By Florence Onuegbu
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, on Tuesday called on youths to join him on Peace Walk, for healing of Lagos State.
Sanwo-Olu made the call in Lagos, during a news conference on the State Government’s position on the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on EndSARS, submitted on Nov. 15.
He also called on the members of the diplomatic corps, civil society groups, students, the media, as well as other stakeholders to join him in the Peace Walk.
The governor said that Lagos State deserved true healing after the disturbances that trailed the 2020 protests against police brutality.
According to him, only sustenance of harmony can guarantee the realisation of aspirations of all residents.
”I will be leading ”A Walk for Peace” in December to herald the healing of our land.
”Let me use this occasion to extend an open invitation to Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr Marcaroni), Dele Farotimi, Temitope Majekodunmi, Segun Awosanya (Segalinks), Adedotun (Just Detoun), and Seun Kuti.
”Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, Commander of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), CSP Yinka Egbeyemi and others to join me on this ”historic march” for our dear Lagos,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said that the state currently faced the hard choice of restoring harmony or doing itself a great harm.
He urged residents to join his administration in strengthening harmony and put the state on the path of peace.
The governor urged residents to reject those fueling anarchy and suspicion, clinging to unsubstantiated belief that carried no weight of verifiable evidence, while choosing emotion over facts.
He said that his administration was ready to facilitate better communication between youths and state’s security machinery, to resolve issues before they would become intractable.
”Nobody will build this city for us. Let us show the world who we are. We are Lagosians. A people of great renown, driven by the irrepressible spirit of Lagos.
”It is a testimony to our strength and resilience as a people that, despite the huge losses incurred because of these terrible incidents, we have bounced back, with our economy as vibrant and virile as ever.
”I have no doubt whatsoever, that our prospects are as bright as ever and the best lies ahead of Lagos State and Nigeria.
”We will make it easier for our young people to initiate formal complaints on human rights violations through the Ministry of Justice.
”We will also improve the coordination between the state government and the security agencies, including the police and the military.
”In this vein, we are studying how to improve security policy formulation, information sharing, and clarifying rules of engagement in times of social unrest,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said that the state had established a mechanism to compensate all those who lost homes, businesses, and livelihoods to the violent destruction of Oct. 2020.
He said that the state would also establish a detailed procedure for the just compensation of citizens with verified claims of police brutality committed during the protests.
The governor said government, youths, protesters, Police and other security agencies had learnt from the EndSARS protests and its hijack by hoodlums, which led to the destruction of public and private property worth billions of naira,
He said that the lessons learnt were with a view to averting any recurrence to the detriment of the state.
On mixed reactions that followed released of the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, Sanwo-Olu said his administration remained committed to the process that would bring a closure to such ”painful episode” in the history of the state.
He said that the much-expected White Paper would be issued soon.
”While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities, it is however, regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorised version of the report have generated much tension.
”Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened.
”The heated exchanges among various shades of opinion on the report have unfortunately put us all at the risk of missing the larger picture;
”the fact that what we all seek in common is a land in which we are all safe and secure, law enforcement agents are trusted, and justice is guaranteed for all.
”We have no intention to engage in histrionics or further inflame passion on a matter that has generated intense interest and controversy nationally and internationally.
”Our decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence, and unblemished respect for the truth,” Sanwo-Olu said.
He expressed his administration’s commitment to end human rights abuses, adding, he never doubted the sincerity, patriotism and noble motivations of EndSARS protests organisers to end human rights abuses by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Sanwo-Olu said it was also on record that the Federal Government accepted all the demands of the protesters, including the immediate scrapping of SARS.
He added that the National Economic Council (NEC) also recommended the establishment of State Panels of Inquiry into cases of police brutality and the Lagos State Government was the first to set up its own panel.
”I can boldly say that no state took the advocacy for police reforms and justice in the face of documented brutality more seriously than we did in Lagos.
”We have so far paid N420 million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel.
”My good people of Lagos State, you will also recall that in solidarity with the protesters, I joined our youths at various points during the demonstrations, particularly at the Lekki Tollgate and Alausa.
”I received the charter of demands of the protesters and promised to pass them on to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.
”I kept my word and passed on the demands to the President, who promised to act promptly on the issues raised,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said that however, perhaps as a result of entrenched lack of trust between the government and the governed over the years, the protesters responded to the government’s concessions with skepticism and the demonstrations continued, even growing in intensity.
He said that regrettably, what had been very well organised and peaceful protests were subsequently hijacked in different parts of the country, particularly in Lagos.
Sanwo-Olu said that in the ensuing descent into anarchy, many of our compatriots were caught up in the violence.
”Several policemen were killed. Public and private property, including critical infrastructure, were set on fire, leading to losses estimated at several billions of naira.
”At that point, I imposed a curfew to restore normalcy in Lagos. We had only one goal in mind: the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of citizens going about their daily lives.
”This is more than a legal duty. It is a sacred obligation under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which I swore to uphold,” he said. (NAN)