The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on the youth and civil society organisations of Nigeria to pursue dialogue to ensure an early and cordial resolution to the social unrest occurring in the country in order to safeguard its image as a peaceful state.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, and signed by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Jean Claude-Kassi Brou, the Commission said it has noted with “concern” that “demonstrations by Nigerian youth calling for police reform, particularly the abolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, accused of misconduct by those demonstrating, have turned violent.”
The Commission expressed its “condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives during the protests” and wished the “injured a speedy recovery.”
It continued that while it “recognises the right of citizens to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and protests, it is also of the view that those rights should be exercised in a non-violent manner.”
The Commission also called “on all protesters to remain peaceful in the conduct of their demonstrations” and urged the Nigerian security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of the protests and act professionally.
“ECOWAS Commission further notes that, in an effort to address the demands of the protesting youth, the Federal Government of Nigeria took important decisions regarding disbandment of SARS, comprehensive police reforms and investigation of cases of police brutality. It encourages the Nigerian Authorities to conduct the investigation rapidly”.
It also appealed to the “Federal Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian youth and the civil society to urgently pursue dialogue for an early and amicable resolution of this social unrest and maintain the Nigerian image as a bastion of law and order.”
Meanwhile, a group of Nigerian youth living in Ghana converged on the Nigerian High Commission in Accra on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 to protest and solidarise with victims of the ongoing police and military brutalities in their home country in recent times.
The angry Nigerians are demanding an apology from their leaders and called for the resignation of President Mahammadu Buhari.
The demonstrators expressed pain regarding the happenings in Nigeria.
They described President Buhari as someone who “has completely failed them”.
However, the police said they could not stage the protest because they had not informed the law enforcement body in accordance with Ghana’s Public Order Act.
Class News understands that a lot of those who gathered for the protest did not know if it was a legal gathering.
Several of them were driven to join the protest by the flyers circulating on social media.
“The flyers regarding the protest were shared all round and it got to most of the Nigerians in Ghana,” one of the protesters said.
The leaderless protesters told Class News on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 that they will ensure they get a police permit and reconvene at a later date.
An unofficial spokesperson for the group indicated that they intend to protest peacefully, adding that they will abide by all the laws of Ghana in doing so.
He said: “We have started peacefully. This is going to go peacefully. There is not going to be any form of violence. We’re not going to break into the High Commission. We are not going to threaten anybody but we’re going to raise our voices and they will hear us.
“However, there are rules of engagement. If you’ve noticed, we’ve been speaking with the police authorities and they are faulting us.
“They are faulting this demonstration or protest because we have not done what we ought to have done to have given us the right to be here.
“They have laws that we must follow.
“If we say we’re law-abiding, we must follow the laws and it’s not a difficult thing”, he said.
“We need a police permit before we can stand here and demonstrate rightfully, so, I want to plead with us, I know we’re pained, I don’t want to leave here,” he emphasised.
The youth in Nigeria began seeking an end to police brutality meted out to citizens ‘unlawfully’ by an anti-robbery wing of the Nigerian Police Force known as SARS.
The youth hit the streets in separate protests to press home demands for the dissolution and restructuring of the police and governance systems in general.
The protests extended to social media, through which the attention of the international media and other international figures have been drawn.
On Tuesday, 20 October 2020, in Lagos State, a 4pm curfew was imposed.
However, unrelenting protesters were still found on grounds.
In Lekki, one of the urban parts of Lagos, armed men clad in military uniform stormed the place and opened fire on the unarmed protestors who hoisted Nigerian flags, amidst chants of the Nigerian national anthem.
About 78 deaths have so far been confirmed dead from yestersay’s shooting incident.