Cosmas Omegoh, Omoniyi Salaudeen and Dan Kanu
Widespread condemnation is trailing last Tuesday’s gruesome attacks of #EndSARS protesters at Lekki tollgate in Lagos State, with some prominent Nigerians lending their voices to the incident.
While blaming the Federal Government for the chain of events that led to the killing of a yet-to-be-ascertained number of youths, at the Lekki toll plaza, they are calling for an investigation into the incident, insisting that the culprits must be punished.
As the issues thrown up by the disaster continue to reverberate across the globe, equally drawing condemnations, the Nigerian commentators are unrelenting in saying that President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to the situation was off the mark.
The called for a more holistic response to the gamut of issues raised by the #EndSARS protesters, declaring that the attendant crises were needless. Excerpts:
Current crisis, needless, avoidable, Chief Goody Uwazuruike, lawyer, ex-president, Aka Ikenga
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s last Thursday’s speech to address the protests was drab and uninspiring! It’s shocking that this momentous event could attract only a 10- minute speech and no effort to assuage the feelings of the nation.
“People died in the hands of evil men. People lost their property and investments. People were injured!
“Mr President did not inspire the restless youth, the frustrated businessmen! What is expected to happen today when curfew is still on.
“Definitely, I am disappointed that the president missed an opportunity to condemn evil, motivate the youngsters and assure the older folks that he is still in charge of the nation.
“We asked for a speech by the president. The president has spoken; now, we are speechless!
“I see the crisis as an avoidable one. If we have a president who is up to his duties, this situation could not have arisen.
“The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwolu, said he called the president twice and could not reach him.
“The crisis could have been nipped in the bud if we have a president who is alive to his duties. In other words, if the president sees himself as the chief servant of this country, he would have rushed in to see what to do.
“As it is now, various parts of the country are still burning. The biggest crisis in Lagos followed by Abuja and people are afraid to come out from their homes not withstanding assurances from the governor of Lagos, after imposing a curfew; nothing will make the people to come out. Mr President has not even assured the governor.
“The governor of Lagos is not the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Only one person is the president.
“Right now, no one is happy with the situation. The country is on a roller coaster down the cliff. The country is a rudderless ship. We just hope and pray that the implosion does not consume all of us.
“Right now, the people from the South and the Middle Belt are all united in their call for an end to SARS. Now, people from the Northeast where the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Yusufu Burutai comes from and, of course, some part of the Northwest have said they want insecurity ended. But those from Nasarawa State – of course that is where the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu comes from – are saying no one should touch their son. That is their own bent.
“But if one is talking about the spread of the protest, let me say that this is the first time we are seeing a gathering of that magnitude of young people in one accord. When I say young people, I’m also including Prof Duncan, an 89-year-old man – an emeritus professor of medicine – who I know lives in Surulere. He was one of the oldest men among the protesters. He was there demonstrating, carrying his flag. We saw unity in the way people came out to demonstrate. In a simple language, the people of Nigeria have a united purpose.
“Those who were used to poverty were simply preserving their status quo. But 70 per cent of the citizens of this country stood up with #EndSARS.
“First and foremost, the president should work with the vice president and the Senate president and the Speaker to address the vexing issues raised by the protesters. He has to out his plans in line with the five request made by the #EndSARS.
“Right now, the economy is in the doldrums. It is messed up. There is no road map. The trigger remains the activities of the police. Have the police changed, of course not. Has the Federal Government taken any action against SARS? Of course not and who did government take action against? Those protesting against the police. To put it bluntly, President Buhari should stand up and be seen as the president because the #EndSARS agitation has gone international. And since it is gone international, why should Buhari be pretending that he is not aware of it?
“Then, those soldiers who took part in the massacre at Lekki toll plaza, yes they were under orders, those who ordered them should be made to pay for their action. It is called crime against humanity. The way the world is right now, even if you are retired, the world will come after them. Each and everyone of them will be brought to International Criminal Court (ICC) and each of them will answer for his own action
“Right now, we expect the government to first and foremost look at the economy, then the police structure, then devolution of powers, the health system, and the education structure. By the time, the president begins to look at these key issues, we will now begin to say we have a president. But right now, we don’t have a president.”
Buhari’s body language shows approval of killing of harmless youths –Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader
“The authorities handled the situation very badly. And it shows in the insensitivity of our president.
“I have been saying it all along, he doesn’t understand the problem of the people. All he needs to do is to give the people an outline of what reform of the police he wants to do. But he is not interested in keeping this country together. In my own view, he has a private agenda. If he has the interest of the country at heart and he does not have any personal agenda, what is wrong in assuaging the people’s their feelings?
“The way forward is for the president to assuage the people’s feelings. He should also sack the Inspector General of Police under whose supervision all the atrocities committed by SARS happened. All officers concerned too should also be fished out, dismissed and prosecuted.
“Anywhere in the world, where a department is accused of a wrong doing, the head of that department goes for it. How can you say a man under whose supervision the evils are perpetrated is to do the reform? He is not competent to be there. His (Buhari’s) body language shows an approval of the killing of the harmless youth protesters. It is very unfortunate.”
Buhari does not have mental energy to do the right thing –Junaid Mohammed
“It is obvious and unfortunate that lives have been lost. At the end of the day we shall know those who are responsible (for the killing at Lekki). Whoever is found responsible should be held to account. They must be brought to book. We cannot live in a lawless society, lawless agitators and lawless government.
“Having said that, I must also make comment on the mindset of the president and his advisers, if he has any at all. Some certain decisions should have been taken earlier. And having taken the decision late, I think it was a decision taken in a panicky mode.
Security is not just a matter of the Federal Government. It concerns both states and local governments. They are all intimate stakeholders. Things should have been done in a much more collagenous manner rather than this panic measure. It shows that there is a lot to be done at the level of presidency and the president himself. One of the ways this matter can be resolved is for Buhari to come out to accept full responsibility because fundamentally he created the situation.
“Those who are agitating must also behave themselves because this is largely happening in the South and this kind of division historically did this country no good in the past. Security is fundamental and we should never use either religion, culture or any other pre-mordial sentiment to decide on things to do.
“This idea of asking governors to establish judicial commissions of inquiries cannot work because they are going to come with different lines of actions which may not be accepted to others. This issue must be handled with the care and tactics they deserve. I believe the idea of setting up multiple panels of inquiries is because the president does not have the mental energy to do the right thing. Simple issues are very badly managed by this government. It is very unfortunate. This is a classical example of doing everything wrong.”
Buhari needs to address people’s needs –Sen Rufai Hanga
“The government didn’t act rightly. The first mistake the authorities made was the abrogation of SARS and immediate introduction of SWAT. If I were the president, I wouldn’t announce the new unit. Even if I had established another one, I wouldn’t announce it publicly. I would do it silently. In order words, they should have allowed the tension to fizzle out before coming out with another unit. That is why immediately after the announcement of the creation of SWAT, many people saw it as an old wine in a new bottle. To them, the initiative didn’t make any difference. That also explains why people continued to agitate for a reform because it’s like nothing has changed.
“The second mistake they made was the attempt to polarise the country by portraying the protest as a southern affair. The insinuation that it is a southern affair being sponsored by the government. It is wrong. The government should not polarise the country by itself. A lot of people in the North here don’t like SARS either.
“The statement by the Northern Governors’ Forum that SARS should be allowed to stay is a stupid thing for them to have done. Was SARS not in existence when banditry and kidnapping were happening in the North? What did SARS do about it? Absolutely nothing! How many people have been killed in Zamfara? How many people have been killed in Katsina? Where are the policemen? It is pure nonsense for the governors to say it is a southern affair. They are the cause of all these problems. They will be the first to be consumed whenever calamity comes. They know that people don’t like them anymore. So, they use religion and sentiment to polarise the country.
“The way forward is for the government to come out with its reform programme. They should also address some of the demands of the protesters. I think the only way the government can appease the people is to dish out a reform programme.”
Justice for all key –Ebenezer Babatope
“The crisis we are facing in Nigeria today requires prayers. And I think we should pray very hard. All kinds of extraneous matters, extraneous persons are being brought into the matter. I want to appeal to everyone to calm down so that we get justice for all.”
Unleashing soldiers on protesters condemnable –Ummah Getso, vice presidential candidate, Young Progressives Party in 2019
“What happened to the protesters is worth condemning as it shows government’s insensitivity on the plight of the Nigerian youths.
“The youths have every constitutional right to protest. It is legitimate to have a protest that is peaceful. Of course, the protest as we observed was peaceful until the Army was unleashed on the people – the peaceful protesters. There was no need for the soldiers to be brought to the scene in the first place, not to talk of opening fire. There must be an investigation and every opportunity for dialogue must be engaged. You don’t close the window of dialogue and expect the situation to calm down.
Slaughter of unarmed youths deliberate, despicable –Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, founder, IYM
“The protest was overdue given the sufferings of the average Nigerian. The way forward is for the government to positively respond to the demands rather than the present insensitive stance from the leadership.
“They should positively listen to the yearnings of the youths, address them, bring the perpetrators of the killing to face the law, and ensure they overhaul governance; we cannot continue with this sort of bad governance and you expect the people not to react.
“The slaughter of unarmed, defenseless youths at Lekki was deliberate; they planned it, removed the CCCTV, switched off the light, slaughtered them and quickly removed their corpses. That is the height of wickedness and man’s inhumanity against man.
“But brutal force cannot cover ineptitude; it cannot cover bad governance; it cannot cover mediocrity and nepotism; it cannot cover the directionlessness of the government of the day.
“What happened at Lekki on black Tuesday will go down in our history as the day of blood. There is nowhere in the world soldiers will kill those innocent protesters without getting orders from above; it is not possible. No soldier will be mobilised to go to Lekki to kill young Nigerians on their own. It is not possible. Everybody knows who gave the order, but God will judge everybody.
“Moving forward, let the government address the issues raised and you know it is beyond #EndSARS. The issue of bad governance and the way forward for Nigerians must be properly addressed because we are already at the cliff. Compensations must be made; those involved must be brought to book after investigation.”
President Buhari had in his nationwide broadcast, among others, said:
“It has become necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the Security Chiefs.
“I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well – intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“On Monday 12th October, I acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force by some members of SARS.
“The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law.
“As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.
“On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive police reforms.
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.
“The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a Peace Maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors.
“All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.
“The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.
“On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.”