Forty-one prominent Nigerians, including human rights activists, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, as well as former National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to restore the hope Nigerians in his government.
In a joint statement titled, “Our Youth and the Unfolding National Crisis: Need for Urgent Intervention,” the 41 personalities also urged the president to bridge the increasing disconnect between him and the citizenry.
They noted that the first step in the process of winning Nigerians’ confidence in the government is to bring those who ordered the Lekki Tollgate shooting to book and release those detained for their involvement in the protests.
The signatories, drawn from various fields of endeavours, also urged the president to respond positively to the consensus that the heads of the security agencies had performed poorly and should be replaced.
They said: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate urgent steps to address the widening trust deficit between the government and the president on the one hand, and the Nigerian youth and its people on the other.
“To move forward, the president must take decisive action to close the trust deficit by: Identifying and arresting immediately the persons that gave instruction for soldiers to shoot protesting youths at the Lekki toll gate on 20th October 2020.
“Instituting an urgent independent inquiry on the events at Lekki Tollgate leading to the use of live ammunition on the protesters and the apparent use of sponsored thugs or hoodlums by security operatives to infiltrate and break the peaceful protests.
“All those identified to be responsible for this must be held to account and prosecuted.”
They urged the president to take immediate remedial action as spelt out in the youths’ charter of demands (5for5), including the immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice and compensation for the families of the victims and an independent body to oversee the prosecution of indicted officers.
They called on Buhari to marshal a concrete plan of implementation of the modalities and timelines for police reform and announce steps to address perennial insecurity and killings in the country, particularly in the North-east and North-west.
In addition, they asked the president to develop a clear work plan for the implementation of governance reform programmes for which well-meaning Nigerians have been demanding.
They said: “We urge the protesters to remain law-abiding and patriotic and not to engage in any intimidation or harassment of ordinary citizens or engage in any form of violence. We appeal to parties and stakeholders to work for speedy resolution of the crisis.
“We strongly condemn the wanton destruction of property, killings and maiming of innocent citizens and ‘ethnicisation’ by rioters and hoodlums trying to ignite a religious or ethnic conflict and call on all Nigerians to remain calm and avoid retaliation or taking the law into their hands.”
Describing themselves as non-partisan actors, the concerned Nigerians reaffirmed the freedom of all Nigerians to exercise their rights as guaranteed in the constitution.
The group traced the root of the protests by the youth to bad governance and lack of accountability, saying that currently, 65 per cent of Nigerians are young persons under 35 years of age who do not feel that Nigeria works for them.
Others who signed the statement included Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Funke Adekoya ( SAN), Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (SAN), Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), Dr. Chris Kwaja and Mr. Edmund Obiagwu (SAN).
Others are Father George Ehusani, Mr. John Odah, Prof. Mohammed Tabiu (SAN), Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, Mr. Salisu Mohammed, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Ms. Ngozi Iwere, Ms.Ene Obi, Ms. Amina Salisu, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Mr. Dayo Olayide and Mr. Danlami Nmodu.
Also among those who approved the statement are Mallam Hamza Ibrahim, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, Dr. Dipo Fashina, Dr. Udo Jude, Ms. Idayat Hassan, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed, Prof. Godwin Darah, Prof. Adele Jinadu, Prof. Rufai Alkali, Hon. Rima Shawulu and Dr. Innocent Chukwuma.
Also on the list are Dr. Kole Shettima, Mr. Adeyemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), Mallam Y.Z. Yau, Prof. Pat Utomi and Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).