Addressing Youth Restiveness in Nasarawa

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Igbawase Ukumba reports that to address youth restiveness and its attendant effect that might destabilise the nation, Governor Abdullahi Sule recently convened a critical stakeholders’ meeting

Perhaps it is abundantly clear that Nasarawa State is indeed very peaceful as far as youth uprising is concerned, except of course for a handful of youths that staged a peaceful protest to the Government House, Lafia on October 20, 2020. On their arrival, Governor Abdullahi Sule directed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mohammed Ubandoma Aliyu, to receive the protesters on behalf of the government. They were addressed and pacified to allow government respond to their demands accordingly.

Thus the need to address youth restiveness was borne. Welcoming critical stakeholders to the critical stakeholders’ meeting convened by the governor to brainstorm on the way to curtail youths restiveness in the state, the secretary to the state government said it was sequel to the nationwide protest against the activities of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police.

This he said led to the subsequent directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to dialogue with their critical stakeholders, adding that the governor, in compliance with the directive, convened the meeting with a view of pacifying youth restiveness as well as sensitise stakeholders and indeed the general public on the commitment and genuine intention of government to restore peace as a fall out of the #EndSARS protest.

While appreciating the concern of the president, the SSG acknowledged that Nasarawa State was indeed very peaceful as far as youths uprising was concerned. He said this was however in exception of a handful of youths that staged a peaceful protest in the Government House on October 20, 2020 when Governor Sule directed him to receive the protestors on behalf of the government.

The Nasarawa State SSG said: “It will interest you to further know that after a thorough identification of the protesters, we discovered that they were mostly non-indigenes. It is all known that Governor Sule is aligned to the onerous task of maintaining peace in Nasarawa State. This presidential directive, through the ministers, is not only apt but timely.”

Speaking on President Buhari’s directive on continuing the engagement with the polity to find a lasting peace in the country, the Minister of state for Science and Technology, Mohammed Hassan Abdullahi, said that recent event that occurred as a result of the recent crises that engulfed the nation via #EndSARS protest.

He lamented that as genuine as the protest was intended to press for reforms in the operations of certain segments of the Nigerian Police, it was however, unfortunately, hijacked by some unscrupulous hoodlums whose interest was to cause confusion and disharmony amongst people.

The minister said: “The president is pained by this unwholesome developments that has put our country in dire security cum political threats. The action of the hoodlums have put undue pressure on our law enforcement outfits. Accordingly, the president directed us to meet with stakeholders from the public sector, the traditional institution, religious organisations, youth groups and civil society groups to emphasise on the need to give peace a chance and for the youths to embrace dialogue as a means of redressing any perceived grievances.”

The fundamental demands of the protesters which include disbandment of SARS and release of all arrested protestors, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality, setting out independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days, psychological evaluation and retraining of the disbanded SARS before they can be redeployed and increase police salary, acccording to the minister of state, “have been accepted by the government and have put in motion necessary steps, in collaboration with various state governments, to implement its commitment to the #EndSARS protesters”.

“Thereafter, the demands began to increase and became incomprehensible as to what the protestors want, coupled with absence of leadership with which government can engage with became a challenge. The protest further degenerated into mayhem as genuine protest by the #EndSARS protestors was hijacked, innocent citizens were subjected to untold hardships as their right to free movement was severely infringed upon”.

Nevertheless, it maybe on this backdrop that President Buhari might be encouraging the dialogue to give peace a chance and to implore youths to embrace dialogue and have a shot at some programmes rolled out by the government to support not only the youths, but the vulnerable in the society.

He continued: “Nasarawa State is further obligated, in view of the prime position our son – IGP Mohammed Adamu occupies, coupled with our proximity to the FCT to ensure a conversation that tilt towards supporting the IGP to succeed in this challenging task of ensuring law and order in the federation. It is therefore important to appeal to our youths not to allow themselves to be used as pawn to cause further crises.”

However, the minister was thankful that Nasarawa youths had shown great understanding and restrain by refusing to be drawn into the endless protest.

For Governor Sule, Nigeria was faced with security challenges occasioned by the activities of the #EndSARS protesters against the activities of the now disbanded SARS of the Nigeria Police.

Arguing at the critical stakeholders’ meeting, Sule posited that activities of the EndSARS have continued to pose security threats with attendant consequences on human lives and property, as well as the socio-economic development of the state and the country at large.

He continued that the security threat was coming at a time when the president was committed to record unprecedented progress and development in all facets of human endeavours. He therefore said the critical stakeholders’ meeting was to appraise the present security challenge with a view to finding a lasting and sustainable peace, as well as fashion out modalities towards addressing the Five-Point Demand raised by the #EndSARS protesters.

“In an attempt to address the demands of the protesters, government had in compliance with the presidential directive, constituted Judicial Commission of Enquiry with a clear mandate as reflected in their terms of reference.

He further noted that the president’s implemented programmes targets mostly on youths and women, as well as the most vulnerable groups in the society. This, Sule posited that it was an effort to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.

Before concluding his address, the governor appreciated the efforts of traditional and religious leaders for supporting government’s commitment in calming the #EndSARS situation. Similarly, he appreciated youth leaders for their various roles in ensuring that the youth did not take the law into their hands, hence he urged them to continue to support government’s efforts in that direction for the benefit of the society.

Rising from the meeting, the stakeholders came out with a communique appreciating the various efforts by the federal government to lift 100 million people out of poverty through N-power, N-tech, N-agro, increase in monthly NYSC allowance, Special Public Works Scheme, Nigeria Youths Investment Fund, Farmer-moni, Trader-moni, Market-moni, funding of fashion and beauty sector, among others targeted at economic empowerment of youths, women and the most vulnerable in the society.

The stakeholders commended President Buhari’s respect for democratic right of #EndSARS protestors to demonstrate their grievances for the timely intervention of the federal government at a time when the protest degenerated into avoidable violence, maime, destruction of national assets, property, killings in a communique which was read by Mamman Alakayi, a federal commissioner representing Nasarawa State in the Federal Character Commission.

The communique read in part: “Stakeholders commend the government of Nasarawa State for its monumental strides and policies towards employment generation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation. We resolved to give unflinching support to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammmed Adamu, in his commitment to engender reform in the Nigerian Police.

“Stakeholders note that there is no one way approach in addressing security challenges because of obvious peculiarities and observe that F-SARS have been useful to Nasarawa State in the control of crimes and criminalities. Stakeholders were urged to use their vintage position to educate and engage their communities so as to bridge the gap between the leaders and the led. Stakeholders enjoined people of the state to take advantage of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry by availing the commission with issues bothering on police brutalities and other excesses to ensure reform of the Nigerian Police Force.”

The communique equally commended the youths of Nasarawa State for resisting the temptation to join the protest and resolve to remain patriotic and ensure violence free Nasarawa State, hence they resolved to hold regular dialogue both at the state, local government and community level aimed at reviewing topical issues that are capable of breeding distrust and suspicion among members of the diversed ethnic nationalities of the state.