Protesters who were attacked by hoodlums in Abuja share their experiences with ADELANI ADEPEGBA in these interviews
What is your name?
I’m Kaka George. I’m a lawyer.
During the #EndSARS protests in Abuja, you were attacked and your car was damaged. What is the level of damage to your car?
It is a Toyota Prado 2008 model. The hoodlums damaged the front and rear windshields, all the windows, front and rear bumpers, and the boot as well. The repair cost was put at N300,000. We are looking for money and people have been generous.
How do you feel about the attack?
It is sad to see that the thugs could let themselves be manipulated when we were fighting for all of us. Just because of the N1,500 they said they were paid, they caused a damage of over N300,000. It is disheartening to see that fellow youths and citizens would allow themselves to be used in that way but we are pushing through it all and we are still taking our stand. That same day, my phone was damaged, I bruised my knees and suffered a torn tissue but I am pushing through it all.
Do you think the perpetrators were ignorant or willful?
I feel it is a bit of both. I’m sure they were ignorant because I don’t think they knew what the people they were going to fight stood for. They were not aware or well educated about the protest or the reason for the protest. If they knew well enough, and still did that, I would say they were just barbaric. They charged at us and I saw them beat a girl right in my front; I don’t think that girl would be able to walk in a couple of months. It was quite heartbreaking. I want to believe they were ignorant but even if you were ignorant, your conscience should tell you that such an action was wrong. It’s simple psychology; you should not just go and hurt somebody for no reason. You should have sympathy. You should not just charge at people and damage their cars.
Did you fear for your life during the attack?
Yes, of course. At some point when I knew I couldn’t stand it, I ran and jumped down from somewhere really high and that’s how I got a knee injury. I feared for my life, but I was out the following day because what the fight was worth it.
So, you were not discouraged?
No, I was not. Sending people to attack us meant we were saying something powerful. So, the more harm they caused to us, the more we kept going. You needed to see the crowd that came out between Wednesday and Thursday after we were attacked. It was like triple the number of protesters that were there earlier. So, the more they were attacking us, the more people were coming out, joining us and making the demands to be heard.
How did the policemen who witnessed the attack act?
I was disappointed at their actions. There was an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, a policeman, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps and a traffic warden there. They saw the thugs charging at us. If they had done their jobs, I’m sure those thugs would have retreated but instead, they went inside their cars and left us. I mean, who does that? And they were supposed to be protecting us. They could have stood between us and the thugs, instead, they went away. We read in the newspapers that they defended us, but that’s false, they left us. At some point, a few of us had to start to look for the men to defend us when the damage was getting too much and that was when they apprehended about two or three of the attackers. The thugs confessed that they were paid N1,500 each to attack us.
I need N1.2m to repair my damaged vehicle –Car dealer
What is your name?
I’m Philips Uche; I’m a car dealer.
What happened during the attack on protesters by suspected hoodlums?
My car was parked under a bridge when some hoodlums with weapons attacked us, including the women among us. We had to first run for safety but at a point, due to the provocation, we had to reinforce and run after them. We caught three of them. By the time we caught them, our cars had already been smashed, including mine – a 2006 Ford model. The windshields, windows and backlights were broken. The boot and bonnet were also damaged. It will cost me N1.2m to fix the damage because we couldn’t get the parts in Abuja and a Lagos dealer said that’s what it would cost to fix the car.
How do you feel about the attack?
I feel very bad; it was an unfortunate incident. I was telling people that I didn’t believe the attackers are Nigerian youths because no sane Nigerian youth would do what those thugs did. We know we are fighting for a just cause, in the interest of every Nigerian, including the youth. For youths to attack us in that manner is very bad. I have to agree that those boys are not Nigerians.
Do you believe the speculation that they were sponsored?
For them to have attacked people in that manner, somebody must have sponsored them. We asked questions but we didn’t get answers. They were saying in Hausa that we were disrupting the peace in the country. Those thugs can’t be Nigerians youths.
Were you discouraged by the attack and the damage to your car?
No! We were demanding peace and an end to police brutality. If your innocent brother was killed just because he was driving a Mercedes Benz car or had an iPhone, you would understand. We know that there are ‘Yahoo boys’ (cyber criminals) but it is not all of us that are criminals. Why would you kill someone for having a tattoo? We are not relenting; somebody said we are high and I told him we are high on the blood of innocent Nigerians killed by the police. We must see to the end of this.
I’ve not earned a kobo since my car was damaged –Uber driver
What is your name?
I’m Sylvanus Daniel. I’m an Uber driver.
Can you share your experience of the attack?
I was at the Central Area, while my car was at the Berger roundabout motor park. I received a call that there was a protest at the roundabout and the person I was with told me not to go there because my life was more important than my car. Other drivers were able to drive their vehicles to safety when the protest started. They later called me that the thugs had damaged my car. We reported the incident at the Berger Police Post and they took an inventory. We later drove the damaged cars to the National Assembly and we were assured that the vehicles would be repaired. On the evening of that day, we got a text message asking us to go to Apo mechanic village to repair our cars. The rear windshield and the right side of the car were damaged.
What do you think about the attack on peaceful protesters?
I think the protest was not bad; it was a way of expressing their feelings on specific issues. The protests were peaceful. From what I learnt, the thugs were brought to the scene in a truck and told to attack the protesters.
How has the damage to your car affected your business?
Since that day, I have not been working because the front windscreen was damaged and I can’t drive the car like that. This has affected me seriously.
Can you quantify how much income you have lost?
It has not been easy because that’s my only source of income and livelihood. Since that day, there has been no income because my car has not been repaired. I’ve not made one kobo.
How many vehicles were damaged?
They were many because commercial buses plying Gwagwalada route were also affected but many of the drivers took their vehicles away. About 10 people took their vehicles to the National Assembly complex after the attack. About 30 vehicles were affected.
What punishment would you recommend for the thugs who carried out the attack?
The government should know what to do to them, but what they did was bad. Even the labour unions go out to protest so those attackers deserve to be punished because what they did was wrong.
What is your advice to the government on #EndSARS?
The #EndSARS protests are an avenue for people to express their feelings to the government. The country is very hard, especially for youths. You graduate and cannot get a job and they would still put an age limit in the job requirements. The government should do something about that. It is not about SARS alone, youths are not happy about the situation in the country; there is hunger, no security, things are expensive and there is no money.ç
Have you had any personal nasty encounter with the police?
Yes, several times. There was a day the police asked for my particulars. The particulars were in order and I gave them the photocopies but they insisted that I must provide the original. Can you believe they tore the proof of ownership document? I couldn’t even say how they removed it from the documents I gave them. They said the car was stolen and that I must go with them to their station. Luckily, I had the original proof of ownership in the car, so I gave it to them but they still insisted on taking me to their station. They cocked their guns and threatened to shoot me; they said I wanted to make things difficult for them. I had to beg them because it was after 7pm, and I didn’t know what they might do to me if I went with them. They delayed me for about one hour. They tore my document so that they could arrest me. They should be stopped because what they are doing is bad.