By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja, Oct. 25, 2020
President Muhammadu Buhari has again condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups as a result of the consequences of the EndSARS protests in some parts of the country.
Many lives were lost, while both public and private assets, worth billions of naira, were either burnt, damaged, vandalised or looted by hoodlums, following the EndSARS protests in parts of the country.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State had, on Oct. 22, said that the state had recorded losses from the escalated #EndSARS protests running into billions of naira.
He added that the massive destruction witnessed would cause a setback to the state’s economy, while the impact of the destruction would impact negatively on its 2021 budget.
NAN reports that similar losses were recorded in Osun, Oyo, Edo, Kwara and other states.
NAN also reports the damage to public and private property, coupled with the looting of assets, had generated socio-ethnic tensions in Lagos and some other states where eviction notices are being issued, based on ethnic and religious affiliations.
The President, in a statement issued by his Spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, however, frowned at such eviction notices and hate messages, saying that Nigerians must be their brothers’ keepers and shun any acts capable of causing social discontent.
He also asked Nigerians to take pride in the fact that “our diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages”.
According to Buhari, the right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country is a constitutional one and will be defended by the government.
He also expressed optimism that the judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State government would assist the nation to give justice to the peaceful protesters who lost their lives.
The president expressed the hope that the security personnel, who were murdered and the property owners, whose assets were vandalised and looted, would be treated justly and fairly.
The Judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government to look into remote and immediate causes as well as the aftermath of the ENDSARS protests, particularly the Lekki Toll Gate incident, would commence sitting in Lagos on Monday.
The president, who said he had all along avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts are established, appealed to the people all over the country to maintain peace and brotherhood.
He said the call became necessary as the machinery of the government and the wheel of justice had turned against the perpetrators of murder, arson, stealing, rape, assault and malicious damage to public and private property.
The president maintained that “peace, brotherhood and inter communal harmony are central to our ethos.”
He urged Nigerians “not to turn against one another in hate”, and stressed the urgent need for the police and other security agencies to move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.
According to him, his administration is working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of the unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He, however, warned that resort to widespread attacks and the organized looting and plundering of public and private property in many states were inimical to public good and stand condemned.
He said: ”A government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.
”While the administration has, for its part, blocked so many means of looting public money in a war against corruption, it is the expectation that all civil authorities, community and religious leaders in the country must rise against the organized looting and plunder we are witnessing in parts of the country.
”Families must turn back children who bring home unaccounted goods, in the same way wives must ask their husbands to return looted items brought home.
”What is more is that criminal actions as we have so far witnessed can weaken and erode the confidence of our people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.
”Looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in our country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy.
”These incidents do not reflect well on any society. They are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of the society.”
In line with this, Buhari commended the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protest to destroy and loot public and private property.
The president, who reiterated that his administration had taken note of the grievances of the people, again said: “We have heard you loud and clear.”
He said already the Federal Government had shown a clear determination to take all necessary measures to address the complaints, adding that the violence must stop.