Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to act fast in handling the ongoing protests against police brutality, before it is too late.
The former president spoke in a statement he issued Wednesday against the background of the shooting of the unarmed protesters on Tuesday by soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos.
“We are at a critical moment in this crisis and Mr President must act fast before it is too late. This time demands leadership and mature leadership at such,” Obasanjo wrote.
Also reacting to the attacks, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, said he condemned the development and asked the government to investigate its.
Writing under the caption, “Statement on Violence Against Protesters in Nigeria: An Appeal of Calm,” Obasanjo asked Buhari to “restrain the military and other security agencies from using brute force as a way of ending the crisis.”
The #EndSARS protests took a violent turn late Tuesday when men dressed in army uniforms arrived at the tollgate and began to shoot at the unarmed protesters. Before the shooting, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had declared a 24-hour curfew billed to start at 4 pm, which was later shifted to 9 pm. The shooting took place at about 7 pm, according to eyewitnesses.
“The shooting and murder of unarmed protesters, no matter the level of provocation, has never been effective in suppressing public anger and frustration. Instead, such actions only reinforce the anger and frustration of the populace and close the window of dialogue and peaceful resolution,” Obasanjo said.
It was evident that President Buhari and his lieutenants did not exhaust the opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to the use of force, he noted.
“It is worse there is denial of wrongdoing in spite of overwhelming visual evidence,” he said. “Great harm has been done but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control.”
The Nigerian Army has said that none of its officers were at Lekki where the shooting took place. But live videos from the scene show men dressed in NA uniform shooting into the crowd. There have also been allegations that the Army seized the bodies of those killed in the shooting.
Obasanjo noted that most of the demands of the youth, which Sanwo-Olu packaged and took to Buhari in Abuja, are not unreasonable, and can be met without anyone’s political interest or ambition being threatened. “It is imperative that leaders at all levels, starting from Mr President, must demonstrate meekness, humility, and sincerity in meeting the legitimate demands of the protesters and ensuring that justice is served where it must be served,” he said.
“These are the most potent weapons of ending this crisis now.”
For the youth, Obasanjo said they must give peace a chance while making their legitimate demands. They must be mindful f miscreants who will infiltrate their ranks and give the protests a bad name only that trigger-happy forces will kill them, he counseled the protesters.
He warned that the destruction and looting of public and private property will hurt the economy and produce a collective setback.
“The targeting of individuals and groups for attacks and reprisal attacks will only further widen our divisions, escalate the crisis, and threaten our fragile unity,” he warned.
In his reaction to the reported attacks, Pastor Adeboye said he condemned the action “in the strongest possible terms,” noting that the unarmed young people had been peacefully protesting police brutality over the last 12 days as #EndSARS protests.
“I am confounded that prior to the sad events at the #LekkiTollGate, the Nigerian Police failed to arrest the weapon-bearing hoodlums who were attacking the well-organized and non-violent #EndSARS protesters,” he said in a statement.
The cleric said the actions of the military risked driving the agitations of the young people underground, thereby making the situation unmanageable.
“I call on the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the tragic events at Lekki and other parts of the country, give justice to all victims even as it engages the #EndSARS protesters to reach a common agreement to end police brutality,” he said.
He also appealed to the youths to allow peace reign and stop any form of action that would give the Military any other form of excuse to attack them