The past week has particularly been a turbulent one in Ondo State and some parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The turbulence, from all indications, was more of looting and arson when compared to the #EndSARS protests, which rocked some cities, especially in the southern part of the country, demanding an end to police brutality and extra-judicial killings perpetrated by security operatives.
It will be recalled that some Nigerian youth, weeks ago, had taken to the streets protesting against police brutality and demanding an end to the controversial police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad(SARS).
The protesters also demanded an extensive reform of the Nigerian Police Force including improved welfare package for police personnel.
In reactions to the chain of protests which took the country by storm, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, disbanded SARS and replaced it with Special Weapons and Tactics(SWAT) while the President, Muhammadu Buhari, acceded to the five-point agenda of the #EndSARS protesters.
The president also promised extensive reforms of the police force, though without laying out the details. In-between, Mr Buhari has urged the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to expedite action on the promised increment in police salary, one of the cardinal elements of the police reforms he promised.
However, matters came to a head when some protesters at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos State, were shot at by men of the Nigerian army. Both the army and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, denied complicity in the shootings.
Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress(APC), also denied ordering the Lekki shootings.
Nigerians have continued to ask questions regarding who ordered the shootings, which officially led to the death of some yet-to-be-identified number of persons and several others injured, without a concrete answer coming from anyone, including the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, Mr Buhari.
According to the Amnesty International, at least 56 people have died across the country since the protests began, while some, who were at the Lekki shooting are reportedly missing.
Meanwhile, in Ondo State, the #EndSARS protests were largely peaceful and devoid of any violence. In fact, the Ondo protests were some of the most disciplined and orderly across the country.
The point of convergence of the protesters in Akure, the state capital, for the days they were in charge, was the Adegbemile Cultural Centre, where they made their grievances and misgivings about police brutality known to the state government in a carnival-like fashion.
PREMIUM TIMES’ coverage of the protests showed that they were essentially peaceful until the state Governor, out of the blues, declared a 24-hour curfew across the 18 local government areas of the state on October 20.
In declaring the curfew, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said it was a move to forestall breakdown of law and order as witnessed in some states of the federation.
Before the Curfew
Prior to the curfew declaration, there was no killing, no extortion, no arson or breakdown of law and order of any kind, in the state.
In fact, some observers said Ondo State youth were not interested in the #EndSARS protests because they had expended their energies on the recently held gubernatorial election in the state.
The election, which held on October 10, saw to the re-election of Mr Akeredolu, who defeated his closest rival, Eyitayo Jegede of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) by a very wide margin.
How and why the governor declared a 24-hour curfew remains as confounding as it is dumbfounding to a lot of observers.
A lady resident in the state, who simply gave her name as Adepeju, said Mr Akeredolu took the decision to declare a blanket curfew because he saw his counterpart in Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, declare one.
In a reaction, one of the aides of Mr Akeredolu, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the governor took the decision to declare a statewide curfew as a proactive measure to nip in the bud whatever untoward event that might happen.
The aide’s argument was, however, punctured by a resident of the state, who wondered why a curfew would be declared when there was relative peace and stability in the state.
Curfew, no enforcer
For the period the curfew lasted, PREMIUM TIMES did not observe any security operative enforcing it in the parts of the state monitored, especially in Akure, the epicentre of the protests.
Although some parts of the major streets in Akure were largely deserted in the morning of the first day of the curfew, residents, however, returned to the streets in the evening when they felt there was no one enforcing it.
Some street urchins were seeing mounting barricades and burning tyres in some of the streets including Oke Ijebu, Oke Aro and Cathedral area, extorting money from motorists and Okada riders.
Because of the curfew, hoodlums and criminals took advantage of the absence of security operatives to unleash violence on the state.
Residents of the state have continued to ask the state government why it declared a curfew without ordering security personnel to ensure compliance with it.
In Akure, they attacked the state secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) and also that of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP). Supporters of the two dominant political parties have continued to blame one another for the destruction.
The hoodlums also razed down the Akeredolu/ Ayedatiwa 2020 Campaign Office in Akure. Some persons have been arrested in connection with the arson.
Asides, they also burnt down a part of ‘A’ Division Police Command, Akure.
The thugs also invaded the state government warehouse, located on High Court Street, Akure, where COVID-19 palliatives were stored.
Some of the hoodlums, who looted the warehouse, were seeing carting away bags of salt, sugar, and other consumables which should have been distributed to vulnerable members of the state during the lockdown induced by COVID-19.
An official of the State Government COVID-19 Relief Committee, Olotu Akinola Samuel, however, debunked the claim that the government hoarded the palliatives rather than distribute them to the needy.
He claimed that 95 per cent of the items were distributed, saying that the looted ones were already shared but that the beneficiaries were yet to come pick them up.
Elsewhere, in Okitipupa, hoodlums took advantage of the curfew to torch the Divisional Police Station, Okitipupa as well as the Police Area Command, burning the patrol vehicles within sight.
They also torched the Nigeria Correctional Centre in the city while allegedly freeing some prisoners, numbering 58.
They did not spare the state Board of Internal Revenue in the city as well as Okitipupa Court Complex. Some state-owned shuttle buses meant for conveying school kids also went up in flames.
The arsonists also razed down Okitipupa Local Government Secretariat while also torching a part of the building of Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC). Some state-owned shuttle buses meant for conveying school kids parked within the premises of the council secretariat also went up in flames.
In addition, for motives yet unravelled, the hoodlums also burnt down the house of a 2020 APC gubernatorial aspirant in the state, Ifedayo Oyedele, who is currently an executive director, Niger Delta Power Holding Company(NDPHC).
The Yaba area of Ondo town also reportedly witnessed an exchange of fire between some youth of the town and the police, which allegedly led to the death of some protesters.
A part of the gate of the palace of Osemawe of Ondo, Victor Kiladejo, was burnt while a microfinance bank adjacent the palace was also destroyed.
Also, the thugs did not spare the Court Complex in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area, of the state.
Ode Aye, a community in Okitipupa LGA, lost the only police station there to the hoodlums.
Ondo State Government Reacts
Following all the looting and arson, the state government, through a statement signed by the information commissioner, Donald Ojogo, lifted the curfew on October 23.
The government said it took the decision to lift the curfew after relative peace had returned to Akure and also based on the recommendations of the security agencies in the state.
The governor, in the company of some senior government functionaries and heads of security agencies, on Saturday, visited some parts of the state for an on-the-spot assessment of the public and private assets vandalised by hoodlums.
Mr Akeredolu vowed that all the hoodlums, who perpetrated the heinous act, will be made to face the full wrath of the law.
He also promised that individuals, whose private property got destroyed in the heat of the disturbance, would get adequate compensation.
Following the lifting of the curfew and the return of security operatives to the streets, PREMIUM TIMES observed that normalcy has returned to the state, though schools, which had earlier been ordered to resume before, remain shut until further notice.
Residents were seen going about their normal businesses without any harassment, even as the state police command has vowed to ensure law and order.
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