There are strong indications that security agents and protesters will clash in many cities across the country today (Wednesday) as activists and youths insist on gathering in public spaces to commemorate the first year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, which rocked the nation last year.
For instance, heavily armed police personnel, on Tuesday, took over the Lekki tollgate area, which was the hotbed of last year’s protests.
#EndSARS memorial protests are planned to take place in Lagos, Abuja, Aba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Enugu, Yola, Ibadan, Benin City, Jos, Ilorin, Asaba and Osogbo, among others.
In October last year, spontaneous protests had erupted in different parts of the country against police brutality, especially by the personnel of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and the #EndSARS movement soon garnered international support.
The protests, however, turned bloody on October 20, 2020, when soldiers and policemen fired at the protesters in Lagos.
In Abuja, the nation’s capital, hoodlums attacked the protesters and injured many of them. They also looted warehouses and set ablaze over 18 cars and vandalised more than 12 vehicles.
In response to the outcry, the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), disbanded the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit, the fourth time the Federal Government had disbanded it.
On October 19, 2020, the President accused the protesters of trying to cause anarchy and warned that the government would not tolerate that.
The police have, however, warned the organisers and attendees of the commemorative protests to desist from going ahead with their plans as they will be arrested and prosecuted.
In Abuja, The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that the police would deploy personnel at strategic locations as part of plans to frustrate youths from staging street protests in commemoration of the rally.
Sources said security agencies would deploy personnel in various entry and exit points of the Federal Capital Territory, including Mararaba, Nyanya, Zuba and Airport Road.
Our correspondents also learnt that security would be tightened around many public buildings and infrastructure in the FCT.
It was gathered that the Unity Fountain, which is the main protest spot in Abuja, would be cordoned off to prevent any form of gathering there.
A source said, “The security agencies are not very comfortable with plans by some emergency activists to stage a protest. So, we have put in place a plan of action to ensure that the protest or street walk doesn’t degenerate into violence.
“I won’t be able to disclose our strategic plan, but suffice it to say that security will be beefed up at strategic locations and government offices, banks and other public utilities. Many undercover operatives will also be part of protesters to fish out troublemakers among them.”
In Lagos, personnel of the state police command embarked on a show of force on Tuesday to intimidate the organisers and participants of the #EndSARS memorial protests in the state.
Fully armed personnel in police patrol vehicles were seen patrolling potential protest grounds in a show of force.
There was heavy police presence at the Lekki tollgate.
A notice from the organisers of the protest sighted by one of our correspondents read, “In memorial of the lives lost on the 20-10-2020, there will be a memorial car procession on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, taking place at the Lekki Tollgate by 8.10am. We should all endeavour to stay in our vehicles throughout the procession.”