THE PEACE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION RESOURCE CENTRE (PEACrEc) LENDS ITS VOICE TO THE CALLS FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA
It is a fundamental human right of every Nigerian citizen to protest in cases of threat or infringement on his/her rights. This is a fundamental human right which is inadvertently included in the Nigerian Constitution (Section 40).
The UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, under the Protection pillar of the Resolution reaffirms that “ states must respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals, including youth, within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction as provided for by relevant international laws” and further, that “each state bears the primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity”
Unfortunately, it is undeniable that Nigerians have for decades faced inhumane treatment in the hands of their own Police Force and many have lost their lives in the process, to policemen otherwise sworn to protect them. Thus, the calls to reform the Police force has grown increasingly more stringent over the years.
The ongoing #ENDSARS protest is largely against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS was set up as a tactical unit in 1992 in response to an increase in armed robbery incidents at the time. It was birthed to provide increased security to lives and property.
Twenty-eight years down the line, SARS became “popular” for all the wrong reasons; for illegal “stop and search” operations that violated citizens’ rights.
Suspects were picked up, arrested and detained based only on appearance, types of gadgets (phones and laptops) and cars they possessed etc., rather than results of proper investigations. Young people, sometimes as young as 20yrs seemed to be particularly targeted for no justifiable reasons.
The #EndSARS protest began and gained traction on social media before it took to the streets. Protesters demanded that the government disband the unit, bring SARs officials who had erred or killed innocent persons to justice and implement general reforms of the Police Force.
The protest started off peacefully until unscrupulous elements introduced violence as the peaceful protests spread to more cities across the country. Cases of teargas thrown at protesters were seen in Abuja, as well as some recorded cases of deaths across the nation.
The matter came to an anti-climax with widely circulated video of the alleged shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll gate on social media. This is now a subject of controversy, which is currently being investigated by military authorities and the Lagos State Government.
While we acknowledge the government’s response in disbanding SARs, we have several regrets about the failure of government to properly communicate the sincerity of its actions.
We also wish to acknowledge the efforts of the state governors especially of Lagos State for making very conspicuous and concerted efforts (#5for5) to identify with the aspirations of the protesting youths.
Now that the protests have been hijacked by hoodlums who have gone ahead to unleash mayhem, destroying and looting both public and private property, it is time for all well-meaning individuals to step back from their initial positions, no matter how well-intended, to allow for a re-thinking of methods and strategies for the ultimate emplacement of common good.
The courage of the youths in the protests while peaceful, is one to be applauded, however, it is time now to welcome open dialogue as a veritable means to restore security and preserve peace and stability in Nigeria.
While we implore the youth on the one hand, to take measures to nominate representatives as a sign of their willingness to embrace dialogue, we implore the Federal Government on the other hand, to quickly set in motion all of the enabling parameters to ensure that the youths are properly engaged in efforts to accede to their demands.
PEACrEc wishes to register its strong condemnation of violence in any and all forms. We reiterate and reaffirm our commitment to the elevation of the finest ethics of Public Relations, Public Information Management and Security Communications as veritable tools in our national quest for peace, security and harmonious coexistence of all people and communities in Nigeria and beyond.
PEACrEc there recommends as follows: That;
The protesters take their protests off the streets for now and allow the government time to consider and begin to implement their demands
The Government acts promptly and decisively on all actions it has already agreed to take in response to the demands from the protests
Government needs to revisit the several Presidential Commissions of Inquiry on Police Reforms (headed by reputable and past IGPs in the past) with a view to identifying recommendations that may still be relevant for implementation
The demand for good governance is the inalienable right of every citizen in every nation of the world, While we urge the government to recognize this without considering or making enemies of those who so advocate, we also urge the youth to remain resolute in their quest for it through only non-violent measures.
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