Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos
Former Vice President of World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday teamed up with top artist, Innocent “Tuface” Idibia, and civil rights activist, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, at a peaceful march against the spate of killings across the country.
The three individuals led the Civil Society Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee (JN-CAC) to stage the peaceful walk in Abuja.
The protest march was tagged the National Day of Mourning.
It was held at the Unity Fountain, which for over a month, was condoned off by security operatives to starve off Shitte group from holding their protest rally there.
The organisers were clad in black attire and each placed a wreath of flowers at the venue in memory of the dead.
Ezekwesili, who is also the Coordinator of Bring Back Our Girls, prevailed on the government to declare May 28 every year as National Day of Mourning in honour of the people who lost their lives from the mindless killings across the country.
Scores of people have been killed in Benue, Taraba, Kogi and Nasarawa States by suspected herdsmen in conflict over access to land, while the killings in Zamfara and Kaduna States were in part due to reprisal act of cattle rustlers against local vigilance groups.
Speaking to journalists, Tuface described the situation in the country as that of a state of emergency.
The music act tasked the public not to remain silent to the strange killings.
He also said government must be held accountable while the public must be on the path of consciousness.
“We must talk about the issue, we must address this issue. We must try to be on the right side of consciousness,” Tuface said.
Odinkalu, the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), flayed the government for neglecting the dead.
The legal practitioner insisted that all lives should be considered sacred.
He said the organisers would use the next edition of National Day of Mourning as a remembrance day to highlight the dire challenges confronting the country.
At the Lagos rally, the peaceful protesters who came out dressed in black and totting placards, stopped at Allen Roundabout in Ikeja to observe a solemn minute of silence for the dead.
Some of the placards they carried read ‘Bring justice to the dead’, Bring the killers to justice’, ‘ FG act now! Stop the bloodshed’, ‘Enough of the killings’, ‘Life is sacred, protect it’, ‘Let’s unite and make NIGERIA safe again’, among several others.
In a statement issued by the coalition, they said: “The level of impunity and frequency of violent killings in Nigeria in recent times is a source of grave concern to citizens and all people who wish our country well.
“The African Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) estimates that over 60,000 persons were killed in the Middle Belt between 2001 and 2016.
“In the first 70 days of 2018, over 1,400 persons were killed violently across the country, an average of nearly 40 per state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Extra-judicial killings of Nigerians in the hands of uniformed services are reported to be in thousands annually.
“In some parts of the Northeast, Boko Haram continues to terrorise, killing thousands of innocent Nigerians.”
The statement further noted that “in some parts of the Northwest, including Southern Kaduna, Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State as well as Zamfara State, vast swathes of ungoverned territory have been taken over by rustlers, bandits and vigilantes who like to share blood.
“The southern states of the country have not been spared in the ongoing bloodletting, as at least 34 out of the 36 states have experienced at least one episode of violent killings within the first quarter of 2018.”
In their demands, the coalition said: “As citizens and advocates, we demand that this dehumanisation of Nigerian lives must stop.
“We seek to stir the conscience of our political class into developing the political will to protect our commonwealth through accountable governance.
“Most importantly, to read the riot act that we as citizens have reached an end in our docility and will no longer tolerate the narratives that seek to divide us.”
Adding its voice to the cause to EiE, a coalition for social justice also lamented that the frequency of violent killings in Nigeria has become a source of grave concern, adding that the government seems unconcerned about it.
The coalition said: “Why National Day of Mourning? In the first 70 days of 2018, nearly 40 persons were killed in each state of the federation.
“Extrajudicial killings are increasing annually and the internal displacement of Nigerians has become an accepted norm #NigeriaMourns.
“The National Day of Mourning and Remembrance is to honour the victims and remind the government of its duty.”
Meanwhile, some skeptics like Caramel Gbele said: “Something is not just adding up about this day of mourning. Isn’t the buck stopping on the president’s table anymore?
“Why can’t we be calling out President Muhammadu Buhari while mourning and asked him to resign? Did I miss something?”