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General News of Saturday, 10 October 2020

Source: Punch

Killings: Anti-SARS protest gains support in UK, US, South Africa, Canada

Nationwide protests demanding proscription of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad have gathered momentum beyond Nigeria, with #EndSARS trending on Twitter in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Canada.

The protest was also the most trended issue on Friday globally, according to a Tweet by @BBCAfrica, as Nigerians continued to demonstrate across the country amid violent clashes.

#EndSARS protest was reignited last week following the shooting of a youth reportedly in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, in broad daylight by some FSARS operatives who drove away his Lexus Jeep. The police have said the youth didn’t die.

The Nigeria Police Force consequently banned FSARS and other special tactical squads from carrying out routine stop and search.

Nigerians claimed that the police authorities had not shown enough commitment to reform the dreaded police unit over the years and called for its disbandment.

Despite the Force’s call for calm, the protest raged on in several parts of the country, including Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Delta, Imo, with Nigerians abroad joining the demonstration.

A Nigerian-British actor, John Boyega, on Friday was among the international celebrities who lent their voices to the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

The Star Wars actor also announced on Twitter that an anti-SARS protest would hold at the Nigeria High Commission in London, the United Kingdom, on Sunday.

Boyega posted an illustration via his handle, @JohnBoyega, showing protesters carrying placards with the inscriptions, “EndSARS, EndPoliceBrutality, and EndSARSProtest.”

“Nigeria High Commission, 9 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BX. Closest station in Charing Cross. Sunday, 11th October; 12:00pm,” the actor tweeted about the upcoming protest.

As of 6pm on Friday, Boyega’s tweet had attracted over 9,500 likes and 7,700 retweets as many Nigerians living in London vowed to join in the protest.

The #EndSARS was also one of the most trended topics on Twitter on Friday with some Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the UK, the United States, South Africa, and Canada, pledging to organise similar protests to amplify support for the calls to disband SARS – a police unit accused of serial human rights abuses.

In its tweet on Friday, @BBCAfrica noted that “The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending at no 1 worldwide today, as protestors continue to demand a notorious police unit in Nigeria disbanded.”

LASG pleads as protesters block Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

On Friday, many commuters were stranded around the Alausa and Berger areas of Lagos as protesters blocked the Alausa section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Saturday Punch gathered that the protesters moved from the entrance of the Lagos House of Assembly to block the highway on Friday, marking the end of a 72-hour demonstration during which the participants passed two nights in front of the assembly.

One of the protesters, Elizabeth Ogunseye, said, “We are done with the protest having spent 72 hours. We had a meeting with the House of Assembly this morning (Friday). A lot of members were for scrapping of FSARS and the Speaker closed the session with a prayer that he was in support of it. He, however, said they had to speak to the authorities first.

“We are waiting for a resolution letter on Monday from the Lagos State House of Assembly. If they fail to give us a resolution letter on Monday, by 9am on Tuesday, we will start another round of protest. We slept over there for two nights. There was no harassment because the protest was peaceful.”

The House in a resolution on Friday called for the replacement of FSARS with a new and well-structured security outfit.

The resolution was contained in a statement by Mr Tolani Abati, the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, tagged, ‘Proscribe F-SARS, Secure Protesters – Lagos Assembly issues seven Demands In support of #EndSARSNOW.’

The statement read in part, “Among the seven-point resolution passed after an extensive deliberation was also that the Senate and the House of Representatives should carry out a probe of the allegations against F-SARS including killing, maiming and dehumanising of Nigerians.

“SARS should be proscribed and a new security outfit which will be more efficient with clearly spelt out code of conduct and rule of engagements be established while sanction is imposed for misdemeanor.

“Mr President should ensure that culpable officials of SARS receive the punishment as prescribed by the National Assembly. Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions liaise with the Commissioner of Police and Attorney General of the State to fashion out ways and means to address allegations of ruthlessness and extra judicial killings contained in the petition against SARS in the state.

“The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, should engage relevant institutions to protect lives and property in the state such that phones, laptops and other means of communication belonging to youths are not confiscated indiscriminately without warrant.”

However, the Lagos State Government appealed to protesters to remain peaceful while the authorities addressed the issue.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, in a statement on Friday said the government shared in the pains of victims of police brutality.

The statement partly read, “It is not good. The message of the protests is clear – such acts of brutality must stop. We agree. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is discussing the issue with the police authorities and hopes that the matter will be resolved in the interest of our teeming youths and in the spirit of democracy.”

In his call, the state Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, advised the demonstrators to be civil but noted that their outrage was in order and within their rights as citizens.

He said, “The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones. It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles.”

Protest turns violent in Osun, Abuja, British High Commission cautions FG

There was violence in Osun and Abuja on Friday as youths flooded streets in protest.

In an attempt to disperse the protesters in Osogbo, policemen shot indiscriminately. It was learnt that the protesters put up resistance and pelted the security operatives with stones as the protest caused gridlock at the Ola-Iya junction in the state capital.

The operatives, who initially took cover beside their Armoured Personnel Carriers stationed at the junction, later shot to disperse the angry youths.

In Abuja, security operatives fired tear gas canisters at demonstrators and shot repeatedly. A viral video shows the protesters running helter-skelter.

Some of them were heard shouting “they are shooting at us,” “Don’t kill us with teargas,” “You must #EndSARS.”

An activist and the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said he learnt someone was shot during the police attack on the protesters.

But the police while confirming the protest stated that no one was arrested or shot.

The Federal Capital Territory Police spokesperson, ASP Mariam Yusuf, said, “I can confirm there was a protest but my findings showed that no one was shot or injured.”

Meanwhile, the British High Commission on Friday asked the Federal Government to respect the rights of #EndSARS protesters.

The Political Counsellor, British High Commission, Abuja, Mr Dominic Williams, said the commission was closely monitoring the developments, adding that he hoped the protests would be positive for police reform in the country.

“We are following developments closely. [We] encourage authorities to respect [the] human rights of protestors and those protesting to remain peaceful. Hope that this moment catalyses progress on police reform,” he tweeted via @DomWUK.

Earlier on Friday, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, also said the #EndSARS protests showed the desire of the citizens for police reform.

“Significant protests over #SARS demonstrating Nigerian people’s desire for police reform. Peaceful protests are powerful. Police Act recently passed by @MBuhari provides [a] good foundation to build [a] more accountable community police force. @UKinNigeria @PoliceNG,” she tweeted via her verified handle @CatrionaLaing1.

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