A showdown between security forces and #EndSARS activists may be in the offing as the protesters yesterday unfolded plans to scale up the campaign to force the federal government to meet their demands to stop alleged police brutality, among others, by blocking critical road arteries in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos, the country’s economic nerve centre.
The protesters, in a tweet, said today, they would block three of the FCT’s most strategic highways: the Kubwa- Zuba Expressway, the Abuja International Airport Road and the Abuja-Keffi Road.
The threat came on the heels of an allegation by the federal government that hoodlums and people with ulterior motives have hijacked the ongoing #EndSARS campaign to destabilise the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, while featuring in a radio programme at the weekend, wondered why the protest is still going on despite the fact that the federal government had met some of the campaigners’ demands.
He warned that the federal government could not allow the disruption to social and economic activities to persist.
He spoke just as government officials stepped up efforts to de-escalate the tension generated by the protest that has disrupted socio-economic activities.
In continuation of the troubleshooting process, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, met with the president at the State House, Abuja.
The duo also called on the protesters to discontinue their nationwide protest and give the federal government time to implement its response to their five-point demands.
The Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), in his intervention yesterday cautioned the protesters against breaching national security.
Besides, the Chairman of the South-west Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), has also alleged that the genuine movement is already being hijacked by politicians to visit their frustrations on perceived opponents.
Governors, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), however, expressed concern about discontent, hunger and anger in the country, believed to be fuelling public angst, and pledged to work with other stakeholders to find a lasting solution.
The protesters, in a series of tweets, said the FCT roads would be barricaded from 6 am today.
To make real their threat, some of them planned to pass the night at the Central Business District near the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to ease their movements for the demonstration.
They have also vowed to shut down the apex bank tomorrow by preventing workers from gaining access to the building.
The demonstrations in Abuja have been intensified in spite of the ban by the FCT Administration Security Committee on protests in the city.
Any disruption of vehicular flow on any of the routes will affect economic and social activities in the FCT and other neighbouring states and communities.
The Abuja-Keffi Road that passes through AYA Junction in Asokoro links the nation’s capital with the North-central, North-east and South-east while travellers going to Niger State and the North-west access the FCT through the 10-lane Kubwa-Zuba Expressway.
The Airport Road, otherwise known as the Umar Musa Yar’Adua Road, connects the western corridor with North-central and the entire southern states, including the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos.
Its blockade on Friday inflicted untold hardship on workers and other commuters, many of whom walked for hours to get to their destinations.
THISDAY gathered yesterday that the threat by the protesters to blockade the FCT, if carried out, could force the federal government, which is under the pressure to restore normalcy, to take all lawful measures to dislodge the marchers.
In Lagos, the protesters kept vigil on strategic roads last night with a promise to escalate the protest today.
Reacting to the continuation of the protest despite the federal government’s concessions, Mohammed, in a Radio Nigeria programme monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said the federal government has met the demands of the group and is already implementing them and expected them to also, call off the protests.
He stated that it was absurd for the protesters to remain on the streets causing mayhem, obstructing movements and inflicting pains on Nigerians.
He said: “When you look at the demands of the #EndSARS and the decisions of the federal government, it is clear that there is no single demand of the group that has not been met.
“Therefore, one will begin to ask if there is an ulterior motive because what we have witnessed in the last few days is that they have moved their demands from five to seven.
“As soon as the government approved one demand, another one will follow.
“From the five demands, which were initially tabled and have been addressed, they are now including petrol price, National Assembly salaries and allowances, electricity tariff among others.
“Then you begin to ask yourself what exactly is the motive of the protests and who are those behind them?”
According to the minister, it is more nauseating that the protest has gone violent, claiming lives and causing injuries as well as destruction to property.
He said Saturday’s assassination attempt on Osun State Governor, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, who came out to identify with the protesters and address them showed that the protest had been hijacked.
Mohammed said the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Mohammed Bello, was equally turned back on the road by the protesters in Abuja.
According to him, “Peaceful protest is synonymous with democratic tenets and to that extent, we see the EndSARS protest as the manifestation of how far our democracy has developed.
“Regrettably, the protest has been hijacked by hoodlums and by people with ulterior motives bent at destabilising the country.
“As of today, many people in many parts of the country simply cannot go out because people are being intimidated and roads have been blocked.
“There was a report of a pregnant woman that died inside the ambulance simply because she could not get to the hospital because of the protesters.
“This cannot be allowed to continue because where your right stops another person’s rights begin.
“While the government will continue to engage, no responsible government will fold its arms and allow the state to be thrown into anarchy.”