Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC national leader and jagaban of Lagos has broken his silence in a press release titled THE #ENDSARS PROTSTS; A FUNDAMENTAL LESSON IN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
In it he said:
I heavily grieve for those who have lost their lives or been injured during the period of these protests. My deepest sympathies go to their families and loved ones for none should have been made to pay such a dear price. My career as an active politician spans nearly three decades. In that time, I have seen many things as Nigeria has struggled, sometimes against itself, to undertake the often painful yet inexorable push toward democratic government accountable to, and protective of, the people.
Though this journey, I have traversed the landscape of human experience. Having been as a political prisoner during our struggle for democracy but also having the singular honour of serving this state and its people as governor, I have known highs and lows, seen both the good and the bad of things.
But the events of the past few days have been extraordinary in a most dire sense. Only time will tell if we have the collective wisdom and requisite compassion to learn the proper lessons from these events that we may yet steer toward a better, more just Nigeria. Despite the tumult we now see, I believe with all my heart that we will meet the current challenge.
Here, let me directly address the sharp point aimed against me. I have been falsely accused of ordering the reported deployment of soldiers against peaceful protesters that took place at Lekki on 20 October 2020. This allegation is a complete and terrible lie. I did not order this or any assault against anybody. I would never want such a vile thing to happen nor did I have any prior knowledge about this sad event. It is my firm belief that no one should be harassed, injured or possibly killed for doing what they have the constitutional right to do in making their contribution to a better, more equitable society.
As a political figure, I am accustomed to people attributing to me all manner of indiscretions of which I have no knowledge and in which I played no role. I have usually ignored such falsities as the cost of being in the public eye.
This time, it is different. The allegation now levied against me is that I called on soldiers to kill my own people. This allegation is the foulest of lies.
The use of strong force against any peaceful protesters is indefensible, completely outside the norms of a democratic society and progressive political culture to which I aspire and have devoted my public life. That people were angered by the reports of violence and death is acutely understandable.
Understandably outraged, people sought to hold someone accountable. For various reasons, I became the most available scapegoat. Some people don’t like me because they believe the false rumours uttered about me over the years. Some maligned my name because they hide ulterior motives and harbour unrequited political scores they intend to settle.
A week ago, such people tried to bring enmity between me and the state and federal governments by contending I was sponsoring the protests. When that did not work, they then sought to sow enmity between me and the people by saying I ordered soldiers to quash the very same protests they first accused me of organising.
My opponents have every right to oppose me politically but let them have the courage to do so in the open, above board and to employ facts not evil fiction in their efforts against me. They have no right to slander and defame anyone with the terrible and vile fabrications now cast at my feet.
Those who have decided to hate me will hate me regardless of the truth. Again, they have the right to think as they may and I am not troubled by their unfounded animus. Today, I speak not to them. I leave them to the workings of their own conscience.
Today, I speak to those who believe in the importance of, and want to know, the truth.
The slander aimed at me is based on the untruth that I own the toll gate concession. The hate mongers prevaricate that I ordered the Lekki assault because the protests had caused me to lose money due to the interruption of toll gate activity.
Minus this alleged ownership, the slander employed against me falls to the ground as a heavy untruth. I ask people to thoroughly investigate the matter of my alleged ownership of the toll gate. By seeking facts, instead of being swayed by gossip, you will find I have no ownership interest or involvement in the toll gate. Having no business interests in the operation, my income remains unchanged whether one or 100,000 vehicles pass through that gate.
At bottom, the toll gate is a public asset. Given what has happened, I would like to propose to government that the toll gate be left closed for an indefinite period. If it is reopened, revenues should be donated to the confirmed victims of the Lekki attack as well as to other identifiable victims of police brutality in Lagos. Let government use the money to compensate and take care of those who have lost life or limb in the struggle for all citizens to go about the quiet, peaceful enjoyment of life without fear of undue harassment at this or that checkpoint.
On the other hand, I am, indeed, a promoter and financial investor in the Nation newspaper and TVC. It was widely known and circulated through social media that certain malevolent elements were going to take advantage of the situation to attack the Nation newspaper facilities and TVC in Lagos.
The attackers came. Both facilities were significantly damaged. Although equipped with prior notice of the imminent trespass, I did not call any one to seek or request for the army or police to deploy let alone attack, kill, or injure those who razed and vandalized these properties. I did not want any bloodshed. These elements, mostly hirelings of my political opponents, wreaked their havoc and destroyed those buildings and facilities and I thank God that the employees of these two media institutions managed to escape largely unharmed.
There is a deeper truth involved here. Burned buildings and damaged equipment can be rebuilt or replaced. There is no adequate substitute for the loss of even a single human life. I am not one to encourage violence. I abhor it. Thus I did nothing that might endanger lives, even the lives of those who destroyed my properties.
Now, those who claim I ordered violence in Lekki must face the sheer illogic of their assertions. There is no rationale that can adequately explain why I would order soldiers to repel peaceful protesters from the toll gate where I have no financial interest, yet, choose to do nothing to protect my investments in the Nation and TVC.
Why would I be so moved as to instigate the army to attack peaceful, law-abiding people at the toll gate where I have no pecuniary stake, yet lift not a single finger to stop hired miscreants bent on setting fire to these important media investments?
The allegations against me make no sense because they are untrue. They are parented by those seeking to stoke and manipulate the people’s anger in order to advance political objectives that have nothing to do with the subject matter of the protests.
The good and creative people of Lagos have worked hard over the years to build it into the dynamic economic and cultural focal point it has become. Lagos has enjoyed over two decades of sustained, uninterrupted growth. No other place in Nigeria can stake that claim. Some people are unhappy with this. They seek to tear down what we have worked hard to build that they may reshape Lagos to fit their own more destructive image. Such people have taken advantage of the current situation and of the public’s passions to set in motion a plan the people would never support if they only knew what the destructive schemers actually had in mind.
Not only lives have been lost in Lagos and throughout Nigeria, but livelihoods have also been impaired. I have seen the destruction to businesses, shops and homes.
I empathise with those who have lost their businesses and residences through no fault of their own but because hurtful, destructive misanthropes took it upon themselves to use this moment to disguise their efforts to destroy and upend the prosperity and hope so many of us took so many years to build. This is not what the genuine protesters wanted and no one should blame them for this destruction. In this tense situation, we must be careful not to rush to conclusions and to make sure we ascertain the true facts that we not be deceived toward rash action that may prove to be against our own interests.
This is particularly true regarding the Lekki incident. Various players will promulgate different casualty numbers. At this moment, no conclusive figure has been ascertained. Although an investigation has been launched by the governor, a totally accurate picture of the events may never be known. I for one refuse to engage in futile speculation regarding the possible number of casualties for such talk misses the vital point that we all must recognize.
We strive for a more compassionate, progressive society. Thus, we must do more than measure injustice by the number of dead or wounded. Injustice is injustice regardless of the number of victims from whom blood is drawn.
Based on the facts that come out of a thorough investigation, government may need to amend the terms of engagement for deployment of military forces in instances of mostly peaceful civil disobedience and protests. Although one of our nation’s most respected institutions, the military is not adequately equipped and trained to deal with such situations. It is placing a burden on the military they are ill-suited to carry.
Moreover, the time has come to take the necessary legal actions to allow for the creation of state police and the recruitment and training of many more police officers. Such state-created forces should be based on the modern tenets of community policing and optimal relations and cooperation with local communities.
Measures such as these are needed to cure present gaps in how military and law enforcement treat the general public. These proposals are important and they do not hamstring proper law enforcement and security operations. We know there are criminal elements in society primed to harm people and seize property. We expect this of criminals. What is not expected is that people will be brutalized and scarred by those commissioned to protect and serve them. This anomaly must end.
Given all that has happened, I must stress the great theme that underlies this entire situation so that it is not obscured and its proper societal impact lost. The right to protest is more than integral to the democratic setting; It transcends any form of government. The following thought may seem incongruous – but the right to protest exists only where orderly society exists.
Because of my strong belief in the right to protest and my adherence to democratic ideals, I was among those who actively protested the annulment of the June 12 election. I eagerly joined and sometimes led multitudes who took to the streets to protest the singular injustice of that historic moment. We demanded the establishment of a new democracy in Nigeria. Those protests are a part of the reason we have democracy in Nigeria today. They laid the foundation for the youth today to protest and to call to the fore their grievances whenever our social or political institutions fail them in a material way.
Thus, I cannot not wax nostalgic about pro-democracy protests of the 1990s yet castigate those who today protest against any form of institutionalized brutality.
No democratically minded person can fault those who protests in this regard. No society, even the most democratic, is perfect. All nations suffer lapses that cause even their most respected institutions to fall short of their better ideals. However, our imperfection does not preclude improvement or reform. We must constantly put our institutions and government to the test that we may reshape ourselves into a better nation constantly improving the manner in which it treats its citizens. If we do not commit ourselves in this way, democracy may not long be ours. We must be frank in recognizing our societal ills as well as resolute in curing them. Sometimes progress comes one election at a time. Sometimes, one protest at a time.
It must stand as a maxim for any compassionate, sane society that innocent people should not die or be injured at the hands of law enforcement. Enough blood has been spilled; enough pain has been felt.
Yes, some in the police have lost their way by distorting their helpful mission into its opposite. This gross malpractice by a tainted minority must stop so that the bulk of good police officers may do their job properly, with the support and thanks of a grateful community. This cooperative, productive embrace between the people and their genuine police protectors cannot occur as long as some in uniform continue to serially abuse fellow Nigerians.
In this regard, I must say that the steps thus far taken by the government are constructive. SARS has been ended and further reform has been promised with tangible steps taken in that direction. However, much more needs to be done for there is valid evidence of recurrent brutality and violence. Indeed, this is why the protests began in the first instance.
We are in a complex situation where almost every step has political overtones. Among the protesters, there are many people who do not politically support either the state or federal governments. However, this should not be a determinative factor in how one views the protests. We must not allow subjective politics to taint our view of what is right when it comes to the exercise of the fundamental civil liberties that we should all hold dear. Partisan narrowness cannot be allowed to redefine our core precepts of justice and human rights. This matter transcends daily politics. It goes to the of our constitutional arrangement and love of the people. While others may play politics with this issue, those who care about the nation dare not.
Young Nigerians across the country have peacefully stated their case. The president has pledge reform and should be given reasonable time to achieve them. The protests have accomplished their primary objective. There is no question that more needs to done. To achieve further progress, however, will require greater dialogue between government and protest leaders. As has been the case with almost every successful protest in every nation, there comes the decisive moment where a protest movement must shift gears to from demonstrations in the streets to negotiations with government. The protests against brutality are nearing this new stage or perhaps have already entered it.
Protest leaders and their genuine companions must now be careful. If the protests become too protracted, those genuinely interested in combating police brutality stand in danger of losing control of the protests. The risk is that the protests degenerate into something starkly inferior to the noble cause initially pursued. If so, the protests may then become associated in the public mind with localized disruptions and serious inconveniences. Through no fault of their own, except not having adequately planned their strategic endgame, protesters might lose the moral high ground they now occupy.
Here, government must also be exceptionally restrained. The protesters have remained peaceful. What has happened is that petty criminals and political miscreants sponsored by those who seek to stir mayhem are misbehaving and sparking trouble on the outer fringes of the protests.
Police and law enforcement have an overriding responsibility to differentiate between protesters and criminal elements. No doubt, they must stop the criminals. However, it would be morally wrong and politically counterproductive to use the existence of this fringe criminal element as a pretext to checkmate genuine protests. While some may think this is a cunning way to short-circuit the protests, such misguided cleverness will only worsen matters, rendering discussions towards a satisfactory settlement more difficult.
The present situation clearly does nothing to profit me politically or otherwise. It has complicated matters for me because many people now wrongfully blame me for a violent incident in which I played no part. Still, I stand strongly behind the people of Nigeria and affirm their right to protest peacefully. Along with all well-meaning, patriotic Nigerians, I want to see an end to all forms of institutionalised brutality and I shall do my utmost to see that this humane objective is realised.
For, if these protests can generate meaningful reform, our youth will have achieved a compound national success. First, they would have ended the terrible matter of institutionalized police brutality. Second, Nigeria would have made an important accretion to our political culture whereby government listened to and acted on the recommendations of ordinary people protesting against the wrongs done them.
This would establish a healthy precedent. Yet such durable progress can be made only if government respects the protesters and protesters actively negotiate with government. No steps should be taken by government to curtail protest activity as the people have chosen this vehicle as their preferred way to interface with government on this issue.
Yes, protest leaders too must appreciate the concrete realities of this situation. Street protests cannot last indefinitely without degenerating into other serious problems that no one wants. You have gotten government’s ear and attention, use this moment to press your case.
The right to protest should be pacifically exercised and never abused; neither should it be feared or unduly curtailed. It is essential because it lends greater depth to the relationship between government and the governed. If we are to attain parity with older, more established democracies, we must accept protests as part of our national development. It is important that Nigeria get this situation right. The direction and pace of our democratic progress weighs in the balance as the entire world watches to see how we manage ourselves at this delicate moment.
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The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity), has warned security agencies against extra-judicial killing and harassment of innocent Nigerians in the course of fishing out those responsible for the killings of security personnel and attacks on security formations and those fuelling insecurity in the South- East and South-South.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday during deliberations of the Security Council meeting approved undisclosed new security measures for the two regions aftermath of multiple attacks on security formations.
The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje, in a statement titled ‘The Growing Tempest in East & South’ said it is important “that the security services do not engage in presumption group-blame, collective punishment, and extra-judicial killings in the course of investigating these crimes”.
Owoaje pointed out that such “unbridled illegalities and high-handedness will only go to further alienate local communities, and deepen the antipathy that already characterizes the relationship between them and law enforcement agencies.”
The association while strongly condemning the attacks and killing of security personnel condoled with families that lost loved ones and urged the government to do all within the confines of the law to get the perpetrators and make them face the fall wrath of the law.
According to him, NAS is disturbed that the insecurity in the two regions has further exacerbated the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Owoaje called on the government to move swiftly, and with unaccustomed competence and diligence, to arrest the current climate of insecurity across the two regions.
The statement read in part “This gradual slide into anarchy in the South-East and South-South regions has the potential to expand the number of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria, further, stretch our security apparatus, and engender devastating social and economic consequences for the country as a whole.
“We urge the security agencies in the two regions to resist the temptation of seeing themselves as a force of occupation out to subjugate the people and unleash terror among the teeming law-abiding citizens. They should approach their task with a sincerity of purpose, and rein in the criminal elements intent on foisting terror and bloodletting. Evidence abounds of previous overzealous interventions by security agencies that have aggravated insecurity in the two regions rather than contain the same. Unprofessional conduct and prejudice from those entrusted with such operations must not be tolerated.
“The government and security agencies have a constitutional duty to protect the lives and property of the peace-loving residents of the two regions from harm. No innocent Nigerian should be harassed, intimidated, or made to suffer under any guise of combing for suspected criminal elements in the South-East and South-South regions.”
As part of efforts to develop manpower that can address future challenges in Nigeria, the Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSBL) has established a science-based educational quiz competition that would aid young inventors towards achieving their goals of producing technologies that could proffer solution to human needs across the country.
The science-based quiz competition, LSBL said, is Eko S.T.E.M Quiz, would prepare the students for science and technology and bridge the invention gap between Nigeria particularly in Lagos and other major cities globally.
According to the lotteries board, the EKO STEM competition was designed for the public and low-cost private secondary school students in Senior Secondary School (SSS) 2 to boost their passion for science and technology.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the lotteries board, Bashir Are, while addressing pressmen yesterday in Ikeja, added that the aim was to further sustain the ongoing development in the education sector embarked upon by the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to take education to next level in Lagos.
Are noted that the intervention was part of the board’s functions, saying, we are allowed by section 33 of Lagos State Lotteries Board (amended) law of 2008 to give some interventions in Education, infrastructure, environment, social, and health in the state.
He added that the intervention in education development would ensure that the state has a skilled workforce that could address its challenges in science and technology which had continued to alter previous workforce arrangements globally.
Earlier, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Lotteries, Olufunmilola Olotu, stressed that to prepare the students for the future, “it is important to proactively promote the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum”.
Olotu stated that quiz competition is a form of education, just as she described education as a process of acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Olotu explained that this competition would provide the ground for the state government to achieve its goal in technology, preparing the mind of the students for the future, adding, the contents could be re-used for teaching.
The senior special assistant explained that the competition was essential for the children and that it would not only educate but also entertain the students in the country particularly Lagos.
She argued that the EKO STEM quiz competition would afford the students an opportunity to choose their career path and understand importance of teamwork.
Olotu, who emphasized that the year-long competition would be broadcast on Television for viewers that would watch from home, hinted that the ultimate prize for winners is a Scholarship award to study anywhere globally and a visit to the Silicon Valley.
“lt is our belief that in any educational system, academic competition is of utmost importance because it contributes to a child’s development and learning process. A healthy competition among academic institutions nurtures various values and opportunities, including but not limited to prestige, media exposure, monetary donations, and research grants,” she added.
Explaining modalities for the competition that is set to provide a platform for over 1,500 students to achieve their dream, the governor’s aide explained that preliminary examination would hold May 15th for both public and private schools across the 57 Local Government and Local Council Development Area (LCDA).
According to her, all results will be collated and input into the online system, and with the system cut-off mark, those that had better scores will proceed to the Computer-Based examination stage and other stages.
… 21 Schemes In The Works, Says Commissioner
By the end of 2023, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu would have delivered 35 housing schemes to close the huge deficit in the sector, Commissioner for Housing Mr. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai has said on Tuesday.
Of the schemes, 14 have been delivered within the first two years of the Sanwo-Olu administration, adding over 7,000 affordable housing units to the market.
Akinderu-Fatai spoke on the achievements of the Ministry of Housing during the ongoing inter-ministerial briefing to commemorate Governor Sanwo-Olu’s second year in office.
He said the Government was committed to reducing the housing deficit and providing affordable homes for the greater number of residents, stressing that the Sanwo-Olu administration would be delivering 21 housing schemes before the end of 2023.
The Commissioner was optimistic that the administration would realise its mass housing programmes, despite the prevailing economic situation in the country, adding that policies initiated had enhanced access for low- and high-income families.
He said: “The last two years have been eventful in the Ministry of Housing, as we have strengthened our efforts to realise the housing programmes of the current administration. We have completed and delivered various schemes across Lagos, including Lateef Jakande Gardens in Igando, Lagos State Affordable Public Housing Scheme in Idale Badagry, LagosHOMS Lekki Phase 2 and Babatunde Raji Fashola Estate, Courtland Villas, Igbokushu, among others.
“We have four housing schemes recently completed and are due for commissioning in the coming days. They are located in Odo Onosa Ayandelu, Agbowa, Magodo/Omole, Gbagada and Ibeshe. In all, a total of 14 schemes have been completed and these added over 7,000 affordable housing units to the market. We have other ongoing housing projects, totalling 21 schemes, which are being developed through budgetary allocation and joint ventures.”
Speaking on affordability and accessibility of the schemes, Akinderu-Fatai said the homes are for both low and high net worth individuals in highbrow and low-income settlements, including Igando, Igbokusu, Lekki, Badagry, Igbogbo, Odo-Onosa/Ayandelu, Agbowa, Sangotedo, Epe, Ilubirin, Epe and Egan-Igando.
On the strategies to tackle the housing deficit, Akinderu-Fatai hinted that the State Government was partnering multinational development partners for the construction of mass housing estates. He said henceforth, housing provision would be in the realm of thousands of homes to drastically reduce the burden.
The Commissioner praised Sanwo-Olu for his commitment and passion at ensuring that greater number of residents achieve their dream of becoming homeowners, adding that the State Government needed the support of all stakeholders towards providing decent and stable shelter for residents.
He said: “The task of bridging the housing gap in Lagos is demanding and we are extending our willingness to private sector participants to come in and invest in the housing sector to reduce the hardship faced by the people in their quest for decent shelter.”
Akinderu-Fatai said that the Lagos Mortgage Board had strengthened the “Rent-to-Own” policy, putting many residents on the homeownership ladder. He pointed out that the scheme targeted first-time homeowners, saying: “It has given a good opportunity to both to the low and middle-income citizens to become home owners.”
In the housing development projects, the Commissioner said the State Government had boosted the local economy by hundreds of local workers, artisans, suppliers and contractors for the scheme.
“There are intense construction activities on many housing schemes all over the State revitalising the housing delivery value chain. The fact that the construction sites are active means economic engagement for hundreds of workers, artisans, suppliers and contractors. This brings vibrancy that increases the economic resilience of our people,” Akinderu-Fatai said.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Housing, Mrs. Toke Awoyinka-Benson, said the Government made efforts to make Lagos an investor-friendly State, given its housing development laws, and establishment of the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA).
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