As Buhari, Lawan, Gbajabiamila seek solution… Protesters plan total lockdown

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…IPOB, YOV, Catholic bishop, ASCAB, Adams warn against planned Army operation

As mass action grounded various parts of the coutry yesterday, Nigerians have been told to brace up for the “Mother of all shutdown” as the EndSARS enters its 13th day.

In Delta State, yesterday, movements in and around Warri and its environs were crippled for several hours as protesters laid siege to both the Effurun and DSC roundabouts in continuation of their demands for holistic reform of the police force.

The story was the same in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Benin, Kaduna, Jos and other major cities across country.

#EndSARS group has been protesting alleged police brutality. The protesters at inception came with five demands including that all arrested protesters be released and justice be given to deceased victims of SARS including compensation to their families.

They equally demanded an independent committee to oversee the investigations and prosecution of any member of SARS found guilty of extra judicial killings.

They demanded that all personnel of the disbanded SARS undergo psychological and medical evaluation as well as retraining before they should be redeployed to other services of the police.

The protesters also demanded that the salary of the police should be increased in a manner that will be adequately compensate for protecting lives and property of citizens.

According to a programme announced by Sorosoke radio, an online platform dedicated to the protest, processions would hold simulteneously in several cities and locations across the country.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, met with Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to review the ongoing protests and find the fastest way to implement the protesters five-point demand.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the meeting at the president’s official residence in Abuja, Lawan admitted that it was a trying moment for the government.

He pointed out that the youths had made their legitimate demands and the government has listened.

He, therefore, called on the youths to halt the protests so that government could have sufficient time and conducive environment to implement their demands.

Lawan said the first demand was to end SARS, which President Buhari in an usual manner, addressed himself.

“I want to thank Mr. Presi dent for exhibiting his very deep democratic credentials. The protests have gone on for over 10 days, probably today is the 11th day across many states of the country.

“I think the protesters have expressed their legitimate rights, the government has listened and the essence of coming to meet Mr President is to review the situation and see the roles the two arms of government should play in ensuring that the five-point demands of the protesters are properly addressed.

“Where legislative intervention will be required, we are ready to move in and deal with such expeditiously to ensure that we do not waste any time, so that we address the concerns of our youths.

“Where the executive role is expected, we are sure that the executive will also expedite action and we will be watching to ensure that such demands are properly met.

“Since the protests have taken place and the issues have been accepted, the time has come for the protests to stop because government needs to have sufficient time and conducive environment to implement the demands of the protesters.”

He also appealed to the youths to put on hold the protest as it might hurt the economy.

He said:  “We also need to have our economy to continue to go on. When you try to stop people from engaging in their lawful activities, closing roads to markets and other economy places, such will distract the country’s economy and that is not the best way to go.

“If the issues have not been accepted, then there would have been genuine reasons to continue with the protests but since the issues have been accepted, we should give government time to implement the issues.

“Therefore, I am seizing this opportunity to appeal to our youths who are protesting that the protests have already yielded the desired results. First of all, they said ‘end SARS.’ That was the beginning and SARS was scrapped, not by the IGP. SARS was scrapped by the President himself. The President made a presidential statement.”    Gbajabiamila said there was no bigger democrat than Buhari.

“ He gave us a listening ear, the same that he always gives Nigerians. He accepted absolutely everything that Nigerians asked for. I have heard the stories that we have heard end SARS like four times before. That is what people are saying.

“Like I said, you have never heard it from Mr President, but now, he has said so. So, let us tarry a little while. Let us sit back. We have got what we want, let us sit back and see what happens.

“If you like, you begin your protests again if nothing happens in two weeks. But let us not continue this thing and lose the plot. That is what I don’t want.”

‘Protest hijacked to destabilise Buhari govt’

The Federal Government claimed the protest has been hijacked by hoodlums and people with ulterior motive to destabilise the country and bring down the administration.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this on Sunday when he featured on a Radio Nigeria programme monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

He said the Federal Government had met the demands of the group and implementing them.

Having met the demands, he said it was absurd that protesters were remaining on the streets causing mayhem,  obstructing movements and inflicting pains on Nigerians.

“When you look at the demands of the #EndSARS and the decisions  of the Federal Government, it is clear that there is no single demand of the group that has not been met.

“Therefore, one will begin to ask if there is any ulterior motive because what we have witnessed in the last few days is that they have moved their demands from five to seven.

“As soon as the government approved one demand another one will follow. From the five demands which were initially tabled and  have been addressed, they are now including petrol price, national assembly salaries and allowances, electricity tariff among others.”

‘Don’t quell protest with force’

However, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Yoruba One Voice (YOV), the Catholic archbishop of Lagos, a coalition of labour and civil society groups, the Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, have cautioned against plans to deploy soldiers to quell protest.

This came as Presiding bishop, Living Faith Church Worldwide, David Oyedepo, warned that it would be a sacrilege to kill youths during a protest.

On Thursday, the army pledged loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari, vowing to defend democracy  at all cost.

IPOB and YOV, in a joint statement by Christy Ekama and Mr. Zacheus Somorin, said unleashing military on peaceful protesters would have dire consequences.

The groups called on the United Nations and other international communities to take interest and monitor the ongoing protest in Nigeria.

According to the statement: “We read with shock and dismay the plan by the Federal Government to deploy the Armed Forces under the guise of “Operation Crocodile Smile” with the sole aim to quell the popular #EndSARS protests across the country.

“The protests are a clear testament to failure of leadership. We fully endorse the #EndSARS protests. We commend Nigerian youths for again rising to the occasion to redirect the drifting ship of state.

“The Federal Government must immediately rescind its decision to deploy the Armed Forces to truncate legitimate protests by Nigerians. This is contrary to international law.

“The Federal Government must not add to the gruesome bloodletting by the discredited SARS operatives through the ill-advised deployment of the armed forces.

Reacting in a statement, Martins said deployment of soldiers in protest grounds will lead to injuries and deaths, as well as escalate tension.

“Such a measure, if adopted, can only lead to injuries and possible deaths, and an escalation of the protests. It has the tendency of turning the largely peaceful protests into a violent one,” he said.

“We therefore urge the Federal Government to toe the line of engagement in dialogue, listening to the demands of the youth and other well-meaning Nigerians.

Similarly, ASCAB in a statement by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Femi Falana, said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai or any of his men risks facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague if any of the protesters was killed.

The group said protests have common features across the world as seen in Hong Kong, United States, France, South Africa, Belarus and even in Sudan, adding that in no instance had soldiers being deployed to suppress the protesters.

ASCAB reminded the Federal Government that Operation Crocodile Smile had been declared illegal by Nigeria court with competent jurisdiction following legal actions filed by Mr Femi Falana and that judgement has not been upturned by any court.

Also, Adams,  in a letter to Buhari, advised the government to enter into constructive dialogue with the protesters.

“I can’t imagine soldiers being sent to stop protests. Soldiers are to fight external aggression. We are dealing with peaceful protesters. It is wrong to give the impression that Nigeria is at war with her citizens. We must do everything to promote and defend democratic culture.”

Adams also urged the protesters to ensure the process was not hijacked by violent and recalcitrant people.

“I condemn violence in all forms. I strongly condemn the actions of some security operatives that murdered the protesters. The list available to me shows 20 people have been killed across the country. I also condemn in the most profound manner the killing of any protester or the killing of any security official associated with the protests,” Adams wrote.

He said using soldiers to quell protests by civilians have been declared illegal by a Federal High Court in July.

Excercise not targeted at protesters -Army

But army has said Exercise Crocodile Smile schedule for October 20-December 31, was not targeted at the ongoing #EndSARS protesters as it is being speculated in some quarters.

The classification may not be unconnected following condemnation by Nigerians who perceive the decision of the army as a ploy by the federal government to disperse the protesters who are now demanding for good governance among several other demands.

Acting Director, Army Public Pelations, Sagir Musa who made the clarification in a statement issued last night, called on Nigerians to go about their lawful activities unhindered as the Exercise has nothing to do with ENDSARS protest, but a yearly event aimed at training officers and soldiers to ensure the safety and security of Nigeria and her citizens. [TheSun]

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