#EndSARS: Raging Nigerian Youth Cripple Business Activities Despite Govt’s Plan to Deploy Soldiers
The ongoing protests against police brutality and bad governance in Nigeria switched gears on Monday, Oct. 19, as raging Nigerian youth converged on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, as early as 6:30 am and blocked some major roads, leaving commuters and businesses stranded.
The coordinated nationwide youths had on Sunday circulated information on social media that protesters in various states should block major roads to send a clear signal to the Nigerian government that its plan to unleash the military on peaceful protesters would backfire.
Our correspondent reports that major roads including Ikeja, which leads the Government House in Alausa, Abeokuta express road, Iyana Ipaja area, Yaba, Lagos Island and other major intersections have been blocked by protesters. Many people going to work were seen turning back and heading home as some employers asked their staff to work from home.
“I trekked from Ojota to Ikeja, protesters have blocked all the roads. I called some of my colleagues coming from different locations, they told me they were stranded too. So our boss asked us to go back home and work remotely”, a groaning Nigerian who pleaded anonymity told Business Elites Africa.
Another small business owner identified Ifeoma Etugbo told us she has canceled the day’s appointments with her clients and told her staff to go back home, and that they should remain at home until further notice.
“As it is now, I’m going back home. I have told my customers my shop will be closed for now because I’m not sure when this protest will subside. And with the military planning to come into the picture, things may get out of hands. It’s better to be alive and lose money than to be killed”, she said.
The same situation is being reported in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Protesters were said to have thronged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headquarter on Sunday and camped there overnight to send a defiance message to President Muhammadu Buhari, who has reportedly given the Nigerian Army a marching order to suppress the demonstrations.
Abuja is at CBN, since they're not allowing young people say #EndSARS #EndSWAT #EndPoliceBrutality in peace. The plan is be here till they resume tomorrow.#AbujaProtests#SarsMustGo#SARSMustEnd pic.twitter.com/OOYrfGdhnu
— Chioma Agwuegbo (@ChiomaChuka) October 18, 2020
Last week, when the protests gained momentum, online and offline, the Nigerian Army had pledged allegiance to Buhari, saying it is committed to defending Nigeria’s democracy at all costs and described the protesters as “trouble makers”.
In a follow-up move, the Army announced on Saturday, Oct. 17, that it will commence a nationwide Exercise Crocodile Smile VI from Oct. 20 to Dec. 31, describing it as a cyber warfare exercise “designed to identify, track and counter negative propaganda on social media and across the cyberspace.”
“This is the first-ever Cyberwarfare exercise to be conducted in the history of the African Armed Forces. Accordingly, the exercise will also include positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country as a result of the ongoing operations in the various theatres of operations especially in the Northeast, North Central and North Western parts of Nigeria,” a statement by the Army reads in part.
It is however believed that the Army’s proposed exercise is a disguised plan to stifle and intimidate peaceful protesters, as some politicians, including the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, seemingly laid the groundwork over the weekend to justify a militarised action against the mass agitation by young citizens who are demanding an end to the extra-judicial activities of a killer police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in which operatives have been killing and extorting young Nigerians for years.
While speaking on national television on Saturday, Mohammed said the protests have been hijacked by anarchists thereby requires decisive intervention.
“…if you look at what happened to the governor of Osun state, it has gone completely beyond peaceful protest against excesses and abuse of power by the police. There is no where in the world where a government will folds its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy. We are no longer dealing with #EndSARS but a volatile situation that can lead to anarchy if government does not take some very firm steps to protect the lives and livelihood of innocent Nigerians,” Mohammed said.
Although SARS has been disbanded, the government hurriedly set up a new unit named Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) to replace the proscribed rogue unit but the citizens have rejected the move and now asking for a total reform of the Nigeria Police Force and by extension the restructuring of corrupt Nigerian institutions.
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