#EndSARS: What the South East Leaders did not tell Presidential delegation in Enugu

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Southeast Governors

The Presidential delegation to the six geo-political zones of the country has visited the South East with the message of peace to the leaders of the zone, which according to the president, should be passed on to the “angry” youths of the country to maintain peace. While the nation awaits the outcome of the ongoing peace campaigns, the Presidency should, in turn, listen to several appeals from these zonal leaders, especially the sack of service chiefs  

By Goddy Ikeh

THE leaders of the South-East geo-political zone on Saturday, November 7, received the Presidential healing team led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari in Enugu. Although many of the actors behind the EndSARS protests were not involved in the meeting of the elders, some of the demands of the youths in the zone were captured during the frank discussions on the way forward for the troubled nation.

According to the communique read after the meeting, by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umehi, the South-East leaders commended the Federal Government for the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protests and agitation.

“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.

“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement said.

They called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.

“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful Herdsmen, who have been living peacefully with us.

“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – Nigeria; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.

Apart from the security issues, the leaders used the opportunity to call on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to head the World Trade Organisation, WTO.

They thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in the rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport as well as the road infrastructure in the zone.

“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s Mausoleum.

“However, we urged the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ the communique said.

It assured that the states in the zone would provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protests, help to rebuild the police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.

“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.

“We thank leaders of other zones for protecting our people and their businesses within their areas; we pledge to do same in the entire South-East,’’ the communique added.

Some of the dignitaries in the Presidential delegation included the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uchenna Ogah, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, among others.

The dignitaries from the South-East included Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia; Hope Uzodinma of Imo and Deputy Gov. Nkem Okeke, who represented Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra State. Others are Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe; Sen. Sam Egwu; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, representing South-East elders; Chief Nnia Nwodo, President of Ohanaze Ndigbo Worldwide, and Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, among others.

Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, described it as “extremely fruitful“.

“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Sunday in Enugu.

Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.

“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.

He noted that the Federal Government has been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.

“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda. This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed said.

According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.

Although, the presentation of the South East leaders was comprehensive enough to capture most of the concerns of the people of the zone, but the target audience for which the meeting was held had earlier articulated their demands.

For instance, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, had in a statement on the security situation in the zone and across the country, urged the federal government and the Army Chief of Staff to learn from the American Soldiers, who landed in Nigeria to recover one American citizen in an operation which they accomplished successfully without any casualty from their side in 30 minutes of operation on Nigerian soil decimating all the seven captors, but one. What a great operation indeed.

“Truth be told, it was the duty of the Nigerian soldiers to have undertaken that particular operation to rescue the kidnapped American going by Nigerian sovereignty and international law – state responsibility notion (protecting citizens and aliens). But Nigerian government was not living up to its sovereign mandate as American soldiers had to come in to do what Nigerian military should have accomplished for the past months the American citizen was kidnapped and held captive on Nigerian soil. Nigerian military top brass deserve questioning.

“For many years, we are yet to see the Nigerian army rescue victims of terrorism by Boko Haram or those of faceless bandits. We recall that certain of the Chibok and Dapchi girls are yet to rejoin their families upon all the promises the government and military leadership kept making for donkey’s years now. Instead of pro-citizens operations, the Nigerian army, unfortunately, has lent its patriotic duties to serving narrow and selfish ends. The Lekki Shooting now famed and named as Black Tuesday (October 20, 2020) is a recent case in point. In a bid to contain a peaceful protest that later turned violent, Nigerian soldiers left imprints of sorrow, tears and blood within the territorial space it was meant to guide from invasion. Such operations are spectacular own-goals, ”the group said in a statement.

It noted that recently, there have been serious security concerns in Oyigbo in Rivers state where it was reported that some armless youths of Oyigbo after the #ENDSARS protest were mercilessly massacred by soldiers in the pretext of trying to check militant activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The military operation, which was aimed at recovering arms said to be carted away by the secessionist or other elements resulted in loss of lives of innocent youths, men, women and children who were not even part of protest sitting in their various homes.

According to the group, this massacre by Nigerian soldiers in Oyigbo in Rivers state, Lekki tollgate in Lagos, Aba in Abia state and other South East states in Nigeria is a clear indication that the lives of Nigerians, especially the youths, do not matter. Even the life of a cattle is more important than those of humans here in Nigeria. The country have been reduced to one where the life of an animal is given premium above humans.

It noted that Nigeria has always been borrowing so many policies and programs from their American counterparts, like the presidential system of government and other programs, but hardly so when it comes to citizenship diplomacy and welfare. It is high time Nigeria refocused her policy to carter to her citizens anywhere in the world than use them for target practice. The Nigerian constitution has been violated, especially its chapter 4, which provides and guarantees respect for human rights, by the military; even so are other international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory. The constitution has not been followed in letter and spirit.

“How can we explain a democratic setting where peaceful and armless citizens who have legitimate rights to protest and express their views on any government policies are massacred at will by soldiers paid to defend citizens? Has killing of Nigerian citizens become one of the democracy dividends in Nigeria? These are questions begging for answers because we the youths are yet to come to terms why our population will be massacred mercilessly by the same very government we voted into power, one which swore to protect us?

“America has just proved beyond every reasonable doubt that every life matters by moving swiftly into and in collaboration with Nigeria to rescue one of their own on Nigerian soil.

“To be a soldier does not empower an army unit to intimidate, maim and kill innocent and unarmed people as Nigerian soldiers have recently been accused. Being a soldier entails respecting citizens by whose taxes you are hired and paid and your kits and weapons procured. But a situation where the military are only efficient in shooting when they are in the South and can’t shoot again when they are in the North while that is the hotbed of terrorism only leaves much to be desired.

“We therefore demand for the prosecution of any soldier involved in any extrajudicial killing, maiming, extortion and intimidation of Nigerian citizens. The military was not established to harass and intimidate but to protect the dignity of the nation; including saving her from external aggression,” the statement signed by Goodluck Ibem, president general and KaniceIgwe secretary general, added.

There is no doubt that some of the fears and complaints of this youth group were not captured at the presidential healing meeting held in Enugu. Perhaps, another missing point was the looming danger signal from Anambra State, which has requested for the deployment of the all-female squad of the Nigerian army in Anambra state “on a peacekeeping mission”.

In a recent tweet, Willie Obiano, Governor of Anambra State, explained that the deployment of the special squad is to ensure the safety of residents.

According to the governor, the special military squad, “deployed to our dear State to aid in ensuring total return of peace and normalcy in Anambra”.

“We have always prioritized security of lives and properties of ndi Anambra and we are determined to take all necessary steps to make sure that every Onye Anambra enjoys peace. Live and work without any form of fear,” he said.

He explained that the #EndSARS protests, which started peacefully, had degenerated into chaos in different parts of the country as government and private properties were looted and vandalised.

“The special squad will complement the efforts of the gallant officers of other security agencies in Anambra, whose hard work has kept us as the safest state in Nigeria,” Gov. Obiano added.

Unfortunately, this decision did not take into cognizance the experience of his Lagos State Counterpart, who invited the army to assist in checking the activities of the protesters and the resultant ugly situation at the alleged killings recorded at the Lekki TollGate in Lagos.

Although the Anambra State Police Command had earlier given an account of the damages and injuries suffered by the police command during the #EndSARRS protest, which was later hijacked by hoodlums in the state and across the country.

Some stakeholders in the South East believe that the invitation of the military to Anambra State portends danger to the lives and property the authorities in the state want to protect. Already hundreds of youths in the southeast zone have been victims of extra-judicial killings by security agents, including the police and the military, so any form of militarization of any state in the zone should be discouraged.

While Nigerians are hopefully awaiting the take-off of the Community Policing scheme of the federal government, the southeast Governors should quickly implement the zonal security outfit, which the governors said would take off soon in the zone to complement the job of policing the zone and stop inviting the military to a zone that is already militarised and largely turned into an unnecessary graveyard for the youths of the region.

– Nov. 10, 2020 @ 12:55 GMT |

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