By Joy Odor
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has condemned unequivocally, the reported shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos by Nigerian Army, saying the decision by the Federal government to dissolve SARS is a step in the right direction but not a solution to the problem.
The President and Chairman of the Council of NIPR, Alhaji Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo who stated this in a press conference in Abuja on Thursday believed that far reaching reforms in the nations policing architecture that include review of recruitment process, improvement in walfare and general reorientation from top to bottom would go a long way in regenerating citizens confidence in the police.
Alhaji Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo was of the opinion that beyond the police and SARS, the demonstration should serve as a wake up call to Leaders at all levels to the fact that paradigm is shifting from complacency, towards citizens asking questions if the leadership.
“He said the NIPR has followed with Keen interest the almost two weeks old #EndSARS protest across the country as well as government response to it.
“The decision by the Institute to remain a quite observer to issues around the protests (against expectations from many quarters) was deliberates; this was because because as relationship builders and members, we have been trying through back channelsh to reach out to relevant stakeholders with a view to ensuring that the peace of the country was not compromised, even as we were also impressed by the conduct of both the protesters and the government.
“The descent to anarchy, arson, bloodshed, and looting in the past two days has however compelled a shift from this our position of silent observer.
“The NIPR condemns unequivocally, the reported shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos on Wednesday. The resorts to use of arms against unarmed protesters who were doing nothing other than exercising their guaranteed rights to dissent was against all known tenets of decency, civilization and democracy and therefore unacceptable.
“The reported denial by the Nigerian Army of the complicity of it’s officers in the dastardly act, will make make more meaning if an immediate inquiry is launched to ascertain who the perpetrators were.
“We equally condemned in no uncertain terms the resort to the hooliganism that ensued afterwards which led to arson, and looting of both Public and private properties. It is our firm belief that the lawlessness has nothing to do with the original objectives of the #EndSARS movement which we believe to be simply a cry against impunity and a pitch for good governance” he said.
He noted that it is imperative that government at all levels brace up for more accountability by engaging citizens in a sincere dialogue about the way forward.
According to Alhaji Sirajo, establishing or improving in this line of communication with Nigerians would help governments bin discharging of it’s commitments to timely action on programme that seek to make life better for the people.
The NIPS President maintained that in as much as it believed that there is nothing wrong with the citizens coming together to demand for a better deal from their government, genuine protest and protesters must guard against being infiltrated by others with different motives which cause not only a lose of focus but also a resort to lawlessness.
He called on the government to be faithful to the decision to address all issues raised and also to immediately institute an inquiry into Lagos shooting to ensure that victims get Justice.
“We want to make it clear that it respect citizens rights to peaceful dissent as well as governments responsibility to the maintenance of law and order.
“It is therefore identifies with the #EndSARS objectives which beyond the hashtag. Is a condemnation of impunity, ruthless conducts and the general lack of respect to due processes by some section of the Nations law enforcement architecture as well as a call for the reforms of same” Alhaji Sirajo noted.