Post EndSARS: Nigerian government pledges reforms, pleads for citizens’ support

Solomon Chung, Lagos

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The Nigerian government has appealed to citizens to continue to support the Police Force in order to secure lives and property across the country, while the government focuses on a critical reform of the force.

This was disclosed by the country’s Minister of Information and Culture,  Alhaji Lai Mohammed when he met with senior title editors on Friday in Lagos, South-West Nigeria.

The Minister who made the appealed stated that failure to continue to support officers of the Nigeria Police Force will continue to hunt every citizen.

His address which was in the context of the EndSARS protests observed that without the Police in-country, nobody is safe.

“Wittingly or unwittingly, we have succeeded in scaring policemen off their beats. Today, many of them are even afraid to wear their uniform. And the result has not been pleasant, in terms of security of life and property.

“We all owe it a duty to empathize with and appreciate our security agents and should resist the temptation to tar all of them with the same brush. No life is more important than the other, and respect for human rights should not be selective.

“I want to commend the state governments that have taken bold steps to shore up the morale of the police. While at it, I want to remind all of us of the saying that a society that makes war against its police had better learnt to make friends with its criminals.”

As part of the process to review the aftermath of the EndSARS protests with a view to finding solutions that work for all, the Minister said the government, has started a review of the whole EndSARS crisis.

 “As you are aware, and in accordance with the directive of Mr President, Ministers have since gone back to their respective states to meet with stakeholders in the wake of the protest and its aftermath.

This is in addition to what we are doing in meeting the media stakeholders. A Federal Government delegation has also visited the various zones to consult with stakeholders. The outcome of these consultations will feed into an overall review of the whole crisis by the Federal Government.”

Mohammed decried the media coverage of the violence, especially where the security agencies were hit.

“While everyone was fixated on the fake massacre at Lekki Toll Gate, few paid attention to the way and manner policemen and soldiers were killed. In particular, policemen were hacked down in the most gruesome manner that calls into question the sanity of their killers. Yet, these security agents were treated as sub-humans.

Human rights organizations all but ignored the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, some of them dismembered and cannibalized. The media report of the killings was perfunctory, at best.

Remember, gentlemen, that in addition to the killing of security agents, eight medium-security custodial centres in six states (Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo and Ebonyi) were attacked, with 1,957 inmates, most of them dangerous criminals, set free.

Add that to the fact that over 100 AK-47 rifles were stolen by hoodlums as they burnt police station after police station, and you will understand the gravity of the situation. The spectre of hoodlums, armed with AK-47, roaming the streets and our roads, will send jitters down the spine.”

Role of Social Media

The Minister said Social media was used for mobilization, and it was also used to guide arsonists and looters to properties, both public and private, which were targeted for attack.

He said the role of social media development has strengthened the government’s resolve to work with stakeholders to stop the abuse of social media.

It has also rekindled the debate on the need to regulate social media content, a debate that is not limited to Nigeria. Former US President Barack Obama has said the internet and social media have helped to create the ”single biggest threat” to democracy.

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation of social media content. Other giant tech companies seem to agree. On our part, we will not sit down and allow a reckless use of social media to aggravate our fault lines and throw the country into turmoil.”

The Minister promised however that in curbing the excesses of social media, the Nigerian government will neither shut down the internet nor stifle press freedom or free speech, as some have insinuated. The Government acknowledge that social media is here to stay.

Suzan O

 

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