*Accuses FG of insincerity, lack of understanding of the problems
* Martins warns FG against deploying soldiers
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), has said the ongoing protests by youths in the country was morally justified, as it demands an end to police brutality and the injustices perpetrated by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The clerics, who threw their weight behind the protesters, said the youths were standing in the gap for the entire country, demanding justice and peace for all from the extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrests, profiling of youths as criminals, the invasion of youths privacy by searching phones and laptops without any warrant or any just cause, and the incarceration of many of the youths in the SARS custody without trial.
A statement signed by President of the CBCN, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze and made available to newsmen on Saturday in Abuja, noted that disbanding SARS and setting up a new outfit called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), shows the Federal Government was either not willing to allow peace and justice prevail, or totally lacks understanding of the enormous problems at hand.
According to the Bishops, Nigerians were demanding a total reform of the nation’s police force, adding that there was hardly any Nigerian who has not directly or indirectly encountered the crude and inhumane treatment of the SARS officials.
The statement reads in part: “We the members of the CBCN have followed the protests with keen interest and call on the Federal Government of Nigeria once again to listen to the cry for justice so that peace/can reign in our country. The protest seems to have a life of its own and it is spreading all over the country; this shows that most Nigerians are facing the same oppression and brutality inflicted by the SARS.
“We urge the Federal Government to fulfil its primary constitutional responsibility of securing life and property of every Nigerian and provide opportunities for our children to realise their God-given potentials.
“#EndSARS goes beyond the SARS and it is morally justified. We support the youths who have taken this step and we caution that they are allowed without any intimidation to exercise their right to peaceful demonstration and should not be provoked or incited to violence,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Martins, has asked the Federal Government not to deploy soldiers to crack down on #EndSARS protesters across the country.
Martins said the deployment of soldiers in protest grounds will lead to injuries and deaths, as well as escalate tension.
“Such a measure, if adopted, can only lead to injuries and possible deaths, and an escalation of the protests. It has the tendency of turning the largely peaceful protests into a violent one,” he said.
“We therefore urge the Federal Government to toe the line of engagement in dialogue, listening to the demands of the youth and other well-meaning Nigerians.
“We commend the government for acceding to the demands of the youth. Now, the whole country looks forward to practical steps that would be taken to implement them.
“We believe that a sincere and transparent response to the demands of the young people would go a long way in resolving the present impasse.”
He called on those protesting to ensure their activities are done peacefully and to avoid engaging in violence, as “the whole world is watching us to see how we handle this situation.”
On Saturday, the army announced that “Operation Crocodile Smile” will take off across the country from Tuesday.
Many have described this as an attempt to clamp down on protesters.
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