#ENDSARS: Pro-SARS hoodlums disrupt protests in Lagos, Abuja

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By Moses Adeniyi, Lagos and Ogaga Ariemu, Abuja

As the #ENDSARS protest marks a non-break train for eight days on Wednesday, hoodlums believed to be pro-SARS sponsored moved to attack protesters in Lagos and Abuja yesterday.

In Lagos yet-to-be identified hoodlums armed  with matchets, cutlasses and broken bottles attempted to  attacks thousands of protesters who defied the Wednesday downpour to sustain the nationwide #ENDSARS protests in Alausa, Ikeja, the Lagos State Capital.

The hoodlums who stormed the gathering of protesters about 4:00 p.m. as protesters marched in-between Alausa and Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, were however overpowered by the protesters who mobilised to counter the hoodlums and apprehended four of them.

The hoodlums numbering about 15, reportedly stormed the scene of the protest swiftly, and succeeded in snatching cash, smartphones and other personal items, while protesters took to their heels before some of them regained boldness to challenge the opportunists.

It was gathered that upon discovering their limit owing to the counter from the mammoth crowd of protesters, the hoodlums took to their heels while four of them were apprehended and handed over to the Police.

It was gathered that had the protesters not risen for self defence, the hoodlums would have taken full advantage of them, as Police operatives present to ensure the safety of protesters stayed afar off, as the hoodlums moved in with attacks.

Peaceful protests in the State Capital, took a more relaxed carnival-mood on Wednesday under the downpours, as protesters kicked off the protest chanting the National Anthem at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja, from about 10:00 A. M

The protesters have declared their resolve to sustain their demonstration until all the demands made are effectively addressed by the Government, making reference to the failure of promises made by the Government in the past.

Wednesday’s protests disrupted free flow of traffic within the State’s capital as well as other lining routes including the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway which left road users stranded.

Heavy traffic jam also rocked Lekki Phase 1 as a similar carnival-like protest was staged at VGC, Lekki and Sangitedo, Lagos, with barricades staged on major roads along the axis.

In Abuja, Youths from different parts of Abuja came out enmasse to demand the enforcement of the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and also to demand justice for victims of police brutality on October 14th, 2020.Some of the roads blocked in the Federal Capital Territory were the popular Berger, Lugbe, Airport Express Roads. Commuters were seen frustrated in the major hours of Wednesday.

One commercial vehicle driver, Mr Usman Afolabi reacting to the issue said the situation was frustrating, stating that he exhausted his petrol while on Traffic today.

Another resident of FCT, Mrs Stella Nwafor said she spent almost all her working hour time on traffic along Berger Utako axis today.

According to the information gathered by Nigerian NewsDirect the protesters marched through major streets in the city and blocked major roads thereby causing gridlock in the FCT.

The ENDSARS protesters also assembled at the entrance of the Ministry of Justice and displayed placards demanding justice for slain victims of police brutality.

Among the highlight of their recalibrated demand is a complete reform of the Nigeria Police Force, instead of just replacing the Special Anti-Robbery (SARS) unit with another unit called SWAT was also part of their demands.

Meanwhile, some armed thugs stormed the arena of protest, inflicted injuries on peaceful protesters, while vandalising vehicles belonging to the protesters with attacks on other motorists.

The incident brought the protest which commenced around 8:00 A.M. on Wednesday morning to an abrupt end, as protesters including passersby and traders took to their heels for safety.

The Commissioner of Police in the FCT, Bala Ciroma however said no arrest has been made in relation to the attack, confirming that five vehicles were destroyed in the process.

He attributed the attack to division of protesters into two camps of those protesting against SARS and those against ending SARS.

He said; “Well, today, being 14th of October, 2020, there was a convergence of protesters at Berger Roundabout. The protesters were divided into two, those protesting against SARS and those against ending SARS.

“While we deployed our men to ensure law and order, these groups came into the arena, and before we knew it, there were hot exchanges between the groups.

“However, the timely intervention of the police officers prevented the situation from deteriorating and we have commenced investigation to determine what actually happened.

“There were five vehicles vandalised and so far, no arrest has been made and no casualty seen. We have deployed quite a number of our men to the various parts of the city.

“My message is that we should allow calm to return so that economic activities can pick up.”

In a related development, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) has expressed support for the ongoing #ENDSARS protests across major cities of the nation.

Its Assistant General Overseer, Administration and Personnel, Pastor, Johnson Odesola, in a statement hailed youths for protesting against the alleged brutality and extortion of police operatives.

While noting the constitutional responsibility of Police to maintain law and order, the Church urged operatives to constantly align their strategies with the needs of the people.

It lamented many innocent lives had been wasted through unnecessary brutality and wrong application of force.

The Church called on the government to not only restructure the Police but also re-orientate the officers towards modern ways of policing.

“The Church welcomes the disbandment of the SARS, and notes the establishment of a new outfit called the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) but warned that it should not become a case of old wine in a new bottle.

“The Church reiterated its call on Government to take urgent steps to tackle the rising rate of unemployment, decay in the nation’s educational system and the general harsh economic situation in the country,” RCCG stated.

It however appealed to protesters to comport themselves orderly, eschew violence and destruction while expressing their grievances.