The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria(DAWN) commission has condemned the shootings of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers in Lagos on Tuesday.
A statement signed on Thursday by the commission’s Director-General, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said: “We have witnessed in the past few weeks young people agonized by the insensitivity, brutality and culture of impunity demonstrated by the FSARS on their peers. As a cultured and civil people they mobilized themselves across the country in peaceful protests to demand justice and reform of the police and its culture of violence on innocent civilians.
“On 20/10/2020 at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, at one of the centers of the protests, casualties were reported at the venue as a result of military intervention to disperse the multitude of protesters. This culminated in a spate of reactionary violence all over many cities in the region especially in Lagos state. Lives were lost, properties looted and destroyed as the streets of Lagos became battle grounds between security operatives and disaffected youths.
“DAWN Commission is a firm advocate of people enjoying the freedoms inherent in a democratic system and is critical of the injustices and socio-economic challenges; and the difficult circumstances our youths have to endure in the harsh Nigerian environment.
“The demand for good governance and reform of the policing system as being demanded by the youth protesters is a valid one and the DAWN Commission supports and stands with millions of Nigerians on this. Regardless of the circumstances, we condemn in strong terms the threat or unleashing of violence on people exercising their fundamental human rights to protest. We also frown with consternation at the wanton destruction of lives, properties and looting as perpetrated by irate mobs all over Lagos State against the principles of orderliness as portrayed by genuine protesters.”
He added: “We have also observed that that the attack on businesses and government institutions in Lagos yesterday was not just as a result of #ENDSARS protest but indeed a pre-planned orchestrated assault on the economic nerve centre of Western Nigeria in particular and Nigeria as a whole by fifth columnists who most probably have a sinister agenda or axe to grind. We have had protests in Lagos for over a century, never have protesters destroyed public properties such as BRT Buses, Banks, Media Institutions and heritage assets.
“DAWN Commission calls on the appropriate authorities not to leave any stone unturned in identifying the brains behind the economic terrorist attack and bring the full weight of the law to bear on them.
“Peaceful protest is the hallmark of any thriving democracy and must never be stifled under any guise but in a situation where it becomes obviously hijacked by anarchists, it is the duty of the authorities to use every means within the ambits of the law to restore order and we are gladdened that Lagos State Government is gradually bringing the unfortunate situation under control.
“Western Nigeria is the Region that forms/provides nearly 50% of the country’s GDP. At DAWN Commission, we have continuously positioned the geo-political zone as the place to invest, live and work, it is therefore our responsibility to assure our investors both local and foreign, that the events of the past 48 hours is an aberration and not the norm, and going forward valuable lessons have been picked up to ensure that never again will we witness such an assault on our economic interests in this Region.
“The prosperity of Nigeria continues to hinge on a safe and secure Western Nigeria where your investments are guaranteed, what we witnessed in the last two days sends a wrong signal to the outside world and the Government of Lagos and indeed the other States of Western Nigeria that experienced such distortion of the norm will work together to ensure that issues that led to the genuine protests are addressed whilst at the same time ensuring that the Region continues to remain a law and order territory.”
According to Oyeleye: “The hostile relationship between the police and citizens also, was once again glaringly displayed on the streets of Lagos and other states. We have always and will continue to advocate for a decentralized policing architecture. A localized and community oriented policing structure where ownership of the policing structure lies within the community is the best way to foster an atmosphere of peace and positive engagements.
“We implore the public to disregard the numerous inflammatory and inciting statements and recordings being circulated on social media by ethnic bigots. These statements do not represent the interests of any ethnic group. We appeal to everyone to sheath their swords and allow for peace. We particularly appeal to our Yoruba youths to remain calm in the face of any provocation.
“The demands of the protesters have been clearly articulated; we should give government time to articulate their own response too in good faith. We commiserate with the families who have lost loved ones and those who have become martyrs of our collective struggle. It is our prayer that they find rest in glory. We also sympathize with business owners and their staff who may have to start all over again.
“We salute the Governments of the states of Western Nigeria for managing the crisis as best as possible. We stand in solidarity with the generation of young Nigerians for their vibrancy and agitation for good governance and end to police brutality. As a democracy the push and pull factors will remain part of the system as we continue to shape our institutions and strive for democratic consolidation.”