Several police officers have been caught on video running for safety in Lagos, as the #EndSARS protests escalate across Nigeria.
However, the protests in Lagos were largely peaceful, said a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
Mr Effiong said the fleeing officers may have been “apprehensive” because of the large number of protesters.
But the police in Lagos are claiming that their officers were attacked by the protesters.
Muyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson in the state, said 97 officers attached to the Rapid Response Squad were attacked around 10 a.m. while they were “being conveyed to their various beats on routine relief duties across the state.”
In Edo State, South-South Nigeria, a curfew has been declared by Governor Godwin Obaseki, after the hitherto peaceful protest turned violent in the state.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how several inmates escaped from a correctional facility in Benin City, the capital of Edo State, after some hoodlums allegedly attacked the facility.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital, police have been filmed firing teargas at protesters.
A Twitter video, which captured the situation in Lagos, showed several police officers running away haphazardly, along a narrow street.
The officers, in their black uniform, could be spotted in the video among the crowd of people who were also fleeing, under a chaotic atmosphere.
“This one is happening live at Ebute Metta,” a background voice could be heard saying in the 1:37 minutes video.
“These are policemen running for their dear lives. See all of them, in uniform, running.”
“Boys are seriously angry,” the voice added, apparently referring to the #EndSARS protesters.
The Lagos lawyer, Mr Effiong, said on Twitter earlier on Monday that he was held up in Lagos traffic for more than six hours because of the protests. “Protesters have taken over Ikeja,” he said on the micro-blogging site.
When PREMIUM TIMES called the lawyer around 6:22 p.m., he said, “I think it’s up to eight hours now because I am still trying to find my way to the office”.
But by then, the protests were fizzling out.
Mr Effiong said it should have taken him just about an hour to drive to his location, but for the large crowd of protesters.
“From my observation, the protesters were not violent, it’s just the number. People really came out in their thousands.
“Because of the number of people that came out, it resulted in road blockades and also affected movement of vehicles,” said Mr Effiong, who a few days ago led some lawyers in Lagos to join the #EndSARS protests.
Mr Effiong said he has not seen the video of the fleeing police officers.
“I suspect they (the officers) may have been apprehensive, given the number of people that came out to protest,” he said.
“Even while I was on the road, I saw other security people like civil defence, military men in their uniform, nobody molested them.”
The #EndSARS protests, which began nearly two weeks ago, seek an end to police brutality in the country.
At least 12 people have been killed across the country and police authorities last week warned against the use of force on protesters.
PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr Effiong why the protesters were still adamant even when the government has announced the scrapping of the notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“Trust deficit is the main problem,” he said.
“Nigerians do not trust the government, particularly the current administration. The government is engaged in doublespeak. Lai Mohammed is threatening fire and brimstones, the minister of defence is threatening fire, (Tukur) Buratai is threatening fire, while the Vice President is apologising and calling for understanding.
“So, why are we having conflicting messages? What that shows is that the government is not serious, the government is not coordinated, the government is not honest with what they are doing.
“Some of the demands that the protesters are asking for, for example the prosecution of officers, the government, till this moment, has not shown commitment to bring to justice officers who were found culpable. Although they announced that some people were suspended, demoted and so on. But that was based on investigation by the National Human Rights Commission in 2018, it is not a recent matter.
“The fact that SARS officials who engaged in extra-judicial killings, including those who are quite notorious, have not been arrested up till this moment, shows that the government is not listening.
Mr Effiong said several states are yet to set up a panel of inquiry to investigate police brutality.
He also said the federal and the state governments are yet to set up funds to compensate victims of police brutality.
“To show the insensitivity of the federal government, you are saying that you are commencing training for SWAT shortly after you claimed you have disbanded SARS.
“Even the Nigerian Governors’ Forum came to a conclusion that the decision to set up SWAT, without proper consultation, was premature and they also called on the Inspector-General of Police to halt the take-off of SWAT, but as at today, the IG is still going ahead to say that officers are being trained to step into the shoes of SARS.
“To cap it all, the federal government has now deployed soldiers in Abuja and other parts of the country to attack protesters. The government is also actively aiding criminals, thugs to attack protesters. Just yesterday, one of the protesters who was stabbed in Abuja died in the hospital,” Mr Effiong said.