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#EndSARS: Businesses bleed as protest rocks Nigeria

… threatens business existence, prospective investors - NECA … dissolution first step to reform – Buhari … as Sanwo-Olu to brief Buhari today … CSO petitions US, UK, EU to slam visa ban on Oyo CP, family members

A day after the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), protest has continued across Nigeria.

Yesterday, activities around the Lagos International Airport experienced difficulties as #ENDSARS protesters formed a human wall around the airport’s access plaza.

The blockade of the road caused serious gridlock, with most motorists stuck on the road as at midday, as the protest was bound to disrupt travelling activities at the airport.

The protest, which entered its fourth day in a row on Monday, made movement within the commercial city of Lagos very difficult.

As early as 4am in Lagos, protesters occupied strategic major roads like Lekki Tollgate, Lekki Link Bridge tollgate leading to a complete standstill along the Lekki-Epe Expressway.

Businesses and employees working along the axis have to call in to request a work-from-home model to make up for absence from work.

The protest is continuing despite a video announcement by the IGP that the police unit had been disbanded.

According to Ayodeji Ebo, a senior economist/head, research/strategy, Greenwich Merchant Bank, the protest if not curtailed would affect productivity as offices may close, and would slow down investment generally.

Sadly in Lagos, commercial buses had to increase fares 100 percent within the routes affected, with Ajah to CMS, for instance, going as high as N800 from N400.

Update in Surulere area of the state, according to a note sent to colleagues in the office, read, “We have just received reports of live rounds being fired in clashes between security forces and protesters during the EndSars protests at Surulere. At least one protester has been killed and some others arrested.

“If you live in Surulere or will be going home through that route, please ensure that you are careful and keep safe. If possible, avoid the Ojuelegba-Stadium axis completely.

“Kindly ensure that you do not leave the office late today as well so that you are not caught up on the road in the dark.”

Oguche Agudah, CEO of Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp), said the #ENDSARS protest in many parts of Lagos caused some traffic, which delayed people getting to their places of work on time.

“Like you know, as early as 5am, there were twits on the protest, anybody could have expected some distractions. However, for our kind of business, one day would not have made much impact, but if it takes three or four days, we can begin to feel it,” he said.

In a telephone conversation with BusinessDay, Timothy Olawale, director-general, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), said the protests had come to worsen the already fragile security situation in the country.

According to Olawale, this has further put businesses and investments at risk, as business concerns in areas where protests are being concentrated have had to shut down.

“No business organisation wants to put its investment and the lives of its workers at risk. Naturally, businesses have to shut down to avoid being attacked should hoodlums hijack the protests. And as you know, when you shut down your operations, you lose productive hours, when you lose productive hours, you lose money, when you lose money, you lose profit, and when you lose profit, the existence of the business is threatened.

“This not only affect existence businesses but also prospective investors. Nobody wants to invest in a clime that he is not sure of the safety of that investment. That is why the government should do all that is necessary to ensure that the threat from the protests and the general atmosphere of insecurity in the country, which we have been drawing attention to, is urgently addressed.”

Also, Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the protests might turn out to be negative for the economy if not well managed, stressing the need for proportionality on the part of protesters and the law enforcement agents, calling for calm from all the players involved.

Yusuf noted that President Buhari had shown deference by scrapping SARS, saying police reforms would naturally take some time to come into place.

On his part, Ambrose Oruche, acting director-general, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said he hopes the whole situation would lead to better protection of lives, businesses and property.

Joe Abah, an expert in law and former head of Bureau for Public Enterprises, said on his Twitter handle that the police must stop firing live ammunition on peaceful protesters, saying the more innocent protesters were killed, the more difficult it would be to appeal for calm.

Meanwhile, governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is to meet with President Buhari, today in Abuja, following the eruption of violence in the #EndSARS protests in the state.

Sanwo-Olu, who has identified with the protests against the dissolved SARS, braved the odds on Monday to address the protesters at Lekki where crowd of youths camped and blocked the expressway. He urged them to be decorous and peaceful while expressing their grievances against the excessive use of force by SARS.

Sanwo-Olu left the weekly meeting of the State Executive Council and moved to address the EndSARS protesters.

The governor told the demonstrators that their protest was legitimate, but pleaded with them not to block the roads while passing on their grievances to the authorities.

He said he had spoken with the IGP on Monday to outline the position of the Lagos government on police reforms, adding that he would visit President Buhari on Tuesday (today) and present the demands of Lagos youths on the issues.

The protest continued in Abuja on Monday, but with a new demand by the demonstrators for a “comprehensive police reform” of the force.

The protesters’ initial demand was the dissolution of the SARS unit of the police, which was granted and announced by the IGP, but could not quell the wide spread national protests.

The ‘EndSARS’ protest have also gained international attention as countries such as the UK, Sweden and France urged the Federal Government to listen to the demand of the people.

In Abuja, the demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force as well as the embassies of the US, UK, and the EU to press home the fresh demand of absolute reforms of the police who they say have continued to brutalise citizens, particularly the youths.

At the three diplomatic houses visited in Abuja, Concerned Nigerians – a civil society organisation participating in the police reform protest, filed separate petitions, calling for a visa ban on the Oyo State police commissioner, Nwachukwu Enwonwu and members of his family.

Convener of the civil society group, Deji Adeyanju, who read a copy of the petition before journalists, said: “We appeal to the US and other development partners of Nigeria to place a visa restriction on the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Nwachukwu Enwonwu and members of his family over his handling of the ongoing EndSARS protest, which has led to extrajudicial killings and several human rights violations in the state.”

In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde said security agencies had been deployed to maintain law and order as well as secure lives and property, declaring the protesters as championing the #ENDSARS protest, but urged them to remain peaceful so as not to negatively affect the peace of the state.

In a state broadcast, the governor said security agencies excluding the Nigerian Police, had been deployed by the state government to take the frontline in securing the #ENDSARS protesters and to maintain the peace.

Although business places and major markets were affected by the protest, the governor assured the state that he would do everything within his powers to ensure “no further lives are lost.”

“While peaceful protesters must not be hurt in the process, protesters must also remain peaceful as they make their legitimate grievances known to government,” he said.

Ajibola Bashiru, a senator representing Osun Central, called on the Federal Government and the IGP to close all detention centres used by operatives of the disbanded SARS.

This is as the #ENDSARS protesters in Osun State trooped out to the state Governor’s House where they disrupted activities by blocking the main entrance gate.

The protesters also moved to the Osun State House Assembly where they were given an audience by members of the state legislative house.

The protest follows even when President Muhammadu Buhari had described the disbanding of the police unit as the first step to measures aimed at reforming the entire police force.

It is the President’s first public statement since the nearly 10 days the #ENDSARS protest began on social media and erupted across streets across in the nation.

“The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people,” President Buhari said on Monday.

He also pleaded that the activities of a “few” corrupt officers should not be used to judge the entire force.

Protesters across the country had demanded the President dissolve the SARS unit for alleged distortions, brutality, and outright murder of innocent and unarmed young people. The protest, which followed fresh evidence of brutality and killings, was led by notable Nigerian entertainers in Lagos, garnering a large social media support. It peaked as the top trending topic in the world on social media for a record three days even surpassing the BlackLivesMatter by the number of tweets – over 30 million tweets made in a single day.

As police and protesters clashed and eyewitnesses posted more evidence of police dealing ruthlessly with unarmed protesters, support flooded in from different parts of the world. International sports figures like Mezut Ozil, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterlin, and hundreds of notable actors, music artistes, and media professionals tweeted solidarity for the #ENDSARS movement.

The protest spilled over on the streets of major cities soon after the IGP’s ban directive on Sunday witnessed one of the largest gatherings of young people against the authorities in recent times, on Monday. The protest soon drew mothers whose children have either fallen victim to SARS brutality or were afraid that their children’s lives may be in danger because of the continued existence of the notorious unit.

Not minding the IGP’s pronouncement, the protesters insisted the order should be coming from the President given that such directives given by the IGPs in the past had not had any impact on the SARS officers.

“If President Muhammadu Buhari was facing re-election, he would have addressed the nation on #EdnPoliceBrutality by now,” tweeted Omojuw Japheth, media personnel. “Makes you wonder, those tears he shed on national TV back when he thought he’d never be president, what happened to those tears?”

The protesters also had five demands they wanted to be met by the President and the IGP of police.

The demands include 1) Immediate release of all arrested protesters 2) Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families 3) Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days) 4) In line with the new police act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS before they can be redeployed 5) Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.

The protest on Monday would go on to cripple activities at the Lagos and Abuja Airports, grind traffic to a halt in several parts of Lagos, shut down the office of Osun governor before the President finally spoke.

“Mr. President @MBuhari, please issue an order that, with immediate effect, live ammunition should not be found on policemen anywhere near peaceful protesters,” Joe Abah, a policy expert and Country director of DAI tweeted. “Another young man has reportedly been killed in Surulere. Police should take a daily inventory of bullets.”

While the President’s speech brought some form of relief to the protesters, it was not clear whether it was enough assurance for the angry protesters.

 

Frank Eleanya, Lagos, REMI FEYISIPO, Ibadan, & Tony Ailemen, Chiedozie Emmanuel, Abuja

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