By Emmanuel Addeh
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), a body of experts on reputation management in Nigeria, has lamented the negative impact of the #EndSARS crisis on the country’s international image.
The body stated that if not well managed, the crisis, apart from negatively affecting foreign investment, would further dent Nigeria’s not-so-good image in the comity of nations.
President, Chairman of Council, NIPR, Mr. Mukhtar Sirajo, who addressed a press in Abuja, noted that the government’s initial restraint and the protesters’ largely peaceful conduct was a huge image booster for the country, until the situation deteriorated.
While condemning the Lekki shooting, the NIPR stressed that the descent to anarchy, arson, bloodshed and looting in the past few days, however compelled it to make its position known publicly.
“The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations condemns unequivocally, the reported shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagoslast Wednesday.
“The resort to use of arms against unarmed protesters who were doing nothing other than exercising their guaranteed rights to dissent was against all known tenets of decency, civilisation and democracy and therefore unacceptable.
“The reported denial by the Nigerian army, of the complicity of its officers in the dastardly act, will make more meaning if an immediate inquiry is launched to ascertain who the perpetrators were,” it stated.
It added that the initial gains of the initial gains of the protest had been erased by the violent fallout which has affected businesses negatively.
The institute made it clear that it respects citizens’ rights to peaceful dissent as well as government’s responsibility to the maintenance of law and order.
“The decision by the government to dissolve the SARS, though a step in the right direction, we believe in itself is not a solution to the problem.
“Far reaching reforms in the nation’s policing architecture that includes review of recruitment process, improvement in welfare and general reorientation from top to bottom, among others, would also go a long way in regenerating citizens’ confidence in the police.
“Beyond the police and SARS, the demonstrations should serve as a wake-up call to leaders at all levels to the fact that paradigm is shifting from complacency towards citizens, especially the youths asking questions of the leadership.
“It is imperative therefore, that governments at all levels brace up for more accountability by engaging citizens in a sincere dialogue about the way forward.
“Establishing, or improving this line of communication with Nigerians, will help government(s) in the discharge of its commitment to timely action on programmes that seek to make life better for the people,” the body said.
It appealed to the protesters to call off the protests, having made their point, especially in view of the fact that the protests have been allegedly infiltrated and in some cases hijacked by other elements.
“We, in the same vein call on the government to be faithful to the decision to address all issues raised. In this wise, we note the concerns expressed by the movement to inability of government being faithful and accountable to its actions,” it stated.