The Federal Government, yesterday, told the international community that the #EndSARS protesters across the country were making unreasonable demands from the government.
The government also said some people who were not part of the original movement, were using the movement to ask for unreasonable demands, and have moved from #EndSARS to #EndBuhari.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this while briefing the diplomatic corps at the Tafawa Balewa House, Abuja.
The briefing which was at the instance of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had in attendance, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anthonia Ekpa.
Mohammed explained that the five demands made by the protesters which include the immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; the setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days, and others, were received by the authorities and on October 11, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the country.
He recalled that on October 12th, President Muhammadu Buhari personally intervened when he addressed Nigerians and said the disbandment of SARS was the first step in the comprehensive reform of the police in Nigeria.
Mohammed also recalled that on the 13th of October, the IGP immediately summoned all former members of SARS for debriefing, medical examination before redeployed and two days later, the National Economic Council (NEC), took far-reaching decisions which took care of every demand of the protesters.
Among others, Mohammed said, was for each state to set up an independent judicial commission of inquiry which would examine and take evidence from all witnesses who have been victims of abuse and that the assignment would be completed in six months.
He also listed the immediate establishment of the victim support fund as directed by NEC to compensate deserving families of victims.
Mohammed however said what bothered the government was that after the five demands had been comprehensively met, the protest, rather than abate, has been getting stronger.
He further told the envoys that the protesters started with five demands, but came forward with more demands, even as he said that with every demand of government that is made, the goal post is shifted.
“And the government noticed very soon that some people with ulterior motives were exploiting a very innocent and just protest to destabilise the polity.
“The movement started very peacefully, but very soon, we witnessed looting, assassination attempt on the Governor of Osun State, and burning and looting of malls.
“In Benin, they freed 2,000 inmates, in Lagos today (yesterday), they set ablaze police stations and both the Governments of Edo and Lagos, have been compelled to impose curfews.
“The demands they came with first have been met. But now, we have some people who were not part of the original movement now using this movement to ask for unreasonable demands. From #EndSARS, we now hear EndBuhari,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed further said the development troubled the government and it felt there was the need to give out the correct narrative out there.
“We are not a repressive regime. For the past 12, 13 days, protesters have been allowed to express themselves provided they don’t get violent. The police have conducted themselves very admirably, even under provocation, they remained very restrained.
“But like I said at several fora, no responsible government will fold its arms and allow the country to go into anarchy. We owe all Nigerians responsibility to protect their lives and their sources of livelihood.
“In the last 14 days, many Nigerians have been prevented, especially in Lagos, from going to work. Police have been attacked in several states and even some members of the movement have admitted that the movement has been hijacked, some of them have resigned and as we speak today, the problem is that, who are these leaders?” Mohammed also said.
Mohammed also told the envoys that the Federal Government decided to direct the state governments to set up the panels of inquiry because the states are nearer to the people, but that even the panels set up by state governments were not even allowed to work.
“And we believe that it is important for the international community to actually know what is happening. As we speak today, there are still demonstrations everywhere in Nigeria. Protesters are not hindered as long as they do not constitute a danger to other people.
“Sunday night, the Central Bank was taken over, it was almost set on fire, we don’t see that as part of the peaceful demonstration. The attack on the Governor of Osun State that went there to engage them, we don’t see that as part of a peaceful demonstration,” Mohammed further said.
Mohammed assured the international community that the government will continue to obey the rule of law, while also saying that democracy will continue to thrive in the country.
He said protests such as #EndSARS were integral part of democracy, and the government has set up every structure to allow the matter to be resolved, but unfortunately, it seemed that people with ulterior agenda have hijacked the protest.
Speaking earlier, Onyeama said the government had also seen that movements such as #EndSARS were open and vulnerable to infiltration by those that might have ulterior motives and other agenda.
Onyeama also said the government was very mindful to take necessary measures to ensure that the legitimate demands of the youths was no way compromised by opportunists who have different agenda and motives.
“And I think this is very important to bear in mind, not just for us as a government, but also for the youths and others who have genuine grievances, that this does not happen and that we do not allow this process, this democratic process to be hijacked by those who have more sinister motives and intentions,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama also said the government wanted to focus on the clear and very lucid demands that were initially made and addressed them very quickly.
He also said larger governmental issues and societal issues were being addressed and will be addressed in the normal course of government business.
Also speaking, Sirika said the people of Nigeria, through the constitution, has chosen for themselves, democracy which in itself, states freedom.
“Freedom to associate, freedom to protest, freedom to ask questions, freedom to move about and freedom to carry out legitimate and lawful activity. And by this, the Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, has shown its ability and willingness to respect the constitution of Nigeria and to allow for these freedoms.
“#EndSARS and similar agitations, not only in Nigeria, all over the world, are things that do happen. But what is important is what is the role and the response of government. This government has shown that it is a responsibile and responsive government. Responsibe because it listened to these demands, responsive because it has answered all of the demands,” Sirika said.