The federal government has said that the #EndSARS protesters across the country were making unreasonable demands, after the initial five-point demands were met.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this Tuesday while briefing the international community in Abuja.
The briefing was at the instance of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and had in attendance, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anthonia Ekpa.
He said on October 12, President Muhammadu Buhari personally intervened when he addressed Nigerians and said the disbandment of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) was the first step in the comprehensive reform of the police in Nigeria.
The minister explained that on the October 13, the IGP immediately summoned all former members of SARS for debriefing, medical examination before redeployed and two days later, the National Economic Council (NEC), took far-reaching decisions which took care of every demand of the protesters.
He stressed that the five demands made by the protesters which included the immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; the setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days, and others, were received by the authorities and on October 11, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of SARS across the country.
Mohamned decried that some people who were not part of the original movement, were using the movement to ask for unreasonable demands, and have moved from #EndSARS to #EndBuhari.
He stated: “The government noticed very soon that some people with ulterior motives were exploiting a very innocent and just protest to destabilise the polity. The movement started very peacefully, but very soon, we witnessed looting, assassination attempt on the Governor of Osun State, and burning and looting of malls.
“In Benin, they freed 2,000 inmates, in Lagos today, they set ablaze police stations and both the Governments of Edo and Lagos, have been compelled to impose curfews.
“The demands they came with first have been met. But now, we have some people who were not part of the original movement now using this movement to ask for unreasonable demands. From #EndSARS, we now hear EndBuhari.”
The minister said what bothered the government was that after the five demands had been comprehensively met, the protests, rather than abate, have been getting stronger.
He stressed that the development troubled the government and it felt there was the need to give out the correct narrative out there.
Mohammed added, “We are not a repressive regime. For the past 12, 13 days, protesters have been allowed to express themselves provided they don’t get violent. The police have conducted themselves very admirably, even under provocation, they remained very restrained.”
The minister opined that no responsible government will fold its arms and allow the country to go into anarchy, adding that the government owes all Nigerians the responsibility to protect their lives and their sources of livelihood.
He stressed that in the last 14 days, many Nigerians have been prevented, especially in Lagos, from going to work, while police have been attacked in several states and even some members of the movement have admitted that the movement has been hijacked, forcing some of them to resign, adding “and as we speak today, the problem is that, who are these leaders?”
Mohammed said, “And we believe that it is important for the international community to actually know what is happening. As we speak today, there are still demonstrations everywhere in Nigeria. Protesters are not hindered as long as they do not constitute a danger to other people.
“Sunday night, the Central Bank was taken over, it was almost set on fire, we don’t see that as part of the peaceful demonstration. The attack on the Governor of Osun State that went there to engage them, we don’t see that as part of a peaceful demonstration,” Mohammed further said.
The minister, however, assured the international community that the government would continue to obey the rule of law, while also saying that democracy will continue to thrive in the country.
He said protests such as #EndSARS were an integral part of democracy, and the government has set up every structure to allow the matter to be resolved, but unfortunately, it seemed that people with ulterior agenda have hijacked the protest.
Earlier, Onyeama said the government was very mindful to take necessary measures to ensure that the legitimate demands of the youths were in no way compromised by opportunists who have different agenda and motives.
He added that government had also seen that movements such as #EndSARS were open and vulnerable to infiltration by those that might have ulterior motives and other agenda.
According to him,”
I think this is very important to bear in mind, not just for us as a government, but also for the youths and others who have genuine grievances, that this does not happen and that we do not allow this process, this democratic process to be hijacked by those who have more sinister motives and intentions.