Due to the mindless destruction of public and private assets and loss of lives that attended the EndSARS protests, President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to prevent such protest in the country. The President, who disclosed this at the quarterly National Security Council (NSC) meeting in Abuja, pledged to deploy every power at his disposal to ensure that a protest of that magnitude will not be repeated.
The unprecedented violence that attended the protests might have informed the president’s hardline posture on future protest. It is sad that the peaceful protests organised by youths against police brutality and bad governance later degenerated to unconscionable looting and burning of public and private assets, including police stations, as hoodlums hijacked the exercise. About 73 persons, including 22 policemen and other security personnel were killed during the protest.
Unfortunately, not less than 71 public warehouses and 248 privately owned stores were destroyed across the country. Some correctional facilities were attacked and inmates freed in some states.
In Lagos, public and private assets torched included Ajeromi Ifelodun Council secretariat, Palace of Oba of Lagos, Lagos High Court, Igbosere, Oyingbo Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Terminus; Ojodu Berger BRT Terminus, Vehicle Inspection Office, Lagos State Public Water Corporation, The Nation Newspaper, Television Continental (TVC) and Shoprite, among many others. According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State needs N1 trillion to rebuild the vandalised assets.
In Imo State, the Council Secretariat, Police Stations and High Court complex were razed in Orlu Local Government Area. Aba Town Hall, in Abia, was not spared. Abakiliki Central Police Station, Ebonyi State as well as Nnewi Central Police station, in Anambra State, were burnt. The campaign headquarters of the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, was also set ablaze. There were also tales of violence in Plateau and Kano states, among others.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) estimated the cost of the damage incurred by the country at the end of the protests at N700 billion. There is no doubt that the cost of the assets destroyed could be more. The destruction also affected the economy of so many states as the protesters mounted blockades and barricades around major cities and interstate highways. Lagos alone lost over N234million to the closure of the Lekki tollgate during the period.
The President must have thought over these issues and resolved to nip in the bud further protests. It is good that the president is enlisting the support of all stakeholders, including the youth, religious leaders and traditional rulers to ensure that peace reigns. More assuring is his promise to address security challenges in the country.
The measures outlined by the president are okay if well implemented. No doubt, protest is a legitimate instrument of seeking redress in a democracy. It is also the democratic right of the people the world over. On no account should this right be abridged. However, when such right is abused, to the point of destroying private and public assets and loss of lives, it becomes problematic. We welcome the determination of the President to guard against lawlessness. And since the security of life and property is the primary function of government, the President is right to ensure that the government fulfills that objective.
The dust raised by the EndSARS protests is yet to settle. Some useful lessons have equally been learnt by all and sundry. Government should unravel the immediate and remote causes of the protest with a view to preventing a similar one in future. The government should also appraise how the peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums.
We recommend that the factors that gave rise to the protests should be avoided forthwith. The current clampdown on suspected leaders of the protests by the government should be discontinued. Rather than persecute them, the demands of the protesters, which include release of arrested members, justice for all the victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families, must be urgently addressed.
We also believe that the protest has offered an opportunity for the government to articulate pragmatic programmes to engage the youths. It is commendable that the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have unveiled the N75 billion loan to enable the youths set up businesses. By so doing, the government wants them to be employers of labour and contributors to Nigeria’s development.
We, therefore, urge the youths to reason with the government and give it time to address their demands. They should also put into consideration the fact that it takes some time to build a nation.