Crackdown on Protesters Premature, Obasanjo, Atiku, Soyinka tell Buhari

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•Guterres, Clinton, Biden, Akufo-Addo, others call for restraint
•Presidency urges calm
•DHQ mum, speaks today

By Kingsley Nweze, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Eminent personalities, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday faulted Tuesday’s military crackdown on unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, describing it as premature.

The incident also elicited reactions from the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres; a former United States President, Mr. Bill Clinton; former US Vice President, Mr. Joe Biden; United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Mr. Dominic Raab; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the European Union, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi.

They expressed concern about the shooting of the protesters and called for restraint.

However, while the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) remained mum but has promised to brief journalists on the shooting incident today, the presidency appealed for understanding and calm nationwide.

In a statement yesterday, Obasanjo urged the protesters to give peace a chance as they go about making their legitimate demands.

He also counselled President Muhammadu Buhari against the continued application of brute force to put down the protests.

In the statement titled, “Violence against Protesters in Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm,” the former president advised the president to also restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force.

“The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration,” Obasanjo said, explaining: “Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and the frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution.”

He added: “It is clear that Mr. President and his lieutenants did exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to use of force.

“It is worse that there is a denial of wrongdoing in spite of overwhelming visual evidence. Great harm has been done but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control.”

The former president stated that the country was at a critical moment and that the president must act immediately before it is too late. “This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such,” he said firmly.

He acknowledged the efforts of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State for taking the demands of the protesters to Buhari, saying, however, that the federal government could have acted more quickly on the demands even as he urged to protesters to calm down give time for the implementation of the demands the administration had committed itself to.

Soyinka called on governors where protests forced declaration of curfews to immediately demand the withdrawal of soldiers deployed by the federal government.

The playwright, in a statement from his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, titled, ‘DÉJÀ VU– In tragic vein’ said it was bliss to be alive to watch youths finally beginning to take the future into their own hands.

Soyinka said with the protesters’ roadblocks in Ogun State and elsewhere, it was all déjà vu– the uprisings in the former Western Region of Nigeria and the anti-Abacha movement among others.

“To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers. Convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hour curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on local councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism. We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever,” he said.

He told the federal government that the army had now replaced the SARS in the demonic album of the protesters.

“My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite the army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order. Nevertheless, the centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche. Need I add that, on arrival in Abeokuta, my hometown, I again had to negotiate a roadblock? That went smoothly enough. I expected it, and have no doubt that more are being erected as this is being written,” the Nobel laureate stated.

Atiku in a broadcast also called on the federal government to restrain the armed forces from further attacking the campaigners.

The former vice president who said that he was heart-broken at the turn of events, sent condolences to the families of those attacked by the military and the hired hoodlums that attacked the campaigners.
Atiku also called on Buhari to speak to Nigerians.

He said: “I call on our armed forces to show restraint. No more lives must be lost – absolutely none. We must face our common enemies, not our brothers and sisters. And our foes are the terrorists and insurgents, who seek to end the Nigerian way of life.”

In a tweet yesterday, Clinton expressed concern over reports of violence in Lagos and urged the “Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the EndSARS protesters for police reform and an end to corruption.”

Biden has also called on Buhari and the military to stop the violent crackdown on protesters.
Biden, in a statement, titled, ‘Violence in Nigeria – Statement by Vice President Joe Biden,’ said the United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption.

He said: “I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence.

“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”

The Ghanaian President, Akufo-Addo, assured Nigerians that he had spoken with Buhari and that the president had begun the process that would lead to reforming the police and other demands.

He stated that violence on the part of the police or protesters could not be the solution to resolving the crisis.

Akufo-Addo expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
“I join all well-meaning persons in calling for calm, and the use of dialogue in resolving the #EndSARS impasse in Nigeria. I have spoken with President Buhari, who is committed to this end, and has begun the processes that will lead to reform.

“Violence, be it on the part of the police or protesters, cannot be the solution,” he said.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Guterres, also called for an end to police brutality and attack on #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria.

Guterres condemned the killing of activists demanding police reforms in Lagos and other parts of the country.

The UN boss, in a statement yesterday, also expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

He called on the authorities to investigate the incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable.
According to a statement from his office: “The secretary-general is following recent developments in Nigeria and calls for an end to reported police brutality and abuses.

“He condemns the violent escalation on October 20 in Lagos which resulted in multiple deaths and caused many injuries.

“The secretary-general urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence.”

The European Union (EU) also expressed shock over the killings of the #EndSARS protesters.
The EU said this yesterday in a statement titled, ‘Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell’.

“It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured during the ongoing protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria. It is crucial that those responsible for abuses be brought to justice and held accountable. Following the government’s will to deliver on reforms, we expect to see decisive implementation,” it stated.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, condemned the shooting of protesting youths at Lekki and other parts of the country.

The world leader of the Anglican Church, who is also Buhari’s personal friend, said he had earlier advised the president to ensure that lives are protected.

Welby made his position on the shooting known in a message he posted on his Twitter handle, @JustinWelby.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the reported deliberate shooting of unarmed protesters in #Lagos and other parts of #Nigeria.

“I have urged President @MBuhari directly to ensure that lives are protected – and I say that again now.
“I mourn for Nigeria. May God save Nigeria,” he tweeted.

The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) expressed concern over the protest against police brutality by the youth that has turned violent.

It called on the federal government to probe the misconduct of the disbanded SARS.

The President of the Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Brou, in a statement yesterday, urged security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of the protests and act professionally.

“While ECOWAS Commission recognises the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and protests, it is also of the view that those rights should be exercised in a non-violent manner.

“In this regard, ECOWAS Commission calls on all protesters to remain peaceful in the conduct of their demonstrations. It also urges the Nigerian security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of the protests and act professionally,” it said.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, yesterday urged the federal government to prosecute the soldiers involved in the dastardly attack.

He also advised that government should separate the peaceful protesters from the perpetrators of crimes.
The monarch described the Lekki Tollgate protesters as descent Nigerian youths with a high sense of patriotism to their country.

Adeyeye also announced plans by traditional rulers in Nigeria to mediate between the federal government and organisers of the #EndSARS movement.

In a statement signed by his Director, Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Moses Olafare, the monarch said the decision of the authorities to protect public facilities was necessary but should not include military engagement of the unarmed protesting youths.

Also reacting to the shooting of the protesters, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, described the killings as disturbing and not reflective of Nigeria’s growing democracy.
Gbajabiamila, who expressed grief over the sad event and the consequent civil disturbances around the state, called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

In a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi, the speaker said Nigerians deserved an account of the acts that led to the events of Tuesday night.
While urging Nigerians to remain calm and law-abiding, Gbajabiamila noted that no blood needed to be spilled anymore.

Presidency Urges Calm

Amid rising tension over the shooting, the presidency has appealed for understanding and calm.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement yesterday, also reiterated what it described as the full commitment of the Buhari’s administration to the implementation of lasting police reforms in Nigeria.

The statement quoted Buhari as reaffirming his commitment to supporting state governments to ensure that justice is achieved for all victims of police brutality in Nigeria.

It said at the last count, no fewer than 13 states had established the judicial panel of inquiry as resolved by the National Economic Council (NEC) to address the redress and justice for victims of police brutality.

It said the president commended the promptness of these necessary sub-national actions.
The states that have set up the panels so far are Lagos, Kaduna, Delta, Ekiti, Ogun, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Plateau, Edo, Nasarawa, Ondo and Akwa Ibom.

It recalled that the president had in June 2019 signed a bill establishing the Police Trust Fund, to mobilise additional funding for the welfare and equipping of the Nigeria Police Force.

“The presidency appeals for understanding and calm across the nation, as the implementation of the reforms gather pace at federal and states,” it stated.