Lagos Deputy Governor, Hamzat urges #EndSARS protesters to eschew violence

Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Obafemi Hamzat while addressing the protesters on Friday

…Says Lagos Govt Is Totally Against Police Brutality

The Government of Lagos State has advised youths protesting alleged brutality by operatives of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – an operational outfit in the Police Force – to be civil, as they demonstrated in the State to express their grievances.

Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat (right), Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso (middle) after addressing the protesters.

Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat on Friday, shelved official engagements and obliged the request to address aggrieved protesters who besieged the State House in Alausa.

As the Deputy Governor arrived at the scene, some of the demonstrators engaged in intense arguments with the Government House police guards deployed to keep the peace. The operatives did not harass any of them.

Dr. Hamzat said the demonstrators’ outrage and grievance were in order and within their rights as citizens, but the Deputy Governor advised them to eschew violence and not to be unruly as their concerns would be pushed to the police authorities for action.

Hamzat, who urged the protesters to leave the roads, said the State Government would not condone brutality and violation of citizens’ rights by security operatives, pointing out that the position of the State on the matter had already been communicated to the appropriate quarters by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

.

The Deputy Governor said the State Government would continue to engage the police leadership and the Federal Government to address the issues raised by the citizens and bring about needed change in the police operations.

He said: “The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones.

“It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles.

“As a Government, we support evidence-based investigations and actions driven by intelligence. The procedure of arrest and prosecution must be followed through. We are equally aggrieved like every other law-abiding Nigerian.

“We fully understand the reasons for your anger but this demonstration must also be carried out in line with the law. If we employ violence or destruction to drive home our grievances, we will also be hurting ourselves.

“The protest must be orderly, so that those concerned will get the salient point of the message.

“You can’t block the road, disrupt free flow of traffic and prevent other people from embarking on their lawful duties, especially the emergency responders.

“As citizens, it is within your rights to express your grievances but let us exercise caution and eschew violence. The authorities have heard your voice and I hope we all leave the roads with the understanding that drastic changes will be effected.”

As the Deputy Governor left the scene at 1:15pm, the protesters continued to chant anti-police songs, calling for disbanding of SARS.

However, Dr. Hamzat instructed security operatives at the scene no to harass or exchange words with any of the demonstrators.

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A press statement by the Embassy on Friday, said: “During the visit, Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.

“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support.

“They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”

Townsend also met with senior military officials, including the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magash, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation.

Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin.

Townsend said furthermore: “The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation.

“U.S. Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”

As close partners, the U.S. and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability. Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year.

“Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region,” he added. “Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.”

The Commander also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.

Leonard said: “General Townsend’s visit to Nigeria demonstrates the strategic importance the United States places on our bilateral relationship with Nigeria.

“Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.”

As part of the visit, Townsend participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Nigeria Military National Cemetery to honour those who have given their lives in the service of their nation.

During the visit, the delegation expressed their condolences for the seven service men killed in the crash of a Nigerian Air Force aircraft in Abuja.