By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The South-East Caucus of the House of Representatives has bemoaned the impression in some quarters that the protest has been hijacked by some ethnic nationalists.
The statement signed by all members of the Southeast Caucus in the House, led by Deputy Whip, Rep. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC-Abia), also condemned attacks on security units, police officers and cultural institutions.
“We condemn the wanton destruction of properties and businesses, including the palaces of our revered royal fathers. Such should have no place in a civilised and democratic society.
“We equally express our collective displeasure at the attacks on law enforcement officers and police formations, bearing in mind that demoralising the police as an institution and destroying available security infrastructure would only put the society at greater risks and equally defeat the altruistic purposes that underlined the EndSARS protests in the first place.
“This opportunity to undertake a homerun of the challenges and imperfections of police and policing as well as their effects on the citizens, including the police themselves, should not be frittered away on the alter of needless violence and destruction of lives and properties, including attacks on the police.
“We need the police as much as the police need us. They are fellow Nigerians entitled to all the rights, including the right to life, bestowed on Nigerian citizens by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution. Agreed that there are bad eggs in the security forces, who have committed grievous atrocities against Nigerians and the state, it is not within our rights to reduce ourselves to the same wrong and anarchic conducts we protest against by meting out jungle justice on them or any fellow citizen. As a civilised society guided by the rule of law, we must work with the panels set up by various states and federal authorities to fish out and met out justice to lawless security operatives in accordance with extant laws of the land.
“We denounce in totality and completely dissociate ourselves and the South East region, which we represent, from any attempts to paint the struggle for better security services and good governance in tribal colours or sentiments”, the Caucus stated in part.
The group explained that the demonstrations across the country were done by youth from all parts of the country, and should not be viewed as targeted at a certain or particular region of the country.
“While we strongly condemn the unfortunate hijack of the EndSARS protests by anarchists and agents of destabilisation, the protests must, nevertheless, be seen for what they are: a patriotic, altruistic, and peaceful assembly by Nigerian youths of all geopolitical zones and religious and political persuasions seeking an end to police brutality and making a clarion demand for a better deal from Nigeria and those they put in offices by the power of their ballots.
“We frown at the attempt by any individual or group, who do not wish Nigeria well, to appropriate these laudable demands and weaponise the struggle for selfish and egotistic ends in an effort to destabilise the nation.
“Likewise, attempts to associate the events of the past few days with ethno-political struggles or pin them on a particular region or ethnic, religious, and political group miss the mark. It is indeed a great disservice, if not a huge threat to the Federal Republic and her peaceful and corporate existence”, they stated.
The Caucus warned further against attempts by some groups to give partisan and ethnic colourations to the unrest in the country.
“We must refrain from our age-long habit of raising the red flags of ethnicity and other primordial sentiments, whenever we have an opportunity to deal with issues that retard the nation. Once the temporary aphrodisiac effects are gone, we would only realise that we still live with the same problems, most probably in their worse mutation.
“We are committed to true federalism where every Nigerian enjoys equal rights and opportunity wherever he or she finds himself and where nobody’s life, personal property or business are endangered and subjected to wanton destruction”.
The lawmakers, however, advised that government to engage the dissenting youth, instead of ordering a forceful stop of the protests.
“We, therefore, urge all Nigerians and the government to join hands to remedy the heartrending, immediate aftermaths of the hijack of peaceful protests by hoodlums and to address the systemic weaknesses and cogent issues raised by the Nigerian youth. Constructive engagement is a 21st century culture. History also teaches us that while crackdowns may extract temporary retreat, they ultimately midwife future violence”.
The group, also called on the youth in the streets, to ceasefire and embrace a peaceful resolution of grievances.
“Also, having made their voices heard loudly and clearly, we plead with the youths to embrace dialogue with various levels of government in addressing the weaknesses in the system identified by the EndSARS protests. It is the best route to maximising the millage they have covered by the protests”, the Caucus advised.
The group also advised “We must use this moment to prove that this federation, has the capacity to counsel and remedy itself. Mr President must show more leadership and must not miss this opportunity to reform policing and governance to meet the expectations of the citizens”.
The group of lawmakers concluded with condolence for “those who lost loved ones and properties in the unfortunate disturbances, we earnestly pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of our compatriots and healing for the wounded. We equally pray to God to heal our land”.
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