The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has described the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos on Tuesday as disturbing and not reflective of the nation’s growing democracy.
Gbajabiamila, in a statement on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, called for thorough investigation.
The Speaker said, “After 60 years, our democracy should have grown beyond the point where conflicting visions of nationhood result in violence on the streets and blood on the ground.
“It is unavoidably and painfully clear that there were a number of casualties as a result of gunfire at the Lekki Tollgate.
“Therefore, there needs to be a quick and thorough investigation to determine the facts of what happened last night in Lagos. Our nation urgently needs and the Nigerian people deserve an accounting of the acts that led to the events of last night.”
In the same vein, the Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, in a statement on Wednesday said the incident was an unfortunate precedence that must not be repeated.
He said, “I strongly condemn the killings that took place yesterday (Tuesday) at the Lekki Tollgate and around the country. These grave incidents have no place in our country and set an unfortunate precedence that must not be repeated. Every instance of violence against the people of Nigeria must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities and the culprits must face the full weight of the law.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to the families that woke up this morning (Wednesday) with tears of mourning; may God truly comfort their hearts and grant them strength and fortitude to go through this dark moment.”
In like manner, the candidate of the National Rescue Movement in the forthcoming bye-election in Lagos East Senatorial District, Mr Mautin Olukunle, condemned the attack on unarmed protesters in Lagos and some other parts of the country.
Olukunle, in a statement by his campaign director, Mr Ololade Ladigbolu, called on all aggrieved youths and security agencies to sheathe their sword.
“It is also unfortunate that those that ordered the shooting and the governments at the federal and state levels, in the enforcement of law and order, had the option of applying some reasonable, non-lethal force, such as water cannons, tear gas and so many related but non-lethal, tested methods than the resort to gunning down innocent citizens in an extra-judicial manner.
“To us, the wanton murder of peaceful protesters, who have been conducting themselves in an organised and decent manner for about 12 days at Lekki, is unacceptable and condemnable in our democracy,” Olakunle said.
HRW, NLC seek troops’ withdrawal
Similarly, the Human Rights Watch and the Nigeria Labour Congress condemned the killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at Lekki, Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country on Tuesday.
The two organisations, in separate statements on Wednesday, called for an investigation into the incident and equally asked the military authorities to immediately withdraw the troops from the streets.
The statement by Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Aniete Ewang, read, “Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens.
“The authorities should immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or are complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”
Also, In its statement titled, ‘The Nigeria Labour Congress condemns the Lekki toll gate killings,’ the NLC insisted that the protesters had the right to peaceful assembly.
The statement signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba; and Secretary General, Musa Lawal, commended the maturity and focus displayed by the protesters.
It stated, “We condemn this coldblooded murder of our young ones and the use of high-handed tactics on unarmed protesters in flagrant violation of every known convention and protocol on the management of protests.”
The union also condemned the infiltration of the protests by criminals elements and the subsequent attack on the custodial facilities in Edo State, noting that it was difficult to believe that it was carried out by the protesters.
Falana led-group says security agencies to blame
Additionally, a group, Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, led by human rights lawyers, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), also on Wednesday condemned the Tuesday’s shooting of peaceful #EndSARS protesters and said security agencies were to blame for the looting and arson taking place in the state in the aftermath of the incident.
Falana, who is the interim national chairman of the group, in a statement said, “ASCAB unequivocally commends the young people who have been protesting peacefully all over Nigeria without engaging in any destructive activity.
“To this extent, ASCAB condemns the heinous killing of peaceful protesters in different parts of Nigeria and demands that the armed soldiers who shot, killed and fatally injured unarmed peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos State, yesterday, 20th October, 2020, should be brought to book without any further delay.”
He expressed surprise that “gangs of hoodlums have been allowed to unleash mayhem on innocent people and set fire on targeted buildings”.
He noted that the hoodlums were “allowed to operate without any restraint from security forces”, a development he claims lends credence to the speculation that the miscreants were state sponsored.
Abdulsalami, Kukah call for calm
Likewise, the National Peace Committee chaired by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, and convened by the Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, on Wednesday called for calm.
The organisation also called on protesters to take a break, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic does not recognise protests.
The NPC in a statement by Abdulsalami and Kukah further said, “We call for a pause because the COVID-19 pandemic does not recognise our protests and it is dangerous for us to let our guards down especially when we see what is happening around the world with the new threats of the resurgence of this pandemic.
“Again, the youths are beginning to show signs of differences in objectives with the sudden emergence of criminal elements that are resorting to violence and mayhem. Burning down a police station, destroying police vehicles and endangering the lives of innocent citizens cannot be a way to show concern for the police force. It is also not possible that a responsible government will stand by to allow this chaos to continue.
“We therefore call for a pause because further escalation of violence could become counterproductive.”
The NPC also appealed to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to ensure that the rights of citizens were fully respected and protected.
Prosecute soldiers involved, Reps tell Buhari
In the same way, the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives has called on the President to order arrest and prosecution of the soldiers who attacked #EndSARS protesters in Lagos.
The Minority Leader, Mr Ndudi Elumelu, in a statement ion Wednesday, condemned the killing of “peaceful and unarmed” protesters by security operatives at Lekki Tollgate and other parts of the country.
The statement partly read, “As lawmakers and representatives of the people, we cannot accept this gruesome execution of our young ones in their own country by security operatives. Life is sacred and no one has the right to terminate the life of another just because he has the apparatus of state power.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order the arrest and prosecution of officers involved in the Lekki killing as well as the withdrawal of soldiers from engaging protesters.”
Ooni offers to negotiate with govt
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has condemned attack on unarmed youths in Lekki, Lagos and offered, alongside other traditional rulers, to negotiate with government on behalf of the protesters.
The royal father, in a statement on Wednesday by the Director, Media and Public Affairs, Ooni’s Palace, Moses Olafare, said the need by the authorities to protect public facilities was necessary, but should not include military engagement.
Oba Ogunwusi also said deployment of military personnel in civil protests should not have occurred until all peaceful avenues had been fully exhausted.
The statement read in parts, “The Federal and State governments have, no doubt, shown responsibility by accepting the demands of the #EndSARSmovement. The youths should create a platform to monitor its implementation.
“There is a clear difference between the criminal hoodlums who have begun to hijack the hitherto peaceful protests and the patriotic Nigerian youths who were daily converging on the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos and selected locations in other states, including Abuja in line with global best practices of protest gathering.
“It is the hoodlums and vagrants perpetrating all manner of criminality discrediting the noble ideology of the peaceful youths that should be demobilised and arrested.”