By Abdullahi Yakubu |
President Muhammadu Buhari said in his national broadcast on the #EndSARS protests that Nigerians and indeed the youth had the constitutional right to stage peaceful protests, but noted that it was rather unfortunate that hoodlums hijacked the protests by destroying lives and property worth millions of naira.
In Kano, on Tuesday, October 20, when the peaceful protest began, groups for and against the #EndSARS movement were prevented by security personnel from clashing, but the tension lasted all day and throughout the night. Some structures including the Galaxy Mall, Chicken Republic Restaurant and a hotel were looted by hoodlums in Sabon Gari, Fagge area of Kano.
During the same period, several private vehicles were burnt and others were badly damaged. Unconfirmed reports said two corpses were found by the roadside around Sabon Gari Quarters.
Shops, restaurants and Sabon Gari market remained locked on Wednesday and Thursday after the protests due to uncertainty. There were rumours spreading tribal and religious sentiments across Kano city, prompting the state government to urge caution.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje quickly inaugurated a 17-man peace committee to diffuse the simmering sentiments and encourage peaceful co-existence among the diverse ethnic groups and protesters. This action actually reduced the tension as people gradually regained confidence in the peace moves.
The committee which was co-chaired by Igwe Boniface Ibekwe and Rev. Adeyemi Samuel had representatives from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), various Christian denominations, Christian youth groups, ethnic nationalities and traders.
Similar meetings were held with imams, ulamas and members of the business community in order to prevent an escalation of the protests beyond Sabon Gari axis.
Governor Ganduje charged the committee to convene ethnic community meetings to promote peaceful co-existence.
He also tasked the committee to work on appropriate peace-building mechanisms for the sustainability of the various peace efforts by the government and security agencies.
Ganduje, who described the development as most unfortunate, urged the committee members to educate youths in their midst on the importance of peaceful co-existence and obedience to laws.
He said his administration had instituted various measures to safeguard lives and property. He met with civil society groups to discuss further on how to ensure peace and reform the Nigeria Police for optimum results.
In a meeting with the Coalition of Kano Youths, Ganduje urged the federal government to flush out bad elements in the police. According to him, eliminating the bad eggs is necessary in order to restore public confidence in the force.
“Fish out the bad elements within the force, the establishment of SWAT was in the right direction by the federal government,” he said.
He then called for adequate funding of the police with a good welfare package to ensure good policing in the country.
By these actions, the governor was able to control the situation of uncertainty in the state. He earlier received some protesters who marched to the Government House to register their support for the establishment of SWAT after the police authorities scrapped SARS.
Ganduje assured the protesters of government’s willingness to listen to the yearnings of the people and ensure peace. He declared that Kano was fully behind reforming the police system.
With an understanding of the yearnings of the youth especially, Ganduje made a clarion call to the Inspector General of Police to take measures to reform the police to suit security demands of the country.
“We hope that the IGP will re-evaluate, restructure and create a police force that is viable and acceptable to all Nigerians regardless of political divides,” he said.
The governor also urged the National Assembly to support the police reform to enable it have legal backing.
The governor’s efforts clearly checked the destructive dimension which the protests would have taken in Kano.
“Kano is peaceful, and we are watching events as they keep unfolding. I am therefore calling on all to live peacefully with one another. Peace is peace, there is no alternative to peace, anyone who murders peace shall not know peace any more,” he said.
During an interaction with some victims of the #EndSARS protests who did not want their names in print, they said it was the infiltration by hoodlums that worsened the situation. They described their experiences as pathetic, since most of them lost a lot of their personal belongings to hoodlums.
“It will take some years for us to recover from the losses,” said a victim at Galaxy Mall. Many others could not immediately react due to the shock brought about by their huge losses.