Fellow citizens of Ogun State,
It has become necessary for me to address you once again on an issue of public interest. It has been 13 days now that our dear State and indeed the entire Nigerian Nation have been rocked with protests and agitations leading to disruption in the daily socio-economic lives of our people.
2.In what started as a trending social media campaign, #ENDSARS, thousands of our youths have taken to the streets to express displeasure with the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force. Of specific concern were alleged brutality, high-handedness and professional misconduct of some officers of the now defunct Police Unit.
3.At some point, 31 of our youths were arrested in Ogun State by the Police during the protest. As a responsible and responsive administration, I quickly ordered the Commissioner of Police to facilitate their release and also instructed the Attorney General to drop charges against those arraigned for alleged vandalisation of public properties. In addition, some hitherto unreported arrests were brought to my attention and again, I ordered that they be immediately released.
4. I have personally received some of the protesters including youth, students and other stakeholders and addressed them on the legitimacy of their peaceful protest and assured them of the preparedness and commitment of our Government to their safety, welfare and wellbeing.
5.It shows that our youth are taking more than a passing interest on matters affecting them. In fact, in the country of over 200 Million, with over 60 percent of that population as youth, we do not expect anything less than their active participation in our development process. On the other hand, it also manifests the responsiveness of the government, at various levels, to listen to the citizens to and address the demands of the people. The #EndSARS agitation, carefully managed, cultivated and nurtured, may yet provide a template for engagement between the government and the citizenry. Therefore, I want to commend the people of Ogun State, especially our youth, for the peaceful approach at expressing their grievances.
6.A five-point demand was made by our youth in relation to the #EndSARS phenomenon as follows:
i. immediate release of all arrested protesters;
ii. justice to all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families;
iii. setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within ten days);
iv. In line with the Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed;
v. Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.
All actions arising from the 5-point demand and instructions from NEC are being implemented by the State diligently.
7.In response to these demands, following actions were taken:
• As mentioned earlier, all those arrested in Ogun State in connection with the protest have been released. Indeed, there is no one in detention in whatever form in the State, thus effectively addressing the first of the demand.
• Furthermore, the SARS unit of the Police, the central object of the protest, has been disbanded, even ahead of the demand for that by the protesters. And it is important to emphasise that unlike on previous occasions when SARS was purportedly banned, the final nail on the coffin of the ban on SARS was pronounced by no less a person than President and Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari.
• The National Economic Council (NEC) convened an emergency meeting on Thursday 15th October with the issue of #EndSARS protest as the main agenda. The meeting agreed on five main points, amongst others, which are:
✓ Each State Governor to take charge of interaction with the protesters in the respective state
✓ Setting up of Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate all cases of abuse in the state with a view to bring erring security agents to books and compensating the victims
✓ Setting up of funds to compensate the victims
✓ Setting up of Special Security and Human Rights Committee
✓ Setting up of a Human Rights Complaint office with an Ombudsman.
• Ogun State has fully implemented these resolutions with dispatch.
• Apart from these nationally agreed initiatives, Ogun State went some steps further by announcing other initiatives, including the development of Human Rights Complaints Report portal to make it easy for citizens to report cases on rights abuses by security agencies with facility to upload audio/video and documentary evidence. Others are the establishment of a forensic Laboratory for the police to aid in their investigation and intelligence gathering, and investment in training of the police officers to make them more professional and effective.
8.However, despite all the engagements and practicaldemonstration of government commitment to addressing the demands of the protesters, youth and various pleas to bring an end to the agitation, particularly since most of the issues have been addressed, the protest has since escalated into another dimension, which we have seen:
✓ violence and manifest descent into anarchy
✓ burning of police stations
✓ vandalization of public properties
✓ disruption of vehicular movements on major highways, leading to traffic gridlocks
✓ deployment of okada to transport hoodlums
✓ extortion of members of the public at illegal barricades erected at public spaces
✓ sometimes last week, a vehicle belonging to a top Government functionary was attacked and vandalised
✓ and very sadly, a custom officer was killed earlier today (Tuesday) by a mob on okadas in one of our border towns
The incidents in our state are not isolated cases, indeed the there are worse and gory reports of disturbing developments in other states across the country, including jail breaks and loss of lives and properties.
9.Earlier today, I held a meeting with security chiefs in the state. After an assessment of the prevailing situation, particularly emergingthreats to public safety and security, as a responsible Administration, we considered a number of options, including imposing a curfew on the state. However, in line with our focused, deliberate and measured approach, we are adopting the following measures in the meantime:
✓ All schools are closed till Monday, 26th October, 2020
✓ Operation of commercial motorcycle, popularly called okada, is suspended across the state for tomorrow, Wednesday, 21st October, in the first instance
✓ Increased security around the correctional centres and public buildings
✓ Blockade of highways and molestation of innocent citizensgoing about their lawful business by protesters will no longer be tolerated
✓ Deployment of joint patrol teams of security agencies to ensure no threat to public security
Once again, we are hereby requesting the youth groups to appoint leaders amongst themselves for a meeting with the governor for further dialogue.
We will be reviewing developments on a 24-hourly basis and will not hesitate to announce stringent measures as may be considered necessary.
I must emphasise that we cannot fold our arms and let the state descend into anarchy. No right is absolute. In exercising our rights, we must respect the rights of others. There cannot be a better tomorrow, if we destroy today and the foundation being laid for tomorrow. Let me warn that Ogun State will not be conducive to anyone who may want to test the resolve of government to provide security or those who may want to come from other states to foment trouble in our dear State. The security agencies have been directed to ensure full compliance with the measures announced to ensure security of lives and properties.
10.Therefore, I appeal to all parents, guardians, traditional and religious leaders and indeed all stakeholders to rein their children and wards to avoid any act that may breach public peace or bring them into confrontation with the law enforcement agencies. I urge all to take full advantage of the windows available to express grievances in peaceful manners, including the Ogun State Human Rights Complaints Report portal and allow time for full implementation of the various government initiatives in response to their demands.
11.We must continue to be on eagle alert so that some unscrupulous element who do not have the love of this Nation at heart; who do not share the same development ideals; who may want to take advantage of this situation for their selfish motives, to hijack the process. Our nation can ill-afford such a scenario. I have no doubt that, together, we can build a stronger, united and prosperous nation that works for all.
12.I thank you for listening and God bless.
“Igbega Ipinle Ogun, ajose gbogbo wa ni o!”
Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR
Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria
Tuesday, 20th October, 2020.