After barely recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdowns, some businesses nationwide were hit severely by hoodlums who hijacked the recent #EndSARS protest.
For over three weeks, economic activities in some states in Nigeria were disrupted by protests against police brutality and the excesses of one of its units – the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The protests, which started as a peaceful movement of Nigerian youth seeking the reform of the police force, was soon hijacked by hoodlums who attacked the protesters and then engaged in violence across states.
These hoodlums razed media houses, police stations, businesses, government edifices, courts, vehicles and other facilities and also killed policemen. They also destroyed and looted businesses without being challenged by the overwhelmed security operatives.
In a bid to check the activities of the hoodlums and restore sanity, some states imposed curfews.
The curfew soon birthed queues at filling stations nationwide as many tanker drivers were unable to move freely to the fuel depots.
According to the details of the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report for the second quarter of 2020 which is the latest released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Nigerian economy saw its largest contraction in at least a decade.
The economy contracted by 6.10 per cent in the second quarter of the year when the country had imposed a lockdown to curtail the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Details showed that non-oil GDP contracted by -6.05 per cent from 1.55 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 and 1.64 per cent in the second quarter of 2019.
The NBS had attributed the decline to significantly lower levels of both domestic and international economic activities during the quarter, which resulted from nationwide shutdowns.
The International Monetary Fund had also said the recent protest may affect the already documented growth projection of the country.
“On the growth projections in Nigeria, these protests happened of course, after we had closed, after the period where the data we looked at in making the growth projections for this economic outlook. And much will depend really on how these protests evolve,” the Fund’s Director, African Department, Abebe Selassie, said during the virtual IMF press conference on the regional economic outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa.The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry also estimated the losses suffered by the Nigerian economy to be about ₦700 billion.
Nigerian businesses, already badly affected by the pandemic, were further buffetted by the destruction that trailed the protests.
Nwokoro Ignatius, a 42-year-old mattress dealer, said he lost goods valued at over N18.2 million during the October 19 violence at Apo mechanic village area, Abuja.
The father of four said some of the goods had already been bought and he was waiting for their owners to pick them up.
This reporter met a distraught Nigerian, who lamented his experience and losses.
He said: “We suddenly heard the news that some ‘Alhajis’ mobilised some boys to go and attack the protesters at the Apo roundabout. Unfortunately, two of the thugs died.
“So when they brought their dead bodies back to the community, some boys here in Apo mechanic began to plan revenge, we heard that while still in the shop, so we closed down the shop and I left for my house thinking it was going to be a minor thing.
“They began burning cars. I was at home when I got a call that the boys were breaking my shop around 4.30 p.m. on Monday. They were successful in breaking the shop but they could not bring out a single foam because I loaded the foams up to the ceiling, so they just poured the fuel and burnt down the shop,” he said.
“I refused to come out even after I was called by my neighbours because they may see me and decide to kill me. I later came out around 8 p.m. The fire was still burning and I could not save any of the goods,” he said.
Also, a plank seller around Malaysian Garden, Apo, Festus Omeke, recounted his ordeal. He said he lost about N8 million.
Mr Omeke told the reporter when she met him that he had to get some planks from his friend ”so he won’t just sit at home as he has not just his family to feed but five workers”.
“I lost two of my Nafag engines worth N1 million, woods and planks, bamboo, nails, even fisher boards, I can’t even quantify all. If only the government can give us something to start again even if it is in the form of a loan, we don’t mind,” he said.
In Lagos, two media outlets, TVC, Max FM, attacked by hoodlums, are yet to quantify their losses.
According to their public relations manager, Mabel Adeteye, “we cannot quantify how much we have lost at the moment because we are still reviewing the damage”.
The Nation newspaper is also yet to tell how much it has lost in the destruction it suffered in the hands of vandals.
Abass Adewale, the manager of Twin Faja Mall, a store that was also looted, lamented how the hoodlums made away ”with nothing less than N60 million”.
”They looted everything as you can see. We just started restocking today, you can see how empty everywhere is. There are three floors. We have nothing less than around N60 million worth of goods that were looted. They removed our computers, air conditioners, and other things. We were unable to get any footage because they damaged our CCTV and went with the storage device,“ he said.
Yemi Ajayi, a mobile phone and accessories dealer in Ibadan, Oyo State, also lamented losses. He said he was ”yet to quantify his losses” which according to him ”runs into thousands of Naira”.
“They destroyed the display glass in our shop. We sell mobile phones and accessories. Yes, no sales at all because during the Endsars Protest all roads leading to Mokola were blocked. So due to that, our sales dropped a lot.”
In Edo State, Lady Obor, the Managing Director of Doris Dey Nigeria Limited in Benin City, also explained how her warehouse filled with food items, beverages, and other valuables was looted.
According to her, she complained to the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the state Commissioner of Police, Johson Kokumo, about an impending attack on her warehouse.
”But unfortunately, intervention came after the hoodlums had successfully brought down a portion of my business with over N700 million losses incurred,” she said.
“Before they could mobilize security men to come back to Ikpoba Hill, it was late and the hoodlums had succeeded in driving trucks loaded with good, and committed all manner of atrocities.
“They also ransacked my office and took away anything they could lay their hands on. They took away my laptops and emptied the warehouse that was full of alcoholic beverages. They also burnt my generating set and my forklifts. But I am happy that top government officials from Abuja also came to see the extent of the damage,” she added.
Also, a supermarket/pharmacy business owner along Airport Road, Patience Aseghimhe, said ”her N3 million investment was destroyed by the hoodlums.”
“On the day of the attack, the first set of protesters came, we pleaded with them and they left. After some time, they came back with guns of different types while they wore the looks of warriors that have come to fight a war. Some had cowries on their head, others tied red clothes. We had to run away.
“The shops were locked. After 45 minutes, I got a call that they had vandalised some shops and mine was one of those affected. I came back and saw that everything was removed, all the provisions, drugs, electrical fittings, generator, even bulbs were all removed. The ones they could not remove were damaged,” she said.
Another shop owner in Benin, who simply identified himself as Fred, said, “I am a businessman. I run a bar and a boutique in the same place along Airport Road, Benin City. I lost about one million naira after my shop was vandalised and destroyed by the hoodlums in the name of EndSARS protesters.”
Meanwhile, the president of Traders Union of Nigeria, Lucky Orukpe, called on traders who were affected by the attacks ”to come together under one platform and present their position to the different state governments”.
“Those affected must come together and agree to present a common position. They must endorse that position individually and submit it to the governor of their state. I know the Federal Government is already taking steps towards addressing the issue. They should make a collective request so that they will not be seen to be talking individually.
“We condemn the looting of private businesses because some of these traders have built their businesses for over 20 years and in just one hour they lost everything to hoodlums, this is so sad.”
Although the federal government is yet to announce any form of compensation for businesses that were affected during the violence, it, nevertheless, says it is running several programmes to ease the economic plight of Nigerians.
Presently, the federal government is running the N75 billion Youth Investment Fund, a scheme that is meant to provide support for Nigerian youth.
The scheme enables unregistered businesses to get up to N250,000 loan while registered businesses can get up to N3 million (including working capital) with not more than 5 per cent per annum interest rate.
To access the loan, the individual must be within the age bracket of 18-35 years.
This scheme leaves out most of the victims of this attack.
called the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development, to inquire if the government is planning any form of compensation for the affected businesses.
The spokesperson of the minister, Nneka Anibeze, disconnected the calls placed to her repeatedly and also ignored a text messages sent to her.