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Hoodlums, Cult Gangs Hijacked #EndSARS Protect, Lagos Tells Panel

The Lagos State government yesterday told the state’s Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other Related matters that the protest was hijacked by hoodlums from legitimate protesters.

This claim was made by the Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola while testifying before the panel presided over by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi.

Muri-Okunola, who was summoned by the panel to give oral, documentary and visual- evidence over the lekki incident of October 20, 2020, said that although the #EndSARS protest stated peaceful it was later hijacked by people with different agendas including hoodlums.

Muri-Okunola

Read Also: #EndSARS: Lagos Engages Forensic Experts To Probe Lekki Toll Gate Incident

Led in evidence by the lead counsel to the government, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), the Head of Service gave a chronological account of the protests in Lagos from October 8, 2020.

According to him, the #EndSARS protesters initially gathered at two main points in the state, that is, the Lagos House at Alausa and the lekki toll gate.

He said some days later, some “guerilla protesters” hijacked the “noble” demonstration which prompted Mr Sanwo-Olu to announce a curfew.

“Violence escalated throughout the city of Lagos, with hoodlums infiltrating and… the peaceful protest of this decentralized movement of Endsars,” he said.

“Across the city, young men were manning makeshift checkpoints and barricading major roads and stopping cars on routes across the city.

“They were not carrying the placards and signs that had characterised earlier peaceful protests. The lives of both protesters and the rest of the citizens alike were put in danger.

“Around 10.00 am on the 20 of October 2020, the only police station was set on fire by suspected hoodlums who had hijacked the EndSARS protest in a reprisal attack fuelled by the alleged shooting of one of them by a policeman, hoodlums who had carted away ammunition looted from various police stations around the city unleashed mayhem around the city while destroying properties, mugging innocent citizens and threatening the lives of everyone that they came in contact with.”

He also testified that “it was around October 12 that the government noticed in their interactions with the protesters that the protests had been infiltrated by hoodlum who attacked the governor and his deputy on more than one occasion.

“As at 6:45pm on October 20, after the curfew had been extended to 9:pm to enable residents get home safely, the government received reports from residents around Queens Drive and Ozumba Mbadiwe that there were gun shots heard around the toll gate.

“He (the governor) thought at the time that they were police men, so he called the police authorities to confirm, but he was told that the stand down order of the enforcement of the curfew by 9:pm was being complied with.

“Call was made to the Nigerian army but he was told the same thing that their men were also on stand down.

“And based on supposed live broadcast and comments that it was soldiers shooting, the Governor called an army officer, General Ndagi who was at the security council meeting of October 19.

“We deployed emergency services to the toll plaza. Because of the uncertainty as to who these men were at that time, the main concern was maintaining calm and peace.

“Alausa protesters had dispersed and so there were no incidents from that locality.

“While making frantic calls to find out who was responsible for the alleged shooting, the governor also monitored hospitals in the area for any casualties.

“He also went out to see things for himself and visited hospitals including General Hospital in Marina.

“There were about 13 persons injured at Reddington Hospital, 12 injured at General Hospital, no one presented gun shot wounds, only machete cuts, fractures, and wounds sustained from people tripping over themselves.

“The next day the Governor appealed to residents in a broadcast to stay calm. He also confirmed two deaths one at reddington due to blunt force trauma and the other at Yaba.

“The Oba of Lagos Palace, City Hall, Igbosere High Court and others were attacked. The fire service was prevented by the hoodlums from moving around, he stated.

According to Mr Muri-Okunola, Nollywood actress, Eniola Badmus, Stephen Becky, Iraby of Oto-Auch, Joshua Ogbodo who were said to have been killed during the Lekki shooting have denied the rumours.

Others are “Anthony Chechukwu alleged to have been shot by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate has been confirmed to have died in a motorcycle accident and Lucia Adu who was claimed to have died at the Lekki Toll Gate was confirmed to have been killed in an accident involving a stationary truck on 20th October 2020.”

The Panel admitted the police incident report covering the material time from 12-30 October.

On the lessons for the protesters, Muri-Okunola stressed that it will take a long time to rebuild the city.

He further told the panel that things can legitimately be done without disturbing the rights of another person, saying “the original intent of the protest was not the outcome that we saw, social media has taught us that people will act without reason just because you have that followership.”

The Head of Service also appealed to the panel to give a robust framework on how the govt can pay more attention to social media trends, among other recommendations.

17th April 2024
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