Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, has said the #EndSARS protests in which young people demanded an end to police brutality, social justice, governance are all legitimate ones but must be done peacefully.
Mohammed, who is also Nigeria’s former Minister of Environment, spoke to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, separately.
She is leading a delegation of senior officials of the UN to Nigeria and three other West African countries, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Ghana to discuss with the governments and other stakeholders on strategies to rebuild after the devastations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General, also joined Osinbajo to launch the ‘Nigeria UN Plus Offer for Socio-Economic Recovery – 2020 -2022,’ as an offer for immediate and medium-term support to the government and people of Nigeria in response to the socio-economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on the #EndSARS protests, she said: “We did raise while we were with Mr President the issue around the recent challenges of #EndSARS protests that happened in the country. It was, of course, one that the Secretary-General, we all were alarmed and of course support the country in trying to get back on track. Young people and their demands for social justice, governance are all legitimate ones and must be done peacefully. But we were all disturbed by the damage level, loss of lives and we continue to condole with those families who suffer those loses.
“Today was one in which we encouraged efforts that are being made by government to that process of engaging with the demands that have been made by the young people. It’s a start on that journey of reforms that are needed in the security sector but also root courses to the issues that are happening today, which is about investing in development.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government of Nigeria. We are happy today to launch the UN Plus Offer, which has to do again with supporting economic sustainability plan over the next two years so that we can respond a little bit better.”
Asked where the UN stand on the shooting in Lekki, Mohammed said: “The UN stance is clear like the UN Secretary-General had said in his speech, we believe everyone has a right to demonstrate peacefully for those issues they want to raise with their government. There is a social contract in place between the government and the people and it is important to have that freedom of speech provided it is done peacefully.
“I think in the case where we heard that lives and property were lost, it was unfortunate and we believe that in addressing the demands that were made by young people, that in fact perhaps, this is a lesson we can take into the future and how we engage in such issues.
“I have to say that there are a lot of protests around this world that has been exacerbated by COVID because, COVID has left people out of work, left people hopeless because of the socio-economic impact. And in many of those protests, we have not seen governments turn around in response as quickly as this government did. So, the UN response to this is that we must make sure that what happened in these protests we are able to address those issues, those gaps and begin the reform, in fact, I will say the transformations that are needed to address many of these outstanding issues and for that, we need an engaged youth, we need to engage government.
“I think what has been put in place are those building blocs and the support of the UN has been asked to make sure that those conveniences can happen. And that we can build back trust and have confidence-building measures in order to get to where we need to where the social contract between government and the people is firm and trustworthy and is working for the benefits of the Nigerian people.”
Other members of the delegation are the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, Ms Hannah Tetteh.