The mindless arson and looting of public and private property following the EndSARS protests across the country should be condemned. It is sad that the peaceful protest later degenerated to destruction of property and looting spree following the shooting incident at Lekki tollgate in Lagos and the subsequent hijack of the protest by hoodlums. While the sordid incidents cannot be justified, we believe that they offer those in government the opportunity to interrogate our governance system, especially in terms of fulfilling the social contract with the people.
The unconscionable arson and looting across the country show clearly that there is a huge communication gap between the people and the government, especially the youths who feel alienated from governance. The rising rate of unemployment among the youths does not help matters as well. Also, the continued closure of the public universities must have contributed to the restiveness of the youths.
That is why the government should meaningfully engage the youths and address their grievances to avert such protests and vandalisation in future. There must be a conscious effort to factor issues that concern the youths into governance and national development agenda. All tiers of government should no longer joke with youth matters. Let government evolve pragmatic measures to create more jobs for Nigerian youths. The reported haunting of some of the protesters by seizing their travel documents or profiling their bank accounts must be halted to avoid another wave of protests and destruction.
The actual cost of the arson and looting has not been computed but informed guesses indicate that the nation has lost between N1trillion and N2 trillion as a result of the protest. Considering our poor statistical culture and the fact that not all the victims have publicly disclosed their losses, the cost of losses incurred during the protests may even be more.
Not less than 71 public warehouses and 248 privately owned stores were looted in 13 states and FCT during the protests. Also, about 205 critical national assets, corporate facilities and private property were burnt during the incident. The Nigeria Police lost so much during the protests as hoodlums reportedly carted away firearms from 205 police stations in 17 states across the country, while many police stations and vehicles were also burnt. In Lagos State, about 100 AK-47 rifles and thousands of ammunition were looted from various police stations.
There is no doubt that enough lessons have been learnt from the EndSARS protests by both the government and the governed. Anything that would lead to this type of protest in future must be avoided. It is unfortunate that the peaceful protest which began so well ended tragically. The obvious gaps in the arrangements may have led to what happened in the end.
The unwarranted arson and the looting became the disgrace of an event that would have been one of the most glorious acts of the new generation. Looters and arsonists should be easy to deter with close circuit television (CCTV), knowing the footage would identify them in their ignoble act. Unfortunately, we cannot boast of functional CCTV in most Nigerian cities. That is why the nation’s security system must be overhauled. There is urgent need to incorporate technology in our security architecture.
Good enough, hundreds of people have been arrested in connection with the looting and arson. They should be arraigned and prosecuted diligently and if found guilty should be given adequate punishment. The government should adopt the CCTV as part of its public security policy. Government, corporate organisations, and firms should formulate measures to curb arson and looting.
It will cost Lagos State some trillions of naira to reconstruct destroyed infrastructure and burnt BRT buses. More funds must be needed to rebuild vandalised government offices, laboratories and warehouses across the country. Indeed, there is no item that was looted or destroyed that will not be rebuilt.
At a time the government is financing the national budget partly through foreign loans, these incidents have dug us deeper into debt. Therefore, everything humanly possible must be done by the government to curb youth restiveness and other grievances that will lead to arson and looting in future.