The Federal Government has warned Nigerian youth, particularly those in Lagos State and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, against embarking on another round of EndSARS protests, saying plans had been concluded to crackdown on violent demonstrators across the country.
It explained that the move had become imperative after intelligence reports at the government disposal posit that the protest billed to hold at the Lekki tollgate on Saturday, February 13 has a tendency of a violent dimension with possible casualties.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that while peaceful protests are the constitutional rights of Nigerians, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government would not fold its arm and allow another round of violence in the country.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the minister maintained that the chances that any peaceful protest would be hijacked are very high and as such, the government would not allow another killing, arson and destruction of public and private properties.
According to him, based on the intelligence at the disposal of the Federal Government, some Nigerian activists have linked up with others outside Nigeria, including subversive elements, with a view to destabilizing the country.
He added that “never again will the Federal Government allow the kind of violence that was perpetrated across the country under the guise of the EndSars last October. Never again will anyone or group be allowed to destroy cities or to kill and maim innocent citizens, including security agents, under any guise,”
Mohammed recalled that the EndSARS campaign last October started as a peaceful protest against police brutality and followed by government intervention through acceding to the protesters’ five-point demands before the demonstrations were hijacked by hoodlums and degenerated into a free-for-all.
“Unfortunately, despite the acceptance of the demands, the protesters misread the Federal Government’s respect for the rule of law and defiantly continued to demonstrate and occupy a public facility, even after a curfew was declared by the Lagos State Government. This led to a series of actions that culminated in the hijacking of the protests by hoodlums, who perpetrated unimaginable violence in Lagos and other cities across the country.
“The trillion-Naira destruction of Lagos, in particular, remains too fresh a wound. Hundreds, including the youth, lost their livelihoods to the wanton attacks in Lagos. The burnt wreckage of public buses that were wantonly set ablaze by rampaging hoodlums remains in their positions as a sad and gory reminder of the unprecedented attacks. The city is still reeling from the war-like destruction.
“However, any further resort to violence in the name of EndSars will not be tolerated this time. The security agents are ready for any eventuality. A situation in which six soldiers and 37 policemen were murdered in cold blood by hoodlums will not repeat itself. The attack, looting, and razing of 269 private and public property will not happen again. The killing of 57 civilians will not be re-enacted.
“We therefore strongly warn those who are planning to re-occupy Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday to desist. We know that many of those who have been loudest on social media in advertising the plan to reconvene in Lagos on Saturday are not even in Nigeria. They are elsewhere around the world fanning the embers of violence and inciting gullible people back home. No one should fall for their antics.
“No government anywhere will allow a repeat of the kind of destruction, killing, and maiming wrought by the hijackers of EndSars protests last year. After all, only one policeman – (plus four others) – was killed in the invasion of the US Capitol in January, yet the FBI has continued to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators. No life is more important than the other,” the minister said.