BY OMOTOLA EUNICE OMOTAYO
It has been seen that a protest which started on a peaceful note escalated into something that even the protesters did not foresee. The protest was hijacked by hoodlums who exhibited all manner of evil actions against the peaceful protesters and the entire nation, by killing citizens, burning down police stations, privately owned businesses, and vehicles. It was reported that the Television Continental (TVC), a television station allegedly owned by Tinubu Ahmed, was attacked and set ablaze. While these were going on, there was the notorious event of a massacre of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate by members of the Nigerian Army.
On the 21st of October, 2020, an angry mob attacked the palace of the Oba of Lagos State and carted away with his personal belongings including his staff of office. A warehouse of 600 ft by 600 ft filled with food items meant to serve as palliatives to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on low income earning members, poor and vulnerable persons of the society was discovered and broken into on Thursday, 22nd of October, 2020 in Lagos. A private-sector coalition on coronavirus known as CA-COVID made millions of dollar worth of contribution to the Federal Government, to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on members of the public. These contributions were rather stored by various State Governments in warehouses across the states. The warehouses were full of bags of rice, noodles, and sugar among other items. Looters carted away with all these items. Just after this was discovered in Lagos, other states began a journey of rummage around for palliatives. Several warehouses in states like Osun, Plateau, Kwara, Adamawa, Abuja, were wrecked just to confirm if COVID-19 palliatives were hidden in there. Since then, the country was been in chaos as the quest continues. On the course of searching for COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses, storage facilities holding tons of relief materials have been burglarized and looted in, privately owned businesses were burglarized and looted, people lost their life investments.
How did we get here? Were securities not around when these businesses were looted? Future entrepreneurs are been discourage; how do we move forward? Is this not more than a protest? Looting a privately owned business, are we now fighting ourselves? This is not the group of Nigerians that started a peaceful protest which all the energy and humility that was put into the protest. Who is behind the attacks? Do we call this poverty, illiteracy or impishness?
There are mass arrest and detention of suspected COVID-19 palliative looters athwart states in Nigeria now. Then other question(s) springs up; the people arrested, will they be remanded or put in jail? what if there are innocent persons amidst them? Most of these looters arrested are livid and hungry citizens. Do we put in mind the state of our detention centers? This mass arrest will only worsen the situation of detention centers.
Lawyers Alert contact persons in various states are working on arrests emanating from the #EndSARS protests and arrest of looters in affected states. While we await reports, recommendations from the Judicial Panels of Inquiry been set up across states in the country and proper restitution should follow, it is also important to add that the youth should be fully involved in the progression. We hope for all this to end well soon and in togetherness, we can enforce the knowledge of human rights and accessing it in a secure environment.