By Dapo Akinrefon
THE pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, on Wednesday, lampooned the attitude of the Federal Government and the police to youths who called for the disbandment of State Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, on October 20, 2020, saying it will continue to be a dark stain on the country.
Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, insisted that the high handed manner with which the police treated those who peacefully organized rallies to commemorate one year of the misadventure at Lekki Toll Gate, “clearly shows that the government and the police have not demonstrated that the lessons inherent in October 20, 2020 mean anything to them.”
The statement reads: “Not only that, the failure of the government to fulfill the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue has added to the list of how the government continue to alienate itself from the people”.
It would be recalled that unspecified lives of youths who were peacefully advocating for the disbandment of SARS at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos were prematurely cut short on that day in 2020.
“Due to various outcries that followed the massacre of the innocent youths, governments set up panels of inquiry to find out what happened and recommend ways of compensating the victims and putting a stop to a re-occurrence. But one year down the line, nothing tangible has come out of it. The unspecified number of those allegedly arrested is still in the police custody as of today.
“For some time to come, October 20 of every year will continue to be a reminder of the little value that the Nigeria nation places on the life and future of its youths going by how it treated youths who were protesting at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on October 20, 2020.”
Speaking on the issue during his January 1, 2021 broadcast to Nigerians, President Buhari had, in a clear reference to the Toll Gate massacre, described the protests by the youths asking for police reform and economic re-engineering as ‘understandable’.
“Since January 1 when the president made the promise of ‘fulfilling the five demands of our youths’, there is nothing on ground to show that the promises were kept or are in the process of being kept.
“If anything, the promises appear to be kept in reverse. For, other than the nomenclature SARS that has been officially removed the same persons who were members of the organization still don police uniforms. That is not the problem.
The problem is that they are still exhibiting the attitude that ignited the call for the disbandment of their organization in the first place. That is the attitude of extortion, of harassment, of brutality and downright disregard for the fundamental human rights of the citizens. All these still continue unabated.
“The treatment meted out to some protesters in places like Lagos, Benin, Osogbo etc on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, sent a message that the positive lessons inherent in the ENDSARS protest have not been learned. And this is unfortunate.”
Recalling that the President Buhari described our youths as “our most valuable natural resources”, Afenifere’s spokesperson called on the government to let the affirmation contained in the President’s speech to manifest in government’s actions.
“The way to begin is to release those who were arrested in connection with the ENDSARS protest, fulfill the five demands to which the president committed the government, work hard on ending insecurity in the country, restructure the country into true federalism in which each region is able to determine its own affairs and allow the creative of our youths to flower.”