We were asked to fill forms, invited to Lagos Assembly but got nothing —EndSARS victims Otesanya David April 2, 2022

We were asked to fill forms, invited to Lagos Assembly but got nothing —EndSARS victims

We were asked to fill forms, invited to Lagos Assembly but got nothing —EndSARS victims


Fifteen months after EndSARS, a decentralised mass protest against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), victims of destructions carried out during the demonstrations wait in agony for help. TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE and BOLA BADMUS write on claims and counter-claims on compensation for the victims.

When many people have put behind them the EndSARS protests, which rocked the country in October 2020, some residents of Lagos State who suffered losses, including their means of living, are still seeking a way out, wondering if their wounds will heal anytime soon.

These are not the victims of the police brutality who appeared before the panel that probed the alleged killings at Lekki Toll Gate during the protests and were duly compensated by the government. They are those whose properties and other valuables were destroyed during the protests.

One of them is the founder of the Christ Apostolic Church (Warriors for Christ Mission), Fagba in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State, Prophet Solomon Ajao. The Baale of Orile Iju, Chief Kamoru Balogun, is another victim. They live close to each other along the railway line at Fagba, which was literally a war zone for two consecutive days during the crisis. Aside from the fact that many people, mostly youths, were killed in the area, houses, shops, goods, vehicles and other property were also burnt.

Prophet Ajao, a full-time pastor in his 60’s, lost the whole church building, the mission house, a jeep and two shops to the crisis. The property, valued at about N50 million were burnt down by hoodlums during the crisis. For Chief Balogun, his Toyota Avensis was burnt. He had to flee to escape being killed by the rampaging hoodlums who turned the protest to an ethnic crisis in the area.

Since then, the prophet, who has more than 30 years experience on the job, has been destabilised. According to him, he has nobody to run to for help.

The Lagos State government, which at the period, promised to compensate those who genuinely lost their property, particularly livelihoods, during the crisis, has not kept the promise, at least not to people like the cleric and the traditional ruler.

They said they had neither heard from the government since then nor got compensated for their losses.


Nobody in my domain got a dime –Baale

“I have put the matter behind me and moved on. I have put my mind off the matter as I don’t think government is willing to help in this regard,” Chief Balogun told Saturday Tribune.

The traditional ruler pointed out that as far as he knew, no individuals, at least in his domain, could be said to have been compensated as promised by the state government. According to him, those who were compensated with amounts like N5,000 and N10, 000 or a little more are petty traders in the Fagba area whose shops were burnt down, and the money, which amounted to N2 million, was from the personal purse of a member of the House of Assembly from the area.


Sanwo-Olu, Obasa promised us –Cleric

But the cleric, on his part, told Saturday Tribune in an interview that what baffled him most was that both the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, visited Fagba and the abattoir areas at different days after the incident with some top officials to assess the damage done to people’s homes and livelihoods.

“The two of them went round the community and the abattoir axis and promised to help us,” he recalled. He said it was the Baale who conducted the governor and the Speaker round the scene of the incident when they visited and he was also with them. He added that the Speaker even entered his church premises which was already reduced to rubble and sympathised with them over the damage.

“I am one of the persons who were given the opportunity to speak alongside Baale during the Speaker’s visit before he later addressed us and promised that the state government would help us financially,” he noted.

Prophet Ajao said he was away for a prayer meeting in the Ifo area of Ogun State on the fateful Wednesday in October 21 when hell was let loose on the community and the worship centre and the mission house where his family members lived were destroyed in the rampage.

He disclosed that government officials even went ahead to distribute copies of a particular form to all residents affected by the crisis to fill. They were reportedly asked to provide full details of their damaged property and the value, among other personal information sought from them.

Pastor Ajao said afterwards, the affected residents were invited twice to meetings with government officials inside the House of Assembly complex.

“At those meetings, we were given assurances that the state government would look at our cases and get back to us and that assurance gave us some relief and hope that we would soon bounce back to normal life.

“I also went to the Speaker’s house since, by the virtue of his office, he is responsible to all Lagos State residents, with a letter to personally seek his help. But nothing has come out of all these efforts,” he stated. He said it was particularly disturbing that the state government could renege on its promise to people who lost their property in a crisis such as the EndSARS protests.

He urged the state government to revisit their cases and come to their rescue. According to him, things are hard for him and his family members as they had to put up with a relative for almost a year before they were able to rent a small apartment where they now live.

“My wife has not been economically engaged since then. She was operating the two shops in front of the church that were also burnt down. She was selling books and writing materials in one and confectionery and soft drinks in the other. There is no money to rent another shop let alone to purchase some items for her to be selling,” he lamented.


Open service

Pastor Ajao’s church members had been left with no option but to worship in the open since the incident until about two weeks ago when they were able to cobble together a make-shift covering inside the burnt premises.

“We just had to raise money to buy some planks and do the roofing, more so that the rainy season is around the corner. Before now, we were worshipping in the open, notwithstanding the weather condition,” the cleric said. Some of the burnt corrugated iron sheets were reused for the work. “That is where our financial capability can carry us as of today. And it is indeed, harrowing. My heart bleeds with the situation but on the other hand, my joy is in the Lord Jesus,” he said.

Ajao, however, pointed out that some of the church members who could not cope with the new condition had left for other churches.

“So, I am appealing again to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to make good his promise to help us fix our livelihoods. We were not the architect of our misfortune. We are victims. The governor, as a leader of a responsible and responsive government, should come to our aid. As a church, for example, we want to rebuild our cathedral to be able to continue the propagation of the gospel of Christ under a decent roof.

“We are also appealing to kind-hearted individuals and organizations, including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), to look at our direction and help us for the sake of God and humanity,” the cleric said.


Govt promised no one –Commissioner

Reacting, the state government denied making any promises to those affected by the crisis despite the contrary information from the legislative arm.

A legislative source, who didn’t want to be publicly identified, confirmed to Saturday Tribune that the affected residents were actually invited to the Assembly building complex to meet with officials of the state government on how they could be helped back to their feet.

The source also revealedthat following the meeting, recommendations were made to the executive since only the latter could implement policies like compensation which was at the heart of the EndSARS crisis.

The source asked one of our reporters to check the state of things regarding the compensation recommendations with the Commissioner for Information.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, was vehement in his denial that the state government made compensation promise to the affected residents.

He said: “Did the government say that they were going to pay compensation? I don’t think government said that.

“I didn’t hear that. I don’t think the government said that. You know we set up a rebuild-Lagos committee. It is that committee that is supposed to even galvanise the rebuilding of all government properties that were destroyed during the incident.

“But as for individuals, I think government did not say something specifically that it was going to compensate them.

“How will it compensate the burning down of Shoprite? Even the Lagos Transport Service, we have not been able to replace those buses, among others. All of them are just there.

“I think the banking community is trying to help the government to rebuild some police stations.

“So, for government to say they are going to compensate individuals, I don’t think I heard that. I am not sure the government promised that. The government did not promise that.”


Lekki Toll Gate reopening

On Friday, April 1, the memories of the bloody protest were brought back with the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate, where some protesters were allegedly shot dead by security agents, leading to the massive crisis that cost residents of Fagba and other communities the losses they are trying to recover from.

Tolling activities were halted in the aftermath of the shooting incident but the state government decided to reopen the facility. The move has been widely criticised, with the state government being accused of lacking in empathy towards the memory of those who were allegedly killed at the toll gate.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is however pleading for understanding of the public, saying that the operator of the facility has billions of Naira to pay in bank loans.

The facility opened yesterday with security agents swarming all over the place.


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