Following Tuesday’s unprovoked shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos by yet-to-be identified soldiers, a coalition of 100 civil society organisations (CSOs) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute a Panel of Enquiry, to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident.
This was as the coalition further sought the suspension of a nationwide military operation codenamed, “Exercise Crocodile Smile VI”.
The exercise, which began on October 20, will last till December 31.
In a statement in Abuja on the Lekki incident, the CSOs also made a case for the sack of the Service Chiefs.
“We urge the president to immediately constitute an independent judicial commission of inquiry made up of eminent Nigerians, the youths, civil society organisations, to investigate the (alleged) killing of innocent Nigerian protesters demanding for reforms at the Lekki Toll Plaza allegedly by soldiers from 65 Battalion Nigeria Army with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
“We also ask that the president immediately constitute a fact-finding committee to ascertain the exact number of protesters that lost their lives and compensate families appropriately.
“On the other hand, we want the Nigerian youths to be focused on the struggle for a better Nigeria devoid of political leanings. They should refrain from destroying what we already have as a nation. Peaceful and non-violent protests have proven to be the most effective all over the world. It is the strength of democratic tenets.
“We call on the Federal Government to ensure genuine police reform as well as ensuring that the lives of the citizens and those living in Nigeria are safeguarded. The current situation should not be allowed to degenerate into anarchy.
“We also urge the security agencies to live up to their expectations in securing the country at this critical time of our nation’s history,” the group said.
According to the coalition: “It is unfortunate that this action which is not acceptable in any form in a civil society regrettably resulted in killing of armless protesters at Lekki Toll Plaza, Lagos.
“We have noted with concerns the protests by Nigerians calling for the disbandment of SARS and total reform of the Nigeria Police Force in the last one week.
“It is regrettable that the peaceful protests meant to draw attention of authorities to the much needed reform in many areas of governance, was (allegedly) hijacked by some unscrupulous elements to feather their selfish interests. These fifth columnists sponsored hoodlums to unleash mayhem on unarmed protesters.
“Our coalition, consisting of 100 civil society organisations after an extensive and painstaking deliberation on events trailing the protests, wish to express our disappointment on the orgy of violence that have trailed the protests so far in the country.
“This ugly development, no doubt, has inflamed passions among the people and thus escalated tension in all parts of the country at the moment.”
It stated further: “The resultant effect of this is the ongoing destruction of private and public infrastructures across the country today.
“We call on President Muhammad Buhari, to as the Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to immediately order the immediate suspension of ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’.
“We ask that he follows this up with the sack of the Chief of Army Staff in particular, and all the current Service Chiefs in general to pave way for a new and efficient security architecture.
“Like we observe, for Nigerians to trust the president and believe him that the soldiers acted on their own, he must not only immediately sack the Chief of Army Staff and all the officers concerned, but also immediately hand them over for prosecution.
“We believe that taking this first step will calm frayed nerves and restore the peoples’ confidence once more in his ability to provide them the desired security.”