Looting, What started as a peaceful protest against the brutality of the now proscribed police department, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), unfortunately, spiralled out of control across the country.
After days of peaceful protests starting from Lagos and Abuja, two cities considered as hotspots, thugs, hoodlums and other criminal elements, suspected to have been sponsored by politicians, attacked the non-violent protesters.
There is a video footage in circulation in which a Lagos State-owned bus was used to convey armed hoodlums to attack peaceful protesters.
Also, there are video footages of the soldiers who invaded Lekki Tollgate and fired at the peaceful protesters while they were singing the national anthem.
It has been established that lives were lost and many people injured.
The exact figures have not been ascertained. It was after the shooting incident at Lekki that hell was let loose.
Burning and destruction of properties started in Lagos. In apparent solidarity, protesters in other states took a cue. Sadly, Nigeria burned and burned badly.
Amid the turmoil, disoriented youths, those with little or no education, nurtured by politicians to achieve nefarious ends, hungry, frustrated and angry, seized the opportunity to loot and steal.
The palace of the Oba of Lagos was invaded, looted and his staff of office taken away.. Many private and public properties were also set ablaze by the mobs.
There was a complete breakdown of law and order. Police stations were set ablaze with many officers scampering for their lives. Regrettably, twenty-two officers lost their lives.
While the angry youths were on rampage, they discovered that palliatives meant for the poor to reduce COVID’19-induced suffering were stashed away by some persons.
This provoked another round of looting. Gradually, the looting spread to private properties and government institutions.
This is condemnable. It is wrong for this kind of stealing and brigandage to occur.
Some political office holders were affected as their houses and investments were looted and vandalised.
While the mayhem happened in most states of the country, some were more affected than others.
Anambra, Edo, Oyo, Cross River, Osun, Delta, Kwara, Ekiti, Ogun, Kaduna and Plateau states were seriously affected.
In Cross River State, hoodlums invaded the homes of Senator Gershom Bassey and former Senate leader Victor Ndoma-Egba.
A fuel station belonging to Governor Ben Ayade was destroyed while property belonging to Senator Hillard Eta was vandalized.
In Oyo State, the hoodlums invaded the residence of Senator Teslim Folarin and carted away empowerment materials worth N200 million.
In Osun State, the hoodlums went berserk and four lawmakers suffered various degrees of material harm and loss.
In Delta, the hoodlums were successfully repelled from forcefully entering the state’s Event Centre.
They had suspected that palliatives were stored there but security forces stopped them from gaining access to the place.
However, they vented their anger on other state facilities, burning the Federal Road Safety Corps’ operational office and the High Court.
In Kwara State, the hoodlums invaded, looted and vandalized the premises of the local newspaper, National Pilot which is owned by former Senate president, Olusola Saraki.
In Edo, Ekiti, Plateau and Kaduna, the story was the same as hoodlums invaded state-owned and other properties belonging to politicians.
Media reports show that almost all the states across the country were affected by various acts of violence, looting and arson.
In all of these, it does appear that poverty in the land has reached a crescendo and people are only reacting to many years of deprivation, exploitation and abandonment.
This should be a wake-up call for the government and the political class to address issues of youth empowerment and a commitment to the people.
It appears the people have been left to their fate. It is easy to use such words as hoodlums, thugs, hooligans but the truth is that these are deprived, exploited and frustrated citizens of Nigeria.
The government should realign its economic and social machinery at all levels to address poverty and deprivation in the land.
There must be visible, workable programmes to engage the youths and instill in them a sense of belonging. Government must ensure that tertiary institutions are well funded and lecturers paid.
There must be a seamless run of academic activities in all tertiary institutions. When youths are occupied with their studies, the chances of getting involved in violence are reduced.
The closure of our universities for seven months by striking lecturers was part of the frustration for youths.
Any society that does not consider the youths in the policymaking process should brace for more chaos and social dislocations.
Looting in any guise and for any reason is reprehensible.
Certainly, the planners of the #EndSARS protest did not envisage the looting that followed. It was hijacked by persons who had an ulterior motive.