Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, have called on #EndSARS protesters to discontinue with the ongoing nationwide protest.
The two presiding officers of the National Assembly hinged their call on the fact that the federal government had accepted the five-point demand of the protesters.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila made the call Sunday while speaking with State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate President described the ongoing protests as a trying moment for the country and its leadership, adding that the National Assembly has critical and crucial roles in ensuring that the current situation of protests across the country is brought to an end.
He stated: “I want to thank Mr President 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 demand of the protesters are properly addressed.
“It is also very critical at this point to mention this. 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.”
Lawan assured that where legislative intervention would be required, the National Assembly would be ready to move in and deal with such expeditiously to ensure that concerns of the youths would be addressed.
He stressed that where the executive role was expected, we are sure that the executive will also expedite action and we will be watching to ensure that such demands are properly met.
According to him, “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 economic places, such will distract the country’s economy and that is not the best way to go.”
Lawan noted that if the issues had not been accepted, there would have been genuine reasons to continue with the protests, but since the issues had been accepted, there was need for the protesters to 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 ‘EndSARS.’ 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. And that was the first time a President will say end SARS and SARS has ended.The other issues followed. They are being addressed, and that is why we are here. I believe that the time has come for these protests to come to an end and allow government to address the issues in a very short time.”
Lawan stressed that he also believed that Nigerians had legitimate rights to go about their lawful businesses without let or hindrance, saying that cannot be achieved when the roads are blocked.
He stated: “We do not want a situation that will lead to a degeneration of law and order because if somebody is blocked and he feels he must have his way. So, we will say that withdrawing from these protests at this time is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, give us the opportunity to deal with matters that we have agreed as a government to handle.”
On his part, Gbajabiamila said the youths had done so well in terms of expressing their grievances and it was important they didn’t get side-tracked.
According to him, “We have met with the President and I can assure you that there is no bigger democrat than Mr President. 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.”
The Speaker said there were tangential issues that they have discussed after the #EndSARS, adding that the National Assembly leadership has spoken with Mr President and he is looking at everything.
Gbajabiamila explained that some of these things were policy matters, which were not going to happen overnight, adding, “you are not going to have electricity overnight; it is not going to happen tomorrow. Free road is not going to happen tomorrow. It is a process and the important thing is that the government has heard you loud and clear. It is a continuous engagement. We will be engaging our youths in matters of policy and communicate with Mr President as well on what needs to be done.
He urged the youths to remain focused, adding that points have been made like never before in the history of Nigeria and that is kudos to the young men and women out there.
Commenting on the attack on the Osun state Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who was attacked at the venue of the protest, the Speaker described it as unfortunate.
He said, “This is where I said we are beginning to lose the plot. Osun state governor is loved by everybody in the state. He came to address people and that was what he got. At that point, we begin to wonder what exactly do we want? Is there an unseen hand? I don’t think there is an unseen hand. This is a movement. We should not allow people to infiltrate what otherwise is a good cause.
“My advice is that even if there is trust deficiency, let us, for whatever it is worth, trust government for what it has done now. It has ended SARS, nobody can argue that. SARS is ended completely, never to be heard anymore. We are talking about SWAT now.
“We interrogated the IGP about three days ago and we asked the question and he explained to us that in any security agency, particularly the police, if there is a special unit and you disband it, you don’t leave a vacuum. It is apparently a police code anywhere in the world that you don’t leave a vaccum, it has to be filled and that was why he came up with SWAT.”
Gbajabiamila said the Police chief explained that having come up with SWAT, the criteria, the engagement, the personnel, what they can do and what they cannot do, they are complete departure from how SARS operated.