By Bolaji Ogundele, and Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The Federal Government on Sunday warned that it will not allow the country to be thrown into anarchy following the violence that has trailed the #EndSARS protests.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this on Saturday when he featured on a late-night Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) news programme “Weekend File”
He said: “Peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy and that is why the Federal Government in the last 11 days has treated the protesters in a very civilised manner.
“But, if you look at what happened to the governor of Osun State, it has gone completely beyond peaceful protest against excesses and abuse of power by the police.
“There is nowhere in the world where a government will folds its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.
“We are no longer dealing with #EndSARS but a volatile situation that can lead to anarchy if the government does not take some very firm steps to protect the lives and livelihood of innocent Nigerians,” he said.
He said it is wrong for the protesters to continue to infringe on the rights of others even when the government has begun to address the issues they raised.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the economic situation could worsen if the protests persist.
It also poses a threat to national security if not quickly brought under control, Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi, warned.
Governors have started rolling plans to meet the demands of the #EndSARS protesters, including setting panels on victims’ compensation.
The Senate President said the government should be given time to address all the issues raised.
He told reporters after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari that the government was already addressing the issues, which began with the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Lawan was accompanied by House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
He said: “Since the protests have taken place and the issues have been accepted, the time has come for the protests to stop because the government needs to have sufficient time, a clement environment to implement the demands of the protesters.
“We also need to have our economy to continue to go on. When you try to stop everybody from engaging in their lawful business, closing roads to markets and other economic places, we distract the economy of the country and that is not the best way to go.
“If the issues had not been accepted, then there would have been genuine reasons to continue with demonstrations and protests, but since the issues have been accepted, we should give the government time to implement the issues.
“Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to tell our youths who are protesting that the protests have already yielded the desired results.
“First they said #EndSARS. SARS was ended, not by the IGP, but by the President himself. President Buhari made a Presidential statement and that would be the first time any president will say ‘end SARS’ and SARS has ended. The other issues followed; they are being addressed and that’s why we are here.
“I believe the time has come for this protest to come to an end to allow the government to attend to the issues in a very short time.
“I also believe that other Nigerians have legitimate right to go about their lawful businesses without let or hindrance and we cannot have that when the roads are blocked.”
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Magashi said while the youths have the right to protest, the laws must be respected.
Speaking when members of the Buhari Campaign Organisation visited at the Ministry of Defence Abuja, the minister, according to a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Muhammad Abdulkadir, urged the group to leverage on “their structure in the 774 Local Council areas and 36 States of the Federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory to gather intelligence and channel it to the appropriate authorities for action”.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is concerned about the protests and is taking steps to address the issues, its chairman, Ekiti State Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi, said.
To him, the protests resulted from years of pent-up emotion, anger and hunger in the land.
He said the governors were committed to reforms.
Speaking during a special thanksgiving mass held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Old Garage, Ado Ekiti as part of activities to mark the second anniversary of his administration in office, the governor recalled that he participated in similar protests against bad governance, especially military dictatorship, as a youth.
Fayemi said: “There is a lot of anger in the land, there is a lot of hunger in the land, pent-up emotion. There is disillusion in the land. As a young man who spent much time in the barricades protesting bad governance, I can understand what is going on now.
“I and my colleagues are concerned and we are committed to reforms, not just about SARS because we will be making a mistake that the general disaffection in the land is all about SARS.
“Like Your Lordship (the Bishop) had said, the government should be allowed to address the problems that have cropped up.”
The Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, the Most Reverend Felix Ajakaye, called for an immediate suspension of the nationwide protests to enable the authorities to act on the demands.
He also urged the Federal Government to address the grievances of Nigerians on the state of the nation, insecurity, insurgency and hardship.
He said: “The Federal Government should listen to the grievances of the people not only on #ENDSARS but on terrorism and other things that are wrong in our country. END SARS protest should end; leaders’ indifference to people’s life, bad governance, insincerity and distrust should end.
“There is hunger and anger in the land and the government should act promptly. The protesters should suspend their protest immediately because if it continues, it may be counterproductive.
“We have those among them who are using the protest to protect their criminal activity.”
Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong approved the appointment of members of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate complaints of police brutality and extrajudicial killings.
It is aimed at ensuring justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.
This is in line with the recommendation of the National Economic Council (NEC) for the establishment of state panels of enquiry on police brutality.
The governor urged the committee members to be thorough, diligent and fair to all those that will appear before them to ensure that justice is served to all parties without any bias.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will today swear-in members of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by operatives of the dissolved SARS.
The swearing-in ceremony will take place at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.