In the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that left tales of sorrow, tears and blood in many parts of the country, ADEWALE MOMOH writes on how Ondo State was tensend up following moments of lawlessness which resonated in Ondo South and Central Senatorial districts of the state
Just as witnessed in other parts of the country where #End- SARS protesters had engaged in peaceful protest in demand for the scrapping of the dreaded and brutal tactical unit of the Nigerian Police, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) over its violation of human rights during operations, same was recorded in Ondo State where the protesters peacefully engaged in the agitation.
With the protest taking a dangerous dimension in other parts of the country, and with a move to prevent an unpleasant scenario from occurring in Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on October 20, 2020 imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state.
With the curfew in place, many had thought that the pockets of barricades witnessed in parts of the state, particularly in Akure, state capital would no longer surfaced but that was not to be, as on the dawn of October 21, 2020 barricades were seen fully mounted virtually on all junctions in Akure and other parts of the state alongside bonfires in a full disregard of the curfew.
With Ondo North Senatorial district totally calm as youths in the axis peacefully protested, that was not the situation in the Southern Senatorial District as well as in Ondo Central where the protests went south as government facilities within the districts became targets of hoodlums.
In Akure, hoodlums in their numbers from the FUTA South gate to Roadblock junction down to Oba-Ile axis, youths blocked adjoining streets in every nooks and crannies of the state capital while demanding money before motorists and motorcyclists could have access to thoroughfare. The atmosphere became tensed when some youths who had planned to attacked the Okuta-Elerinla police station were repelled by policemen attached to the station.
With three of the hoodlums injured with gunshots, the youths in their hundreds moved to the Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to vent their anger on the building. After ransacking the building situated few meters from Cathedral junction, the Secretariat was set ablaze. With their mission accomplished with the APC building, the hoodlums proceeded to the Secretariat of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Alagbaka area of the town where it was also torched.
They held their heads high, full of pride like generals in war front, they became more daring in picking their next target as they headed for the defunct SARS office on Oda road. Expectedly, with no personnel insight, the hoodlums overran the SARS facility where they destroyed anything in sight.
To crown their onslaught for the day, the irate youths who were joined by like-minded hoodlums proceeded to the A-Division Police Station where they lit the facility after the move by the policemen to disperse them failed as the gunshots of the police which rented the air could not deter them. Hoping that the following day, October 22, 2020, will be calm, residents of Akure got it wrong as news filtered in that the hoodlums had set the campaign office of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on fire.
The campaign office located on Oyemekun road which was used for campaign activities during the just concluded electioneering period in the state was lit by the hoodlums after thoroughly vandalizing it.
Vehicles within the premises of the campaign offices were also not spared in the arson. As witnessed on October 21, after the attack on the governor’s campaign office, the hoodlums also went to Ala Police Station where detainees were freed after the station was attacked, same with the Police Station in Oda. Just as the arson was going on in Akure, the skies of Okitipupa in the Southern Senatorial District had also been engulfed with thick smoke occasioned by arsonists.
Violence erupted in the community which is the headquarters of Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State after hoodlums freed 58 prisoners held at the Nigerian Correctional Service facility in the town. The hoodlums launched attack on the medium facility after attacking the Okitipupa Divisional Police Station where it was set ablaze.
Hundreds of seized motorcycles and other valuables at the Police Station were carted away by the protesters including police uniforms, arms and ammunition Tension was said to have heightened in the town after an attempt by the police to ensure that the protesting youths obey the declaration of curfew by government.
The fall out between the police and the youth also led to burning of the Okitipupa Local Government Secretariat by the arsonists who razed the entire structure as well as the Free School Shuttle Buses parked within the council premises. Other facilities torched by the arsonists in Okitipupa was the High Court situated in the town as well as office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the town which was completely ransacked. The mob action took another dimension as some residential houses of some political leaders in the town were destroyed and burnt.
A building belonging to Ife Oyedele who was a governorship aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Executive Director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) was also razed.
In Ondo town, headquarters of Ondo West Local Government, about four persons sustained injuries following gunshot fired by police following an attempt to disperse hoodlums who had wanted to razed the police facility in the ancient town.
Angered by the foiling of their audacious move to lit the facility by the police, the hoodlums set ablaze one of the vehicles of the monarch of the town, Oba Victor Kiladejo, the Osemawe of Ondo kingdom.
The monarch’s palace was also partially damaged by the rampaging youth. Amid the chaos in Ondo town, a branch of First City Monument Bank was attacked but the police rose to the occasion to foil the bank robbery with one of the three attackers killed on the spot. With the Police most hit during the violent protest, Commissioner of Police in the state, Bolaji Salami who disclosed that the command was till collating the total cost of the damage done on its facilities stated that two Sergeants, Olurunfemi Apuwabi and Austin Ewanshia serving in the command were killed at different locations during the violent protest. According to the Police boss, 18 suspects linked to the attacks during the violent protest, particularly those who committed arson and looting had been arrested.
Parading the suspects at the state headquarters of the Nigerian Police, the police boss said one of the deceased policemen was killed in Ore, headquarters of Odigbo Local Government while his colleague who was on transit through Ondo town, headquarters of Ondo West Local Government area of the state was burnt to death by hoodlums in the community after identifying him as police operative despite being in mufti.
While emphasizing that the perpetrators of the crime will be dealt with, Salami disclosed that among the 18 suspects were arsonists and looters who unleashed terror on the state during the violent protest.
He listed the suspects to include: Adekunle Isaac, Adelusi Oluwaseun, Sunday Tosin, arrested in Owo, while Bukunmi Ayodele, Ani Obinnna, Ogunniyi Kemisola and Ojo Samuel who were arrested in connection with the burning of the APC secretariat in Akure. Also, Adebusoye Samuel and Sodeeq Abu were apprehended in Ore, while Oforjeke Excel, Adebayo David Dida, Olaiya Daramola, Olu Ajayi, Oguntoyinbo Ayomide and Emmanuel Godwin were said to be responsible for the arson, stealing, malicious damage and stealing of a pistol belonging to the division with eight rounds of ammunition, a magazine loaded with 30 rounds of AK 47.
The Police Commissioner also disclosed that three others suspects, Mathias John, Ogunjobi Monday and Ibrahim Olalekan were involved in assault, stealing and arson and were arrested by the men of the 32 Artillery Brigade in Akure after assaulting a Colonel.
He stated that the suspects were arrested in five different locations in the state while engaging in criminal acts under the pretext of the #End- SARS protest. “In Ondo State, there were wide looting, destructions, arson, stealing and armed robbery at various parts in the State. “In Okitipupa, there was complete destruction and looting of the Local Government Headquarters, the destruction of the Area Commander’s office, and the Divisional Police Headquarters. There was also the destruction of the Correctional centre, where some criminal inmates were let loose.
“The carnage suffered by the Police Command cannot be estimated so fast and so quick. However, for our proactive nature, some of those who perpetrated these heinous crimes are here with us awaiting prosecution.
“For those who looted our property, burnt our homes, killed our colleagues, denied us the right to decent living, I am glad to say the law is not sleeping and will definitely take it cause on you.
“It is therefore my honour to present to you a total number of eighteen (18) suspects who took part in the destruction, looting, aiding and of escape of detainees, arson, stealing, robbery and killing in various parts of Ondo State, using #EndSARS as cover for their atrocities.”
Salami maintained that the suspects will be charged to court for prosecution. Meanwhile, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had vowed that those arrested in connection with the destruction of properties in the state will face the full wrath of the law. Akeredolu who was visibly disturbed when he visited scenes of the wanton destruction embarked upon by the hoodlums under pretext of the #End SARS protest described it as worrisome and deeply disheartening. According to the governor who frowned at the development, the loss of lives as well as the mindless destruction of public and private properties in Akure, Ondo, Ore and Okitipupa cannot receive accolades under any guise. While emphasizing that such actions were hugely misdirected, the governor stressed that he was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that there was more to it than meets the eye.
“I have seen with my eyes, the painful destruction of public assets such as the High Court Complex, Local Government Secretariat including school shuttle buses all in Okitipupa, several Police Stations, vehicles, offices, banks, markets as well as assets of private individuals. “Of note is the Okitipupa Correctional Centre where inmates, including convicted ones have been released. “We particularly express our heartfelt sympathy to one of our illustrious sons, Engr Ife Oyedele FNSE, over the malicious and senseless damage done to his residence in Okitipupa.”
Akeredolu added that “We will set up a committee to assess those damages and come up with what to be paid. Individuals whose properties were destroyed will be adequately compensated by the state.” When contacted on the development, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo stated that the collation of the total cost of property destroyed across the state by the hoodlums is still ongoing and will be made public soon.