*Say Zarbamari killings sign of government incompetence
*Call on FG to unfreeze EndSARS protesters’ accounts
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Forty-six prominent Nigerians, including senior lawyers, clerics, businessmen, members drawn from the academia and various other professionals Thursday demanded an end to the prevailing insecurity in the country, starting with the resignation of all the service chiefs.
Drawn from all parts of the country, the eminent Nigerians urged the federal government to draw a redline from the recent killing of farmers in Zarbamari, Borno state and secure the country accordingly.
In a statement signed on behalf of the 46 by Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, they called on President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to take charge and halt the unbridled violence in several parts of the country.
The prominent Nigerians who made the call were: Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), Abubakar Sokoto Mohammed, Adeyemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Mr. Salisu Nuhu Mohammed , Dayo Olaide, Danlami Nmodu, Dr. Chris Kwaja, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Dr. Dipo Fashina, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, Dr. Udo Jude, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, Dr. Kole Shettima, Dr Usman Bugaje, Ene Obi and father George Ehusani.
Also listed were: Funke Adekoya (SAN), Idayat Hassan, Hon. Rima Shawulu, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, Mallam Hamza Ibrahim, Mallam Y.Z. Yau, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Mr. John Odah, Ms Ngozi Iwere, Ms Amina Salisu, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Prof. Adele Jinadu and Prof. Godini Darah.
Others are Prof. Joy Ezeilo, Prof. Mohammed Tabiu (SAN), Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Rufai Alkali, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie and Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi (SAN).
“What we see, like others, is incompetence in governance demonstrated by a lack of ideas on how to tackle insecurity, a poor understanding of the situation and a clear failure in the pursuit of government engagement to address these problems.
“The Zabarmari incident is a grave indictment of the government. At the minimum what we should have seen is the honourable exit of the persons responsible for defence and security of our country.
“In spite of numerous calls on the president to sack his service chiefs, the president has persisted in his policy of guarantying them longevity in their positions.
“His message to Nigerians appears to be that he is not ready to sanction his security chiefs for failure. The president must therefore take responsibility for the failure as the Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
“Having carefully observed and followed these unfolding events, the Zabarmari gruesome killings must be a redline for the country. The time for action is now,” they demanded.
They stated that as responsible and patriotic Nigerians they had watched with serious concern the unfolding crisis threatening to engulf the nation, adding that as non-partisan individuals who believe in the union of Nigerians, the senseless killings must be stopped.
They reiterated their belief in the freedom of all Nigerians to exercise the rights guaranteed by the constitution, including the right to life, dignity, personal liberty, freedom of speech, and right to freedom of association.
According to the eminent Nigerians, this encompasses the right to participate in peaceful protests and in processions without harassment or intimidation from any person or authority.
“Beyond these fundamental rights is the high constitutional duty and responsibility of all organs of government in Nigeria to act for the primary purpose of government being the security and welfare of the people (as set out in Section 14(2)(B) of the constitution). The prerequisite for exercising the rights of citizens rests fully on the existence of the security of lives and property of all Nigerians.
“Despite the exacerbation of prevailing pains of anguish and anger precipitated by Covid-19 and attendant stagflation, the unfortunate manner in which the groundswell united EndSARS protest was ended with illegitimate use of force by government (some disillusioned as well as criminal people), has increased tension, fear, dismay, disillusion and despair for most Nigerians,” they noted.
The senior citizens maintained that the situation was further aggravated by the unlawful detention and blocking of bank accounts of innocent protesters; the unceasing attempt to delegitimise EndSARS, presenting it as a move to initiate regime change; and inconsistent, high handed treatment of the people by the federal government.
They stated that in the effort to subdue freedom of Nigerians, the top agents of state had been insistent on not allowing anymore protests, warning they will be treated as acts of treason rather than address the substantive issues that led to the protest.
The group insisted that this was brought to a head by the most barbaric slaughter of innocent Nigerians at Zabarmari, Borno State.
“Nigerians now live in a state of anomie, well outside our unsuccessful eleven-year old war against boko haram. Across the country, especially in the north, life has become extremely tenuous.
“People are killed daily, women are raped regularly, kidnapping is rife and many farmers cannot go to their farms. We are concerned that over the past five years, in particular, public safety and security have been in steady decline throughout the country,” they lamented.
In consonance with the widely accepted notion of devolution, they urged the National Assembly to enact laws to facilitate state governments taking more responsibility for their security as they face increased insecurity.
“The security chiefs in the country have collectively failed to provide security for Nigerians and there must be consequences for this failure and in any case their tenure has expired.
“Civil society groups and communities must come out and clearly show their legitimate concerns at mounting insecurity and make it clear that they are unwilling to continue to accept the current collapse of public safety.
“State governments and community leaders should quickly put in place legitimate mechanisms for better protection of their people against mass violence, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes,” they maintained.
Accordingly, they called on the president and the presidency to demonstrate real leadership in the crisis Nigeria faces as a nation with the president showing empathy and compassion, using power of his voice to calm nerves.
It also urged all who speak for government to show sensibility to the feelings of the people and not denigrate as criminals objective critics of existential problems that the country faces.
“The federal government should unfreeze all accounts and free all persons detained on account of organising the EndSARS protest, charging to court anyone it finds to have a case to answer for any crime.
“The federal government should stop all acts evidencing dissonance in government, labelling innocent and legitimate activity as criminal, ridiculing government by misrepresenting facts, and labelling the reportage of facts as fake news,” they insisted.