The video was one of the viral videos released during the recent violent Endsars protest before the Lekki Tollgate plaza was set ablaze by violent protesters on October 21.
“The command, therefore, urges the public to regard the video as baseless and mischievous. The command also wishes to appeal to the public to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses as the police are prepared to deal decisively, within the ambit of the law, with any act of lawlessness that could lead to break down of law and order in the state.”
Also, no protest took place at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), although viral videos and pictures in the social media led to speculations about the protest.
As the disinformation generate anxiety in Abuja, the Police command advised members of the public to remain calm.
Police Public Relations Officer Yusuf Mariam, said the videos and pictures were intended to cause tension amongst residents.
He added: “While urging residents to remain calm, law-abiding and go about their legitimate endeavors peacefully, the command wishes reiterate its unflinching commitment to the protection of lives and property within the FCT.”
The Nation reporter, who visited Unity Fountain, Berger Roundabout, Area One Junction, Airport, among others in the FCT and Abuja, did not notice any sign of protest.
There were however, armed policemen and other security personnel patrolling major areas of the FCT.
It was gathered that a few persons staged a protest at the entrance of the National Assembly but this could not be verified.
A worker at the secretariat claimed that he saw some protesters who later dispersed.
But, protesters in Osogbo converged at Ogo-Oluwo area along Osogbo/Gbongan Road around 10am on Monday. From there, they marched to Osun State House of Assembly where they were received by Speaker Timothy Owoeye
They laid siege to the Assembly gate, singing anti-government songs and displaying placards with inscriptions: “We are not fighting for any political party”, “ #End Bad Judiciary in Nigeria”, “#End fake judicial panel of Inquiry in Osun”, “Unfreeze all the frozen account” and ” We are Nigerian youths.”
This was in spite of the heavy presence of security operatives at the Assembly’s entrance and other security operatives opposite it. They also called for the probe the state youth empowerment programme and the statement credited to the Police O/C Legal in the state police command, F. B Osei, and #EndSARS town hall meeting.
At 11:55am, Owoeye arrived the Assembly Gate where he addressed the protesters after their leaders, Emmanuel Adebisi, made some presentations.
Adebisi said: “We only suspended the protest. We did not call it off. We suspended it because of some reasons. Part of the reasons for the suspension was the hijack by hoodlums.
“The government also promised to organise a town hall meeting in respect of #EndSARS. At the programme, they did not allow any of the EndSARS protesters to be a part of it. The government only included those that were not part of us.
“We want the Assembly to probe O/C Legal, F. B Osei for making a statement that the life of someone killed by the disbanded SARS is not worth N1.3million. He said the lives of some people are worth N100, 000, N50, 000 and N20,000.
“We demanded that they should dissolve the panel of inquiry in Osun State because none of our members was included. They should release Segun, one of us that was arrested and remanded in Ilesha prison after the EndSARS protest.
“We want the Federal Government to unfreeze the accounts of EndSARS protesters. We are peaceful protesters, we know our rights and we won’t give in to any intimidation.”
The Speaker pleaded with them to suspend the street agitations to enable the Assembly look into their demands.
He said: “As part of our agenda of effective public engagement we are going to look into the issues you raised. We will summon the OC Legal and the Commissioner for Youths and Sports.
“We are going to look at the composition of the panel of inquiry. I believe that between now and Monday, we will come up with a decision. We are into it together; we cannot run away from you as a responsible government. Power is responsibility.”
Two non-governmental organisations – Anambra Civil Society Network (ACSONET) and the Coalition of Anambra Youth Leaders (CAYL), urged residents to shun the clamor for #EndSARSRenewedProtests.
They made the call in two separate statements in Awka, following social media posts asking youths to protests.
ACSONET Chairman, Mr Chris Azor, said: ”We enjoin the entrepreneurial and hardworking youths and citizens not to participate in any form of protests and or violence that may adversely affect the state architecture and livelihoods.
“We call on all Anambra citizens, especially the youth, to protect our beloved state from any attack and destruction of our hard earned heritage.”
His CAYL counterpart, Nwabufo Nwankwo, warned the youths to desist from participating in the protest.
He said: “We hereby caution all non-indigenes, who reside and or visit the state, to desist from any action and inaction that will sabotage the peace, security, and serenity that we enjoy in the state.”