The police in Abuja have drawn out plans to arrest citizens when #EndSARS demonstration resumes on Tuesday, two senior police officers said, hoping they could use the strategy to weaken ceaseless support for the campaign against police brutality that entered its third week on Monday.
“The plan is simply for officers to arrest as many #EndSARS protesters as possible tomorrow anywhere they see thugs causing breaching of public peace,” an officer involved in the planning told Peoples Gazette, pleading anonymity to discuss internal police operations.
Police spokesman Frank Mba could not be reached for comments Monday night. Abuja police commissioner Bala Ciroma did not return multiple requests seeking comments about the controversial plan.
The plan appeared to be the latest in a string of solutions so far pushed by the government to quell the protests — all defied by poor communication or execution.
The government initially responded to the widening protests on October 11 by abolishing the police special anti-robbery squad whose decades of murderous and corrupt activities triggered the uprising.
But when protesters demanded for additional issues to be resolved, including compensation for victims and new safeguards against future brutality, the government failed to respond in a concrete manner.
There are also calls for the dismissal of Inspector-General Mohammed Adamu for failing to curb excessive use of lethal force by his men, which has led to the killing of at least 13 protesters by the police over the past two weeks.
The government announced plans to set up a judicial panel to investigate past police brutality cases and compensate families, but the policy failed to give specifics on how the plans would be implemented.
On Monday morning, as the protests resumed across the country, armed thugs who were first introduced into the gathering last week ramped up their disruptive activities. They broke into two custodial facilities in Benin, freeing inmates after overpowering guards. They also burnt two police stations in the city, witnesses said.
Although video evidence from the scene did not show any signs that those who breached the prisons were #EndSARS protesters, the correctional office nonetheless blamed the worldwide demonstration for the violence.
This also led citizens to accuse the government of setting up the jailbreak to discredit the protest.
Also on Monday, violence broke out in Abuja’s Apo suburb, leaving at least three killed and dozens of vehicles belonging to protesters burnt. The dead were immediately believed to be protesters, although authorities have yet to conclude identification of bodies.
With the protesters showing no signs of backing down despite the violence unleashed against them over the past week, senior police chiefs looked to discourage participation by arresting protesters across the Nigerian capital, the Gazette learnt.
“What we heard is that we should expect thugs to cause confusion at the protests, then we will look for protesters and arrest many of them,” a police officer said Monday night. The officer could not immediately say whether or not similar tactics would be deployed across the country.
Rights experts have warned the Nigerian government against breaching citizens’ rights to protest, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, African Charter and other competent statutes the country has ratified over the years.
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