By Abdullahi Fawale, Kano
The nationwide #EndSARS protests might have come to an end but not without certain consequences especially as hoodlums hijacked the demonstrations in Kano and other parts of the country, using them as avenues to carry out various criminal acts.
A visit to Sarkin Yaki by Airport Road in Sabon Gari area of the state will tell the tale of the tragic events that occurred on Tuesday, 20th October when some hoodlums hijacked the protests and wrecked havoc in the community. There, dozens of burnt cars still litter the streets. Homes and businesses have been looted and destroyed while some have even been razed.
Victims recount losses
Ikechukwu Michael and his family are victims of the attack. The hoodlums stormed their 2 bed-room apartment at 4, Sarkin Yaki, made away with some of their properties and set the building, which also housed their drinks store–the family’s primary source of income–on fire.
“We have lost a lot,” a downhearted Ikechukwu says. “Our properties are all gone. All that is left inside the compound is ashes. My family and I also sustained injuries while scampering to safety.” He adds that he wants the government to compensate his family and provide adequate security so they do not have to suffer such tragic fate again.
But Ikechukwu’s experience is not an isolated incident as some other residents also recount their losses. Ngozi Wilfred who lives with her family at a flat just a stone’s throw away from Ikechukwu’s, was also not lucky. Wilfred said she and her family escaped when they learnt that their neighbors were being attacked. Upon their return the following day, all that was left was a burgled house and vehicles razed to ashes.
“We ran away [from our house] before some people broke [the windows] of the cars parked in front and set them ablaze. On Wednesday, we came back and saw that they had burgled our house, even my goods that I just ordered, worth over N500,000, they made away with it. We have nothing now,” she says, teary-eyed.
Right behind the Wilfreds’ apartment building is Overcomers Clinic; a small private clinic that serves the local community. The Chief Medical Director (CMD) there, Dr Orji, claims some of the hoodlums that invaded the area, converged on his clinic and burnt his car, a Nissan Xterra that was parked in the compound.
While other residents scampered to safety, Dr Orji could not, as he prioritized the safety of his patients and staff, rushing quickly to the door and locking them in. He says the hoodlums tried to break into the clinic for about two hours but failed. When the police eventually arrived, causing the hoodlums to disperse, they were safely evacuated to the Nomansland Police Station from where they all made their way to their respective homes.
Dr Orji had thought the worst was over but was dealt a huge blow when he returned to the clinic the next day, Wednesday. While they were at the police station the previous day, the hoodlums had returned and carted away highly expensive equipment at the clinic.
In his words, “I don’t know what the hoodlums were doing inside the theatre. They took away the theatre machine. The suction machine, they took it away. Ordinary theatre chair, they took it away. They took the drugs and two of my generators too. I can’t remember everything. A rough estimate of my losses is around 15 million and above.”
At Airport Road on the same day, Yakubu Dauda’s car was set ablaze by hoodlums outside his son’s school. He was not the only one as other parents either had their cars equally set ablaze or severely vandalized. In his plea, Dauda called on the state government to compensate him for his losses.
“I need my car replaced because it helps me a lot. It’s the one I use to take my children to school. Without that car, we’d have to be looking for Napep [tricycle] and it’s difficult for us. Especially in my place, to see a Keke [tricycle] that’d take you, it’s hard.”
These are just a few stories gotten from one-on-one interviews from scores of victims. Also worthy of mention is the newly commissioned Galaxy Mall at Sabon Gari which was not only looted but vandalized. The popular Chicken Republic restaurant located at Airport Road was also not spared.
Kano Police makes arrests, recover stolen items
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Kano State Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa confirmed these attacks, saying the police had immediately swung into action and arrested more than 40 suspects just as a large number of looted items were recovered.
“We were able to make a lot of recoveries. Some were arrested with dangerous weapons; one was arrested in possession of a gun, and some others with knives and machetes and so on.” He says further, “whenever we’re taking the suspects to court, we would take the list of all the properties and the court will decide the next line of action.”
Kano govt hails 17-member peace committee for quelling unrest
Meanwhile, the State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Garba believes the 17-man peace committee set up by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje played vital roles towards restoring normalcy to the troubled areas.
“We did that as an interim measure to halt the situation and I think it worked”, the commissioner posits. “The governor is now working on having an enlarged peace committee that will comprise of almost all the stakeholders in the state. It will be formed and inaugurated by the state governor so we don’t take chances. We will continue to dialogue.”
Mallam Garba also commented on calls by victims who are asking the state government to compensate them.
“I don’t know if the governor has spoken with the police or the 17-man peace committee to know the quantum of looted materials, quantum of destruction but I know whatever it is, the governor would be advised accordingly. By the time such people come together, put in writing whatever they want to do…and the governor is very accessible, let them access the governor and discuss the issue.”
The Commissioner further shared his perspective on the series of lootings across the country where citizens could be seen in viral video clips on social media packing food items at “palliative stores” and other places.
According to him, “there’s a lot of hunger [as] the COVID-19 [pandemic] has really contributed a lot to the sufferings of Nigerians. Because of our poverty level in Nigeria, you can see people looting food items because some of them are really hungry.”
Expert says attacks have “serious negative consequences” on economy
However, an Economic Expert, Dr Muhammad Kani says the consequences of these attacks on assets in Kano and other parts of the country have “serious negative consequences” on the economy, especially as the country heads into another recession.
Citing preliminary press reports, Dr Kani submitted that the nationwide #EndSARS protests and subsequent hijacking of the largely peaceful demonstrations by thugs had not only cost the country about N4oobillion, it also increased the rate of unemployment and poverty which currently stand at around 23.1% and 61% respectively.
He explained further that the profitability of many privately-owned businesses have been affected just as foreign investors who were previously willing to come into Nigeria cancelled investment plans as they are concerned about the security situation in the country and how their businesses could be harmed.
Govt should compensate victims – Dr Kani
Dr Kani, who is a lecturer at the Department of Economics, Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, Kano however listed a number of recommendations some of which include the creation of more jobs and empowerment programmes to tackle the menace of unemployment and poverty. He also suggests compensation for victims of these hoodlums’ attacks across the country.
“Since our budget is before the National Assembly, provisions should be made for certain amount of money so that victims, individuals whose properties were looted are given a certain amount of money to allow them restart their businesses. Same at the state level too.”
Dr Kani stressed that government and stakeholders must understand that “most of the properties looted belong to the private sector” and as a result, the government must assist the private sector, “as majority of the employment in Nigeria is provided by the private sector, contributing to our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).”
He also mentioned that one of the grievances of the #EndSARS protesters is the high cost of governance in Nigeria which contributes to the level of poverty and should be urgently addressed. According to him, reducing the cost of governance would allow for monies to be channeled into developing other key sectors of the economy like education, health and agriculture.
The expert then urged youths to give the government some time for “recovery” as countries across the world, including Nigeria, still battle the COVID-19 pandemic. He says an atmosphere of peace must be maintained at all times as it is only then that the much-needed growth and required change would be achieved.