By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The National Peace Committee co-chaired by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Dioceses, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that citizen’s right to peaceful protest is respected.
In a statement issued yesterday, the committee expressed sadness at the killing of innocent protesters across the country, and urged the youths to end the protests.
The committee also described as unacceptable the conduct of some elements within the security apparatus, which has gradually turned an otherwise peaceful protest into a major societal concern.
“We watched with utter shock, deep sorrow and sadness, the events that have taken place across the country in the wake of these protests by our youths.
“We have seen ugly scenes of activities that are totally unrelated to the goals of the youth protesters. This is very sad, but we call for calm among our people and appeal to the President to ensure that the rights of citizens are fully respected and protected,” it said.
The peace committee said that the right to protest is considered a cardinal principle in human existence, adding however that such is not absolute or beyond the laws of country.
“Therefore, when an individual or some members feel aggrieved, it is their right to seek redress within the rules guiding their existence and that of the community.
“It is against this backdrop that we must see the EndSARS protests by the youths in our dear country as a legitimate pursuit. Like millions of other Nigerians, we all concede that it is within the rights of our youths to express their grievances with the system,” it said.
The committee urged the youths to step down their agitation since the federal government has apologised.
It said the freedom to protest ends and imposes a right on the protester when the agent acknowledges the circumstances that have led to the protest.
In addition, the peace committee said that pause is urgent so that all sides can prepare for negotiations that benefit everyone.
“Therefore, we call on the youths to respond appropriately by accepting the show of faith by all levels of government and the Police Force.
“Developments among some of the youths are causing some very serious concerns and could lead to a defeat for the noble project that the genuinely aggrieved youths have embarked upon.
“We call for a pause because the COVID-19 pandemic does not recognise our protests and it is dangerous for us to let our guards down especially when we see what is happening around the world with the new threats of the resurgence of this pandemic.
“We appeal to the President to take very seriously, the grievances that the youths have expressed and lay out more clearly, a short, medium and long- term programme for meeting the objectives of the protests for the growth of our democracy”.