EndSARS: NIPR Expresses Concern over Indiscriminate Shooting, Hooliganism
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has followed with keen interest the almost two-week old #EndSARS protests across the country, as well as government response to it. The decision by the Institute to remain a quiet observer to issues around the protests (against expectations from many quarters) was deliberate; this was because as relationship builders and menders, we have been trying through back channels to reach out to relevant stakeholders with a view to ensuring that the peace of the country was not compromised, even as we were also impressed by the conduct of both the protesters and the government. The former giving peaceful expression to citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights with the latter respecting same.
The descent to anarchy, arson, bloodshed and looting in the past two days has however compelled a shift from this our position of silent observation.
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations condemns unequivocally, the reported shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos on Wednesday. The resort to use of arms against unarmed protesters who were doing nothing other than exercising their guaranteed rights to dissent was against all known tenets of decency, civilization and democracy and therefore unacceptable. The reported denial by the Nigerian Army, of the complicity of its officers in the dastardly act, will make more meaning if an immediate inquiry is launched to ascertain who the perpetrators were.
We equally condemn in no uncertain terms the resort to the hooliganism that ensued afterwards which led to arson, and looting of both public and private properties. It is our firm belief, that the lawlessness has nothing to do with the original objectives of the #EndSARS movement, which we believe to be simply a cry against impunity and a pitch for good governance.
The Institute wishes to make it clear that it respects citizens’ rights to peaceful dissent as well as government’s responsibility to the maintenance of law and order. It therefore identifies with the #EndSARS’ objective, which beyond the hashtag, is a condemnation of impunity, ruthless conducts, and the general lack of respect to due processes by some sections of the nation’s law enforcement architecture, as well as a call for the reform of same. The decision by the government to dissolve the SARS, though a step in the right direction, we believe in itself is not a solution to the problem. Far reaching reforms in the nation’s policing architecture that includes review of recruitment process, improvement in welfare and general reorientation from top to bottom, among others, would also go a long way in regenerating citizens’ confidence in the Police.
Beyond the Police and SARS, the demonstrations should serve as a wake-up call to leaders at all levels to the fact that paradigm is shifting from complacency towards citizens, especially the youths asking questions of the leadership. It is imperative therefore, that governments at all levels brace up for more accountability by engaging citizens in a sincere dialogue about the way forward. Establishing, or improving this line of communication with Nigerians, will help government(s) in the discharge of its commitment to timely action on programmes that seek to make life better for the people.
Much as we believe that there is nothing wrong with citizens coming together to demand for a better deal from their government(s), genuine protests and protesters must guard against being infiltrated by others with entirely different motives which causes not only a loss of focus but also a resort to lawlessness as we have witnessed these past two days.
The NIPR, having been convinced of the altruism of the original concept of the #EndSARS movement and also having been impressed by government’s prompt acceptance of its demands as evidenced by the immediate dissolution of the SARS, wishes to appeal to the protesters to call off the protests, having made their point, especially in view of the fact that the protests have been infiltrated and in some cases hijacked by other elements, with less than altruistic motives, so that the essence of the movement is not lost. We in the same vein call on the government to be faithful to the decision to address all issues raised. In this wise, we note the concerns expressed by the movement to inability of government being faithful and accountable to its actions, noting that SARS had been dissolved by the government in the past only to resurface again. We also reiterate our call for the immediate institution of an inquiry into the Lagos shootings to ensure that victims get justice.
We convey our most heartfelt sympathy to victims of the shooting as well as all those who suffered one loss or the other to the crisis.
Mallam Mukhatar Zubairu Sirajo