Coalition of Civil Society Groups, South-West Reinesance Forum (SWRF), has lamented the high level destruction of public and private assets in the violence that trailed the #EndSARS peaceful protests in the region, calling on the Federal Government to focus on overhauling law enforcement, stopping abusive police practices and ensuring justice for victims of brutality.
The group made the call on Wednesday in Lagos at a roundtable discussion on the implication of recent protest and how to prevent a re-occurrence of such, saying the coordinated arson that trailed the incidence became a wake-up call on the need to be vigilant and collectively move against actions that could undermine wellbeing and security of South-West people, mostly affected by violence.
The group, in the communique signed by its co-ordinators Olufemi Lawson and Ologun Ayodeji, however, said beyond the government intervention, there was a need to sharply differentiate between the genuine agitations of the protesters and those given to wanton destruction of properties and the collective heritage as a people.
“Our country, particularly the South-West region, witnessed wanton destruction of public and private assets in the violence that trailed the protests. The coordinated arson that trailed the EndSARS protests became a wake-up call for us to be vigilant and collectively move against actions that could undermine our wellbeing and security, as a people of the region, mostly affected by violence.
“At this point in time, we believe what is needed is a de-escalation strategy. While we encourage government to focus on reform: stopping abusive police practices, ensuring justice for victims and overhauling law enforcement.
“Beyond the government intervention, there is a need to sharply differentiate between the genuine agitations of the protesters and those given to wanton destruction of properties and our collective heritage as a people,” the group said.
SWRF, while observing that the #EndSARS protesters were largely focused on the single issue of ending police brutality, while others were also clamouring for wider reforms in governance, with many youths seeing the sustained protest as the only means of holding political elite accountable for the rots in the society, lamented that some others had taken the avenue to attack the collective patrimony that particularly distinguished the people of the South-West region.
The group, while noting that every expression of grievances should be peaceful and the need to avoid another round of senseless violence by all means, in near future, tasked government across the South-West states “to ensure that security personnel stop using force against peaceful demonstrators and act with maximum restraint at all times, but also protect law-abiding citizens and their property from attack.
“State governments should expedite credible, transparent investigations into the actions of the police and military in connection with the protests.
“It is a positive step that the Lagos State government has included the incident at the Lagos Toll Gate on 20 October among the terms of reference of its judicial panel of enquiry and restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses. Police and military officers found to have committed atrocities against protesters should be brought to justice.
“The government will need to show further commitment to bringing to justice police officers who had perpetrated abuses over the years while not leaving out those that carried out arson on us through attack on public and private properties and individuals,” SWRF said.
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