The National Economic Council (NEC) has urged Nigerian activists not to hold protests to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protest and instead “consider other lawful means of engagement”.
The council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, made the plea in a statement issued on Friday.
Nigeria had in October 2020 witnessed a nationwide protest led by Nigerian youths demonstrating against police brutality committed by the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force. It, however, came to an agonising end on October 20, 2020, after some soldiers of the Nigerian Army shot at a crowd of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza in Lagos State.
To mark the anniversary, some Nigerians had suggested a walk to the toll gate at Lekki, while others had put together a summit in the Victoria Island of Lagos.
However, the NEC warned that such planned activities may be hijacked by armed hoodlums and other “opportunistic criminals”.
It called on the organisers to find other avenues to commemorate the day.
The statement read: “While appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, the National Economic Council strongly advise those planning public protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the #EndSARS, to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.
“This is because of the current security situation across the country and the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues. Council, therefore, urges the organisers to reconsider their plan.”
The council also highlighted various actions already taken by federal and state governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests.
Such actions, according to NEC, include “broad police reforms, establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria police force and other security agencies”, as well as the setup of victims’ compensation funds.
“These are commendable actions that ought to be taken to a logical conclusion in a peaceful atmosphere.
“Organisers of the planned protests should explore the various channels of communication with governments at various levels to advance their positions and avert the breakdown of law and order that may result from such public protests,” the council added.