There is heightened tension across the land as news filtered out that some Nigerian youths, who, last year, organised the largest protest in the country against the police tagged, #EndSARS, have begun preparations to mark the anniversary of the protests in which a number of them were killed. It was learnt that the plan to mark the anniversary has been on for weeks.
Already, the youths have hired at least 10 photojournalists to cover the anniversary. They are also said to be planning to make use of camera-mounted drones to capture the event.
The financiers of the forthcoming memorial are said to be based overseas and have already paid people who will supply drinks and food for the anniversary.
Human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, has already taken to his Twitter handle to state that the planned memorial protest for #EndSARS victims will be held on October 20, 2021, despite threats by security forces to stop it.
He warned the police against suppressing the will of Nigerians to repudiate the alleged “mass atrocities” of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
The #EndSARS protests began on October 3, 2020, after Operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), allegedly shot dead a youth at Wetland Hotel in Ughelli, Delta State. However, the anniversary, according to information gathered by our reporter, will be held on October 20, at the Lekki Toll Plaza.
On that fateful date last year, masked soldiers were alleged to have opened fire on peaceful protesters at the toll gate. There had been allegations that the soldiers killed some of the protesters and carted away the corpses.
The incident became a watershed moment, leading to killing of policemen, burning of police stations in different parts of Nigeria and destruction of private and public property. Aside from gathering at the Lekki toll plaza, another venue in Lagos will be Ojota. Other venues in other states are still unknown.
It also learnt that the youths had been making moves at different campuses in Nigeria, lobbying students to join in marking and making the anniversary memorable.
The convener of the #EndSARS protests in Delta State, Israel Joe, mentioned that the memorial procession would depend on whether the Delta State Government would implement the judicial panel report or not.
He added: “The governor had told us that the report was before the Exco and we want the implementation process to commence before October 20.
We have been getting several calls from both families and victims of Police brutality for which compensations were awarded.
We will make our stance known before the weekend after all due consultations with stakeholders, #EndSARS committee, and others.”
Our reporter learnt that personnel of the Nigerian Police Force across the country have also concluded plans to join ranks in order to confront the youths, if they refused to heed the order to abandon the gatherings.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, for some days now, has positioned several Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), Mobile Police Men, Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RSS) and conventional policemen at the Lekki Toll Gate. The tension in Lagos has continued to mount as the date of the anniversary draws nearer.
It is also believed in some quarters that no matter how peaceful the youths believed it will be, it may end up being hijacked by hoodlums. Yesterday, Odumosu issued another terse warning to the youths, having received an intelligence report about the forthcoming anniversary.
He was, however, referring to Monday’s supposed protest, which was the date the protest started last year. The youths, however, have another plan and date in mind.
He said that Lagosians and indeed Nigerians couldn’t afford to relive the distasteful experience of last year’s protest which caused pain, anguish, loss of lives and wanton destruction of public and private property.
Likewise, the police in Osun State have called on youths and groups to desist from a planned protest in commemoration of the one-year anniversary.
The Osun State PPRO, Yemisi Opalola, explained that intelligence reports gathered have revealed that some youths had been having underground and nocturnal meetings to embark on the commemoration of the one-year anniversary.
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