By Daniel Njienue, News/Comments, November 15, 2020
ASABA-Arising from their stakeholders meeting last week at Hotel Benezia, Asaba, Delta State, is the Delta Online Publishers’ Forum (DOPF), as a result of the Endsars protest that took place last month across the country. The gathering ended with a Communiqué titled, #EndSARS Protest: The Way Forward, duly signed by the Forum’s chairman, Emmanuel Enebeli, including other executives, Chukwudi Abiandu, Joe Ogbodu, and Oghenefejiro Emado. The Communique read:
2020 will certainly go down in history as a year to remember. Many unfortunate things happened ranging from disruptions of global economy by COVID-19 pandemic, to violent crimes, police brutality, and the mass protest by the youths in Nigeria. The protest resulting from the needless killings and maiming of people in the country, the malicious destruction of properties and lootings by some criminal elements in the society among others was just an underlining factors that Nigeria was in the precipice. The unfortunate youths and police clash in Ughelli, Delta state due to the purported death of a youth in the hands of the law enforcement was the match box that triggered the already forgotten police brutality campaign that was started earlier. However the renewed campaign grew like a wide fire via the social media that has become a national discourse.
It was based on this scenario that the Delta Online Publishers Forum (DOPF) deem it fit to oil its “FRONTLINE” programme, which has been in existence since inception to launch an audience participatory session for discussion and possibly proffer solutions on the way forward for national consciousness and a united Nigeria with equal opportunities.
The dialogue held at Benezia Hotel Asaba and anchored by the Vice Chairman of Delta State Chapter of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, Mr. Godfrey Osakwe, was well attended by critical stakeholders including representatives from the Delta State Ministry of Information, State Orientation Bureau, the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Civil Society Organisations, the Department of States Security (DSS), Non-governmental Organisations, National Association of Polytechnic Students, NAPS, Delta Youth Parliamentarians among others.
After an extensive deliberations, stakeholders resolved and recommended as follow:
- That the wanton killings, destruction and fear created by the #EndSARS protest resulting from years of police brutality, varying degrees of bloodshed in the land, despite the efforts to promote peace and unity, were uncalled for and condemnable.
- The meeting condemned vehemently the burning and destruction of properties and looting of goods and relief materials in some cities across the country by hoodlums and other low elements of the society. Their action was barbaric, insane and inexcusable.
- That the continued acculturation of our cultural values by negative influence hitherto alien to us, resulting in the collective assault on our national heritage and self-esteem, is a bane and one reason Nigeria find itself where it is now.
- Stakeholders lament a situation where Nigerians, particularly the youths had to grapple with economic and infrastructural deficiency even as a larger population groan under the weight of economic retrogression, while the privilege few live in affluence and pride themselves as centurions of modern day leaders in Nigeria.
- That the #EndSARS protest became a metaphor of generational failure by government resulting to; faulty electoral system, maladministration, official malfeasance, bribery and corruption, hostage taking, terrorism, banditry and general insecurity.
- That there must be an attitudinal change from the home front, and larger society, while decrying a situation where Nigerians leverage on every giving situation to inflate and increase prices of good and service. That EndSARS should start with the common man.
- That it is shameful and condemnable for the government and those whose duty it were to distribute CACOVID-19 palliatives to vulnerable members of the society at the wake of the pandemic, hoarded same resulting to a disgraceful outing that characterize what appears like the “criminal discovery” of the items meant for the people.
- That it is wrong for the government to launch a fresh onslaught against #EndSARS protesters, campaigners, proponents, sympathizers, promoters and those who provided survival package to the protesters, freezing their accounts and scapegoat others who are being secretly harass and horded in jail while placating Nigerians with Judicial Panels of Inquiries. The meeting said that the development amount to double-speak and highly hypocritical of the government of the day in Nigeria.
- That the Judicial Panel of Inquiries ought to be free from any interference for now, allow and promote unhindered access by victims of SARS and be made open for transparency, and justice to take its course.
- That government both at state and national level should refrain from politicizing every scheme, programmes meant for the Nigerian people including town hall meetings that are being set up to proffer solution to the #EndSARS logjam.
- That states and federal government should do more to establish cottage industries that could gainfully take care of the problems of unemployment, youth restiveness, armed robbery, kidnapping and other social vices.
- The meeting also decry high educational deficit in the country, poor budgeting for education which could have alleviated the categories of youths the society made hoodlums and hooligans.
- Stakeholders decry absence of national orientation and that #EndSARS protest was allegedly hijacked by hoodlums who are disoriented, and frustrated by the many years of government failure to tackle vexed issues.
- The meeting however commended the orderly posture of the earlier campaigners who marshaled their grievance with bullet points, and condemned the hijack/attack on the #EndSARS protest which they agreed was tailored to correct societal ills and reposition the country for the better.
- Stakeholders also resolved that five-point demands of the genuine protesters should be met including general overhaul of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) which would include increase of police salary and adequate compensation policy for their role in protecting lives and property of the citizens.
- The meeting also call for setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct and also carry out psychological evaluation of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can be deployed (this should be verified by an independent body).
- That it is the duty of government to secure and protect protesters in a democracy and to ensure that peaceful protests are not hijacked by hoodlums. Sadly, the society created this same group of people commonly referred to as hoodlums and hooligans.
- The meeting also call for rejigging of the nation’s security architecture, affirming that there is serious lacuna in the national security that have been exposed by the #EndSARS protest.
- The meeting call for restraint from the government, maintaining that rather than enable good governance to address the challenges of unemployment, corruption, infrastructural decay, hopelessness, inequality, violent crimes and the high cost of living in Nigeria, the government was busy trying to censor the use of social media in Nigeria, among other trivialities, in an attempt to gag the citizens.
- That unity in diversity is our strength and that all Nigerians must uphold our unity, bond, history, cultural values and see that Nigeria is great again as one indivisible country.
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