The EndSARS protests which began on the 6th of October 2020 as a national rally of youths against police brutality, took a different turn on the 21st as thugs, allegedly sponsored by the state, attacked peaceful protesters in cities and towns across Nigeria. In the country’s capital, Abuja for instance, on 17 October, thugs launched an attack on protesters at Kubwa in the outskirts of the city as many of the protesters scurried to safety. One of those people attacked, Anthony Onome Unuode, died on the morning of 18 October at the National Hospital. Two days earlier in Lagos, thugs had attacked protesters at the Lagos Government House, Alausa. The Alausa attackers arrived in the blue buses of the state’s BRT service and chased the protesters away with clubs and machetes. They then went to the Berger end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to disrupt the peaceful protests that were happening there.
The level of thuggery shown prior to the declaration of a curfew by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on 20 October, snowballed into something larger–the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses. Inspired by the looting of COVID-19 palliatives at the palace of the Oba of Lagos (and its subsequent destruction), people across cities in states such as Cross River, Edo, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, and Taraba, took matters into their hands and plundered state and private resources. In Jos, Plateau State, a COVID-19 warehouse in Bukuru, was broken into and consignments were carted away on Saturday, 24 October. The sheer size of the mob as seen in videos on social media made law enforcement a difficult exercise to carry out without the use of force. This exposes the severe economic issues facing Nigerians especially as they spend about 60% of their income on food. The Q3 20202 SBM Jollof Index shed more light1 on the problem. In one video taken at an unknown warehouse in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, soldiers were seen begging looters2 to “loot peacefully”, an indication that the magnitude of the problem is one that defies existing notions of law and order, which is impossible in the face of growing economic issues.
The economic cost of the looting spree that has engulfed Nigeria in the last week of October compounded these problems. Food costs, already higher than normal due to government policies, have been made worse by the destruction of storage houses and warehouses. In addition to these warehouses, commercial property such as banks and restaurants were vandalised.
To ascertain the financial effects of the protests on small businesses, in the last week of October 2020, SBM surveyed and interviewed 180 business owners in two locations in Lagos state.
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