Juliana Francis and Ola Fadoju

The #EndSARS protest which rocked the very foundation of Nigerian society is one protest the world will never forget in a hurry.

Young Nigerians, who had hitherto been characterised and profiled as lazy youths decided to stage a protest against police excesses, which run into brutality, extortion, and harassment, amongst others.

The protest, which would later become hijacked by suspected miscreants allegedly planted by the government to filtrate the protesters, witnessed deaths, maiming and arsons.

The protest turned out to be the proverbial saying that when ‘two elephants fight, it is the ground that will suffer.’

True, those that suffered the most were Nigerians. For instance members of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), Makinde Police Station, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos State are still leaking their wounds and counting their financial losses.

According to the chairman of the PCRC, Chief Femi Akeju, JP, it has been two years incident the EndSARS protest, but events surrounding that day, leading to the burning of Makinde Police Station are still very fresh in his mind.

He described the day thus, “It was a period we cannot forget in a hurry.”

Aside Makinde Police Station, other police stations were burnt. Police personnel were targeted, killed and maimed. The air became filled with fear and despair.

Akeju, who was an eyewitness on the day the Makinde Police Stations were burnt and looted, said that his happiness was that no policeman was killed or injured, due to the timely intervention of the Air Force.

He added: “However, a resident of the community was killed by a stray bullet.”

Before the protest, PCRC had invested massive money into the rebuilding of the Makinde Police Station. The PCRC was on the verge of completing a hall tagged ‘PCRC Hall,’ when hell was let loose.

Akeju recollected: “The members of the PCRC have made remarkable progress in the completion of the PCRC Hall that was plundered during the protests. But the station and hall were razed to the ground.”

According to the chairman, the protesters came to Makinde Police Station, with the intention of damaging it, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the station, intervened by asking questions.

Akeju said: “The DPO interrogated them, and they told him they wanted to burn down the station. The DPO begged and gave them money. They left and as they were about to get to the expressway, they suddenly came back, armed with petrol bombs. Before you know it, they had started pouring petrol at the station and then they set the station on fire.”

He stated further: “Their intention was to burn the officers and the DPO, but the matter was rescued by the contingent of the Air force from the Air force Base. The Air force personnel came and started shooting sporadically. There was one person that got killed in the opposite house here by a stray bullet.”

Akeju recalled that the hoodlums burnt the Makinde Police Station, but as of today, the PCRC had rebuilt the station. “We rebuilt the station through the help of some organisations. The PCRC Hall was near completion before the #EndSARS protest and they left everything in ruins. Our members made remarkable progress in the completion of the PCRC building that was plundered and destroyed during the protest. The PCRC is a way of helping the police. We know that people do not like the police, which is why we in the PCRC are helping the police to manage their image. We are also giving them information. We are the people living in the community and our slogan is, ‘if you see something, you say something,’”

The Secretary of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), Makinde Police Station, Pastor George Okoye, recalling how the station was attacked and then burnt down, said he had never witnessed such an act of wanton destruction in his life.

He said the new Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Makinde Police Station, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Francis Ebuhuoma, along with other policemen in the station and families living in the Makinde Barracks would have been burnt, but for the intervention of Air Force personnel.

Okoye is a resident of Makinde. He said: “The hoodlums targeted Makinde Police Station. It happened on Wednesday. They first came about 11:am, but the DPO came out and appealed to them. He even gave them money.

When it was 3:pm, they came back. They were armed with fuel in small cans; used for storage of water. They wanted to burn the DPO and the policemen inside the station, but someone alerted the Air Force. They came and started pleading with them, but they refused to listen. Even while the Air Force men were still pleading, some had started hurling fuel at the building and fire had started.”

Okoye added that when the Air Force men realised that the hoodlums were determined to burn down the police station and barracks, they begged them to allow the police personnel and those in the barracks to leave.

He said: “They accepted and then after everyone had gone out, they started looting and burning down the place. It was terrible.”

According to Okoye, aside from the destruction of the police station and barracks, what also hurt him was the destruction of the PCRC Multi-Purpose Hall. He explained that the hall was built by members of the PCRC.

According to him, for three years each member had been contributing money towards the completion of the building. The PCRC members were also planning to paint and inaugurate it before the end of the year.

The dream, however, becomes a stillborn as the hoodlums looted the metal doors, aluminium windows, tiles, bags of cement, imported WCs, standing wash hand basins, toilet accessories, over 80 plastic chairs and sets of office chairs in the DPO’s office. Okoye said that everything stolen amounted to N1,811,500, excluding the cost of the building itself.

“Before the arrival of the Air Force, the DPO radioed the Area F Commander. The commander called and urged the Air Force to rush to Makinde Police Station to rescue the policemen. They burnt and looted the police station and barracks for three days. They looted from Wednesday to Friday. The multi-purpose hall alone cost us N1.4 million before we could get it to this level. We tasked ourselves to build it and bought those items. “We have been assisting the police. We were hopeful that the hall could be put to use for many things. The policemen used to have their meetings outside, under a canopy. We saw the hoodlums remove the doors and windows, cart them away and we couldn’t do anything,” Okoye added.

Another PCRC member said: “What I saw that day brought tears to my eyes. We watched them loot our sweat and we couldn’t do anything.”

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