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Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has condemned the brutalization and murder of some Nigerian youths in various cities particularly, Abuja, Lagos, Benin City and others who embarked on a peaceful protest against the anomalies in the country and called for unbiased investigation into these incidents.
The forum noted that the nationwide ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ announced by the Army, was most provocative, and an unnecessary distraction for the military, at this volatile time.
The National Chairman of PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd) who stated this in a press statement on Wednesday called for an immediate halt to the attacks, stressing that ‘we will not sit and continue to see our children being brutalised or killed. Enough is Enough!.”
Nkanga, a former Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State said involving the military in the protest would worsen the situation as soldiers have no business trying to do “police” job, rather, they should go to the North East and North West, where Boko Haram and bandits are making life unbearable for citizens.
He also wondered why president Muhammadu Buhari has not addressed the youths up til now as to calm fraying nerves, adding that if the situation is not well managed, it may snowball into national crisis in which nobody knows the outcome.
On the alleged destruction of property by the protesters, Nkanga described the youths as intelligent and non-violent, saying ‘those who hired thugs and hoodlums to assault the youths, are the ones causing destruction.
‘You cannot oppress people continually and expect them to remain quiet forever. Those youths have their grievances, and they have the right to protest,’ he said.
The statement reads thus, ‘PANDEF condemns the brutalisation of peaceful protesters by hired hoodlums, and the police in various cities across parts of the country, particularly, in Abuja and Benin City, Edo State. PANDEF demands immediate halt to these attacks, harassment and intimidation of young Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating their frustration over how the affairs of their country is being conducted.’
‘We further demand for the commencement of unbiased investigation of these incidents in order to bring to book all those behind the undemocratic actions across the country. This country belongs to all of us, including the youths who are protesting. And we will not sit and continue to see our children being brutalized or killed. Enough is Enough!’
‘PANDEF would like to warn those who think Nigeria belongs to them alone, therefore, others have no right to protest against abnormalities in the country, that it is no longer acceptable. If SARS, which virtually became a terror gang in some parts of the country, is strangely, being esteemed in another part, to the extent that they are calling for the retention of SARS, then there is a fundamental problem in the country.’
‘It was expected that President Muhammadu Buhari should have addressed these young people, openly, and assuage their anger, instead of the deployment of the military and police against them, and allowing hired, armed thugs to unleash terror on the peaceful protesters.’
‘PANDEF also considers the nationwide ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ exercise announced by the Army, as most provocative, and an unnecessary distraction for the military, at this time. Soldiers have no business trying to do “police” job, they do not have to get involved in the ‘End SARS protests. They are probably more needed in the North East and North West, where Boko Haram and bandits are making life unbearable for citizens.’
‘The soldiers and police are already aggravating the situation and the whole thing may turn into a national crisis, which nobody may know the outcome. You cannot oppress people continually and expect them to remain quiet forever. Those youths have their grievances and they have the right to protest. These are intelligent youths, and they are not violent; they are not destroying anything. It is those who hired thugs and hoodlums to assault the youths that are causing the destruction.’
‘It’s apparent that the jailbreaks in Benin City, Edo State, were not done by the protesting youths but by armed hoodlums. How else can we underscore the circumstances under which those outrageous actions, as captured in pictures, were carried out; where hoodlums freely moved from one prison to another, freed prisoners, and even burnt a police station, in broad daylight.’
‘The questions that the government and security agencies must answer are; who is behind these hoodlums and why? How come these hoodlums and thugs have been carrying out attacks, freely, on peaceful protesters in Lagos, in Osogbo, Osun State, in Ekiti, in Abuja, in Benin and other cities. Where were the Police and other law enforcement agencies when these hoodlums were carrying out their actions, particularly, in Benin city, Edo State. Meanwhile, police and other security agents, harrass and brutalize the people they are supposed to protect, reportedly, shooting live bullets and teargas at the peaceful protesters in Abuja?’
‘It is unbelievable that the police would stand aloof and watch, while hoodlums attack peaceful protesters in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, protesters in Kano and other cities in the far north are allowed without anybody attacking them. It is utterly unthinkable and absurd that this kind of thing would happen in a civilised country.’
‘He further wondered why the police are not attacking those demonstrating in Kano and other cities in far northern Nigeria that said they wanted SARS. ‘So why should our youths be targeted and killed? These things cannot be allowed to continue. They are dividing the country.’ He fumed
“Mr. President, who is the president of the whole of Nigeria, should not allow these inconsistencies.’
‘Victor Onome who died in an Abuja hospital two days, following an attack by thugs in the Kubwa area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, during the peaceful protest, was our son. He is from Delta State and that is why the protests in Delta State earlier limited to Asaba, the State capital, have now extended to Warri and other cities in the state. The Niger Delta people will not sit and watch our children being killed for merely expressing their disaffections over police brutality, through peaceful protests.’
‘Youths from all over the country are directing this protest, which has extended to London, Canada, and other cities across Europe and the USA. The young people are not asking for too much, all they want to see is sincerity and seriousness on the part of government.’
The rogue officers of the disbanded SARS are not ghosts, they are known; and their victims or families of victims are also known. The SARS personnel should be put to open trial, and those that are found guilty should be made to bear the full consequences of their actions and inactions.
PANDEF cautions that if the federal government does not handle this matter properly and continues in a present manner, it won’t be good for the country as the nation’s economy could be adversely affected. Also, people will not continue to standby and watch their children being brutalized or killed.
‘The ongoings further reinforces our clamour for the restructuring of this country. A situation whereby some parts of the country are saying ‘End SARS’, and others are saying ‘We Want SARS’, clearly indicates the fact that this, ‘house’ is already divided and that the centre can no longer hold.’
‘The National Economic Council (NEC) has given the responsibility to State Governors to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings. Let us, therefore, urgently embark on devolution of powers. Let us have true federalism with State police, and call it by its real name,’ Nkanga noted.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK