Nearly two weeks after the recent #EndSARS protest turned violent, resulting in unprecedented destruction of both private and public properties, looting in many states of the federation, and loss of lives, the rebuilding process have begun.
Many of the affected states in the south east have unveiled some initiatives targeted at repairing/reconstructing public properties destroyed by hoodlums during the protest, youth empowerment, compensating the victims of the protest and forestalling a reoccurrence in the future.
While, residents lamented that while they were battling to recover from COVID-19 woes, the #EndSARS protest has added to their hardships on them, citing the increase in the prices of goods and services as skyrocketing each day.
Findings showed that during the protest, traders had challenges in bringing food items from the northern part of the country into the eastern parts like cattle, beans, onion, yam, tomato and pepper, among others.
Subsequently trucks that bring cows and other goods into the state were targeted by hoodlums during the unrest that followed the protest resulting to one of the major barricade for importation of food.
A member of the National Union of Butchers Association of Nigeria in Rivers State at Okoruma Slaughter, Suleiman Sule, said: “From Delta State, boys blocked the road and forced the drivers to go and offload.
These boys were ready to burn the trucks and because of this, the truck owners warned their drivers to turn back immediately they saw situations like that. That is one of the factors that is causing scarcity of meat in the state and as it is; we cannot guarantee that Rivers people will see meat soon.”
However, checks around the eastern states revealed that cow meat, fish, onions was relatively available in the state but very costly. This was also the case with other food items earlier mentioned.
News Echo Correspondent reports that only few police stations are open in the south east with little attention accorded to masses. Volunteers and ‘area boys have taken control of traffic and maintaining law and order in some areas. Residents were also seen obeying them but that was not enough as there was gridlock in some parts of the cities particularly in Onitsha.
As part of efforts to restore normalcy, the five eastern state governments recently held a meeting in Enugu to discuss best ways to tackle the demands of the youths, which the government pledged to address. The government also met with religious, political and community leaders in the state, where they were urged to dialogue with the youth in their localities.
A civil servant with the state government who did not want his name in print described the #EndSARS protest as a sad development, explaining that businesses and public service were interrupted during the period.
“I observe that the prices of goods and services still remain high. The state is just recovering from the COVID-19 lockdown, which lasted for months. Here we are now; the state government has not paid salaries and pensions of workers. Now they have added more excruciating pains and hardships on families,” he said.
Another resident, Frank said: “Many state governments have set up Judicial Commission of Enquiries on police brutality. Citizens have confidence that security agencies will respect the civil society.
Unfortunately, the fear here is that police may not give 100 per cent performance, because they are torn between protecting the law and respecting the civil society, which is a difficult task. There could be increase in criminality because the police have reduced their action for fear of being tagged ‘brutes’ of civil society.”
The epicenter of the protest is Lagos State and the violence that followed at the Lekki toll gate, here Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has signed an executive order establishing the Lagos State Rebuilding Trust Fund.
According to him, the trust fund would drive the reconstruction of the state due to the huge destruction witnessed during the mayhem.
The governor also constituted an eight-member Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee headed by the Chairman of Citibank Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso, to oversee the rebuilding of every aspect of the state and also look at the future and healing of Lagos.
“Therefore, by the power vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I will today sign an Executive Order to set up an eight-man Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee, which will as a matter of urgency begin to oversee our recovery process.
“As I sign the Executive Order today, I am positive that we will attain new heights of development, we will build more resilient systems, we will become more united and accomplish our audacious goals and visions for Lagos State.
“I assure you of the committee’s utmost commitment to the reconstruction and upgrade of our dear state. In these challenging but interesting times, we realize that we have the potent opportunity to reform our state and upgrade our structures,” Sanwo-Olu said.
However, not fully satisfied by these government proposals, residents still live in worry on the withdrawal of policemen and other law enforcement officers from the streets since the end of the protest.
Even officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) are yet to return to duty in many parts of the state. The development has resulted in traffic gridlock across the state and other acts of lawlessness that have put residents in fear.
According to a resident in Ilasamaja area of the state, Adedoyin Afeez, the arms carted away by hoodlums from the police stations were already in the hands of armed robbers and cultists.
He said: “A lot of police stations were burnt down in the name of the protest while arms and ammunitions were carted away by hoodlums. Cultists are already using these arms to fight and kill each other in some places. Last Sunday, cultists identified as Eiye and Aye confraternities clashed at Salako Street in my area.
The fight left one person dead and many others injured. Some shops were broken into and goods stolen. All these are happening because there are no policemen in sight to maintain law and order in the community.
“There is no policeman to restore sanity in the community as I speak to you; because some of the policemen are well known in the community, most of them have run away while some are still receiving treatment in the hospital due to the injuries inflicted on them by hoodlums on that ‘black Tuesday’.
I just hope that all the burnt police stations would be rebuilt very soon. I want policemen to return to the streets. If not, this coming December will be hell for residents.”
Another resident in the state, Chidi Nwafor, also said: “#EndSARS protest brought a lot of negative changes in our society.
The state of affairs now is that of the survival of the fittest. COVID-19 disrupted many things good about this year. So, the #EndSARS protest, indeed, added salt to injury. We all know that the Nigerian economy hasn’t been fine before the protest.
A lot of people were struggling to survive.
“Now, there is no security in my neighbourhood because the police station, which was meant to harbor the security operatives, has been burnt. Everyone has taken his/her security in his/her hands, he added”.
Social and economic activities are gradually returning to normal after the nationwide #EndSARS protest. For the few days the rampaging youths took to the streets of Enugu, many private and public properties were attacked, like the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus where the protesters smashed entrance windows and burnt down some cars.
The premises of many commercial banks and their Automated Teller Machines (ATM) were either destroyed or set ablaze. Some security officials were also killed while others sustained injuries. A similar fate also befell some of the protesters.
According to the Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Abdurrahman, some of the burnt facilities in the state include Emene Police Station, two operational vehicles, Amechi-Idodo Police Station, Akwatta Police Post under Central Police Station, Maryland Police Post under Uwani Police Division and Phase Six Police Post under Trans Ekulu Police division.
Others are the Nigerian Immigration Service complex in Emene, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office; Njodo Development Centre, Enugu North local council secretariat security house and the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) security house.
He added that First Bank branches in Abakpa and Gariki; Access Bank branches on Presidential Road, Agbani Road and Garden Avenue; and United Bank for Africa (UBA), Fidelity Bank, Ecobank ATMs in the areas were either destroyed or set ablaze. Several shops were also looted.
He said that a Police Inspector, John Jesse, attached to Emene Police Division and Constable Ogboji Emmanuel attached to Abakpa Police station were killed.
To forestall further loss of lives and destruction of properties during the period, the state government had imposed a 24-hour curfew on the municipal local councils of Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South. The police also barricaded movements around their stations to ward off attackers.
Although the curfew was meant to restore order, most residents ignored it and went about their normal activities, apparently because law enforcement officers were nowhere to enforce it.
However, the curfew has fully been lifted and life is gradually returning to normal in the state. Students are back to school while employees of various institutions and organisations have also resumed work. Some of the major roads earlier barricaded as a result of the protests have been reopened, thereby easing the traffic challenges residents experienced during the period.
But commercial banks in the state now operate between 10.00am and 3.00pm. Also, most ATM machines in Enugu metropolis are non-functional as they were either destroyed and cash looted.
Even where the ATMs are good, they are not being stocked with cash. As a result, making transactions in the banks is no longer easy as customers who hitherto used the ATM now throng the banking hall.
A resident businessman, Mr Onyebuchi Anya, said “early last week we saw hell transacting money due to bank half say work and non functionality of the ATM machines, but thank God I was able to download my access bank App for online transactions. I hardly get hold of cash these days”.
However, Echo News Correspondent gathered that no policeman was sighted in the Enugu capital as all of them have deserted the streets of Enugu.
Further inquiry reveals that even at their stations, they do not wear their uniforms. Any visitor to the police stations is thoroughly questioned before being allowed entry and attended to. Following their absence from the streets, men of the Forest Guards and officials of the State Ministry of Transport (MOT) now control vehicular movements in the state.
Apparently not wanting to take chances or compromise the security of the state, the state government few last weeks ago inaugurated the Forest Guards to provide some level of security pending when policemen would return to work.
The government has also started rebuilding some of the facilities destroyed during the protest like traffic lights.
To ensure that victims of the #EndSARS protest are adequately compensated, the government has set up a Commission of Inquiry to interface with them and make recommendations. There is also a Judicial Commission of Inquiry on police brutality in the state, which is yet to begin work.
Human and business activities are gradually returning to normal in the State especially in Abakiliki, the state capital after the #EndSARS protest took a violent turn.
To quell youth agitation in the State, Government of Ebonyi State during a nation-wide broadcast announced a 2.6bn SME fund for organized youths Cooperative society in the 13 Local Government areas of the State and call for dialogue from the irate youths.
“I have today set aside the sum of 2.6bn SME fund for organized youths cooperative in all the Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State. Let us dialogue on how you could benefit from it. This is aside from the over 100 Executive Council members, over 1100 TAs and over 2000 Ebonyians who occupy political positions in the state of which 90 percent of those who occupy this political position are youth and over 30 percent of them are also women. Umahi sympathized with victims of the protest and promise to compensate the families.
Governor Umahi had also promised to compensate all families whose loved ones were either injured or killed during this unfortunate period, whether security agencies or civilians or even these hoodlums.
“School has resumed; they have started carrying their items, the only items left are being taken now by students and they are 50 bags of just 10kg rice, 200 bags of 20kg rice 1,500 cartons of tin tomatoes, 2000 gallons of oil, 2000 cartons of noodles and these items for the students put together is not up to what we gave to polling units.
Abia State also recorded loss of lives, destruction of private and public properties during and after the #ENDSARS protest.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mrs Janet Agbede, said two police officers were killed during the protest and their riffles taken away.
According to her, the hoodlums looted and burnt Police Zone 6 Annex Building in Aba. They also attempted to attack police stations and the Correctional Service Centre in Umuahia but were repelled by a combined team of police and military operatives. The hoodlums also looted and burnt five branches of commercial banks in the state, a High Court complex, a Magistrate Court, Aba South Town Hall and a church therein, Aba Fire Service Building and 102 government and private owned vehicles.
They equally destroyed streetlights in Aba and Umuahia even as they dislodged traders at the Aba onions, yam and watermelon markets. Even the Aba Primary Health Centre was not spared as it was broken into and looted.
The state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, had described the level of destruction in the state as monumental, saying how long it would take to repair them was uncertain.
He declared that the government would do everything within its power to recover the medical equipment looted from the Aba Primary Health Centre. He urged the looters to return the equipment within seven days or face the consequences.
After the protest, police personnel withdrew from the streets. As a result, the state is presently witnessing traffic congestions/chaos. To ease the situation, personnel of the state Traffic Indiscipline Management Agency and the Red Cross Society have been controlling traffic in certain locations in the state. But residents are getting increasingly worried about the safety of their lives and property as they go about their businesses daily.
Some residents who spoke on telephone with the Correspondent noted that the withdrawal of policemen from the streets as a kind of protest against the killing of their colleagues and the attacks on their stations will only add more salt to the injury.
Meanwhile, the governor has inaugurated a panel of enquiry headed by a retired Chief Judge of the state, Justice Sunday Imo, to investigate allegations of brutality by the police, which triggered the #EndSARS protest. He has also set up another panel headed by the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr Chimaobi Ebisike, to ascertain the level of damages to private and public properties in the state.
Imo State also recorded human and infrastructural losses during the recent #EndSARS protest across the country. Reports have it that two soldiers were killed near a roundabout in Nwaorieubi, Mbaitoli local council. The Director of Accounts in the council also lost his life.
In Okigwe local council, the protesters murdered two police officers. Two police stations, Nwaorieubi Police Station in Mbaitoli local council and Orji Police Station in Owerri North local council were also set ablaze. Four local council headquarters in the state were equally reduced to rubbles by the protesters.
They are Ehime Mbano, Isiala Mbano, Aboh Mbaise and Orlu. This is as a part the popular Afor Ogbe market in Ahiazu local council was also burnt. Even INEC offices and court buildings were not spared in some local council in the state.
Governor Hope Uzodimma, speaking during the state broadcast, said intelligence reports available revealed that the arsonists came from other states, adding that security agencies were on their trail.
The governor and the state Commissioner of Police, Isaac Akinmoyede, have visited some of the burnt facilities to assess the level of damage.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in the state since the governor relaxed the initial 24-hour curfew, which he imposed at the peak of the protest. Soldiers have been deployed to some strategic locations in the state but policemen are hardly seen anywhere. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Orlando Godson Ikeokwu, however, insisted that no police operative was withdrawn from his/her duty post.
After the protest, activities seems to be gradually taking shape to normalcy but some commercial activities in the banks have been closed down as some of their branches operate from 11.00am to 3.00pm.
As a result, bank customers are finding it difficult to make banking transactions in the state. As an alternative, residents now patronise Point of Sale (POS) centres, where they pay as much as N200 and above to withdraw N5,000.
As part of efforts to restore normalcy in the state, the 16-member Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Police Brutality, Extra Judicial Killings and Related Matters set up by the governor commenced sitting last Tuesday.
Also, the Imo state governor Uzodimma has begun the implementation of his administration’s empowerment package for the youth.
According to him, “as part of my administration’s determination to address your needs. I am glad to announce to you therefore that my government has approved an immediate release of a take-off fund of N2,000,000,000 out of the N6,000,000,000 earmarked for an accelerated youth empowerment programme. The N2,000,000,000 take off fund will be deployed for the training of the first batch of the beneficiaries of this scheme.
The programme is aimed at training the first, second and third batches with an estimated number of 500, 000 Imo youths in different skills acquisition programmes within the next two years and provide them with start-up capital to begin their own enterprises.
Known as the Imo State Special Youth Empowerment and Intervention Programme (IMYEIP), the state’s Ministry of Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship is directly charged with its immediate implementation.
Barely few weeks after the bloody EndSARS protests embarked upon by angry youths in varoious parts of Anambra State, armed robbers have started terrorizing residents of the commercial city even in broad daylight.
Cult killings have equally resumed in the state capital as six people have been allegedly murdered in cold blood within last week.
However, commercial activities like, trading, banking services are said to be in full gear though some areas where banks exist still have not fully been operational due to security consciousness . Most especially is the increase of food stuffs, even household items and service delivery.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Government has received a contingent of Special Forces of the Nigerian Army in Awka where Governor Willie Obiano had charged them to help locate the remaining troublemakers, who invaded and are still disturbing the peace in the state.
The State government has also made a budgetary proposal of N200m for the compensation of persons in Anambra who have proven cases of gross human rights violation, torture and death from activities of the defunct SARS in Anambra state and also set up the police
Again, the governor has also inaugurated a 32-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry on SARS brutality in the state. The committee would look into various allegations against Police brutality and the extra-judicial killings carried out by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The members were drawn from various strata of the society, such as youths, students, religious and right organisations.
Chairman Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria, Anambra State Chapter, Prince Ugochukwu Okpalaeke commended Anambra State Government for reacting aptly to `End SARS’ protest held across the country by setting up judicial panel of enquiry to ascertain injuries that SARS operations inflicted on the people, describing it as a step in the right direction
“The idea is aimed at compensating the injured, so as to ensure harmonious coexistence; government set aside N200 million to achieve this goal.
“I hope they do well this time. If SARS wronged in any way, articulate what happened in writing and take it to the panel set up to look into the matter, he added”.
Consequently, the youths even in the face of anger and rage have shown their loyalty and patriotism by cleaning the streets of Awka after the recent protests in some parts of the state that led to burnt tires and other debris littering the streets.
The youths were seen sweeping and carting away debris by House of Assembly junction by Enugu-Onitsha express road, Aroma junction, Government house, Regina Ceali junction, UNIZIK junction and Eke Awka round about especially burnt tyres and keeping the debris at strategic places to be evacuated later.
Conclusively, it is hopeful that the federal government will have to implement other measure to support youth empowerment, agricultural and small and medium industries for the unemployed youths and for even development