A group, Southwest Reinassience Forum has called for a de-escalation of tension in country following the EndSARS protest against police brutality.
The group, in a press statement signed by its Co-conveners, Olufemi Lawson and Ologun Ayodeji, noted that the call became necessary following the coordinated attack on the region.
They explained that it is now important for youths to encourgage government to focus on reform: stopping abusive police practices, ensuring justice for victims and overhauling law enforcement.
The group’s statement read:
Unprecedented protests against police brutality have spun into deadly clashes in several major Nigerian cities. There is no accurate toll yet, but as of 23 October, the government had reported 69 people killed, including civilians, police officers and soldiers, some murdered in the most gruesome circumstances.
Our country, particularly the Southwest region, witnessed wanton destruction of public and private assets in the violence that trailed the protests. The coordinated arson that trailed the EndSARS protests became a wake-up call for us to be vigilant and collectively move against actions that could undermine our wellbeing and security, as a people of the region, mostly affected by violence.
At this point in time, we believe what is needed is a de-escalation strategy. While we encourgage government to focus on reform: stopping abusive police practices, ensuring justice for victims and overhauling law enforcement.
Beyond the government intervention, there is a need to sharply differentiate between the genuine agitations of the protesters and those given to unwanton destruction of properties and our collective heritage as a people.
The protesters dug in, with much of the movement staying focused on the single issue of ending police brutality, but others also clamouring for wider reforms in governance, particularly economic and security policies. Many youths saw sustained protest as the only means of holding political elites accountable for high unemployment, galloping inflation and deepening poverty exacerbated by anti-coronavirus measures while some others has taken the avenue to attack our collective patrimony and that which distinct us as a people particularly the people of the south west region.
Nigeria’s governments, from military to civilian, have a long history of managing protests through a mix of repression and co-optation. But the current unrest looks like it will be hard to stamp out. Protesters, who have heard the government pledge to reform policing many times before, are adamant that they now expect to see wholesale change. They seem unwilling to tolerate more police abuse.
Now we have two choices: keep trying to contain an ocean of angry people or de-escalate.
We belief as a region that the escalation of the crisis has taken its toll on the economy of all the states of the south west with everyone feeling unsafe hence the choice of de escalation over attempt to continue to contain what will eventually implode and destroy us all.
We are currently experiencing a deep infiltration of our communities, by aliens who are being sponsored to unleash terror, at any slight provocation by security agents or individuals. Only recently, we saw the audacity at which some hoodlums killed, roasted and ate a policeman in Ibadan, Oyo state. This is not who we are, as Yoruba people. The magnitude of destructions witnessed can only be likened to a war situation.
While it is undeniable, that there are shortcomings on the part of government and security agencies, we must understand that we have our land to protect against these tactical invasion, and destruction of our public properties and individual assets, particularly in the southwest region. The other day, it was Lagos. Today it’s Ibadan. It’s looking more like an agenda to destabilise the land, and we must be alert to this.
Every expression of grievances should be peaceful and we must avoid another round of senseless violence by all means, this time around.
Importantly, we commiserate with the government of the States of the region, particularly Lagos State, over the magnitude of destructions suffered during the hoodlums attack on our region. Our sympathy also goes to individuals such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Asiwaju Tunde Badmus, and various persons who lost properties and loved ones, to the invasion aftermath of #EndSARS.
The government across the south west states need to swiftly explore all avenues toward the latter course.
First, they needs to soften his stern tone and show more empathy for unarmed civilians who have suffered grave abuses and huge material losses.
They should ensure that security personnel stop using force against peaceful demonstrators and act with maximum restraint at all times, but also protect law-abiding citizens and their property from attack.
State governments should expedite credible, transparent investigations into the actions of the police and military in connection with the protests. It is a positive step that the Lagos state government has included the incident at the Lagos toll gate on 20 October among the terms of reference of its judicial panel of enquiry and restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses. Police and military officers found to have committed atrocities against protesters should be brought to justice.
The government will need to show further commitment to bringing to justice police officers who had perpetrated abuses over the years while not leaving out those that carried out harson on us through attack on public and private properties and individuals.