Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has appealed to youths protesting police brutality to vacate Lagos roads and embrace dialogue for resolution of the issues.
He made the appeal while swearing-in members of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution at the State House in Marina, noting that the government has shown sincerity and willingness to address all concerns raised.
Sanwo-Olu’s appeal came on the heel of violent dimension assumed by the #EndSARS protests in some parts of the state.
The Nation reports that youths in their millions have in that 11 days laid siege on major cities across the country in protest against police brutality, extrajudicial killings and other excesses of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The protesters have rebuffed all entreaties to leave the streets and allow the government continue the resolution of all issues raised, insisting that they were tired of the failed promises made overtime.
According to Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State government has aside setting up the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, established a compensation funds for the victims of police brutality.
Acknowledging that the pains expressed and concerns raised by protesters were genuine, the governor reminded the youths that federal and states governments have acceded to some of their demands, adding that processes have been set up to implement others.
He urged the protesters to be part of the process of implementing the reforms they clamoured for in the police, stressing that continuous blocking of roads, government and private offices would slow down the procedure of implementing their demands.
He said: “We have shown unprecedented commitment to the complete overhaul of the Nigeria Police. The inauguration of this Judicial Panel of Inquiry is only the first step in a long line of reformative actions that will lead to a thorough revamp and reorientation of the Nigeria Police. I believe that some of the actions we have taken should, to a large extent, show our sincerity and willingness to address all your concerns.
“Let me reiterate that I am on the side of the young people out there. I understand your pain and I know your concerns are genuine and legitimate. While we are able to immediately acquiesce to some of your demands, some others will require time. We ask you to bear with us as we dutifully work on your demands.
“I will, therefore, like to renew my appeal to you to suspend the protests and create an atmosphere for the resolution of all pending demands. I encourage everyone brutalised by the disbanded SARS, including the families of those who died, to present their case before this tribunal.”
Sanwo-Olu said he believed the task of reforming the police was achievable, but required the input and cooperation of the youth to accomplish.
He commended the cohesiveness of the “resilient” young people who stood their ground in the last two weeks. Their tenacity, Sanwo-Olu said, has made the much-desired change in the policing system become inevitable.
Speaking about the judicial panel, the Governor said he was convinced that its outcome and recommendations would open a new chapter in police-citizen relationship.
He promised that the State Government would ensure that all wounds are healed, justice served to victims of abuse, and guilty police officers prosecuted.
At the time of the swearing in of the panel members, the representatives of the youth in the panel had not been nominated by the protesters.
The State Government, last Friday, reached out to the protesters to forward the name of their nominees into the judicial panel. The protesters, however, pleaded for more time to send the names of their nominees, four days after the Government’s request.
Meanwhile, motorists in Lagos have decried the growling traffic caused by the continued blocking of major roads by protesting youths.
Our Correspondent who went round parts of the state observed that vehicular movement was brought to a halt by the protests that have turned the agitations to carnival.
People going to work were forced to endure several hours of trekking while those who couldn’t withstand the rigour went back home.
On Ikorodu Road, the protesters blocked Ketu, inner Alapere road to Estate for several hours causing backlogs that stretched beyond Mile 12.
Motorists on that axis who said they were tired of the hardship lamented that they have suffered hours of traffic since Friday. Those commuting to Ikorodu said the protest has resulted in a hike in bus fare, adding that they were charged N1, 000 from Oshodi to Ikorodu Garage.
Appealing to the government to get the protesters off the road through any means possible, a motorist said he spent over 12 hours in traffic on Friday.
“It is not just about this Ketu. I stay in Ikorodu and I spent 12 in traffic on Friday. I left my office on the Island around 3pm; I did not enter my house till past 3am. The protesters formed two barricades inward Ikorodu.
“One was at the roundabout and the other one at Ogolonto. They continued like that till Sunday. This means we could not access the town from either entry points.
“While I support their agitation, I still think they are going about it the wrong way. Why make life impossible for other residents? It is not right. They should leave the roads. They can go and block the government houses but should leave the roads for others to go about their businesses,” he lamented.
It was gathered that anger of Ikorodu residents heightened at the weekend as people who were to attend social functions were stranded with most hosts sharing their foods and souvenirs on the road.
Traffic also escalated in the Alausa area of the state, as a resident, Tinuola Akinola lamented that he was forced to trek from Agidingbi to Magodo.
On Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, the protesters barricaded major connecting routes, bus stops forcing vehicles to park.
Occasionally lifted their placards and screaming #ENDSARS, some of the protesters turned the expressway to their relaxation spots either sleeping or sitting on the ground.
Some of the motorists told our Correspondent they have been on a spot for over four hours and were already exhausted as they do not know when the protesters intended to leave the road.
A truck driver, Abdulraman, said: “I have never seen anything like this. My brother is stuck on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway since early morning. I have been talking to my other colleagues and they said everywhere is blocked. I have slept and woken up but still on this spot. Government should quickly intervene so that these youths can leave the street.”
In Amuwo Odofin, the protesters including young people with disabilities blocked Second Rainbow and Apple Junction. They also blocked the Ago Roundabout end of the road preventing vehicular movement in and out of the protest venues.
Insisting that they were not thugs, the protesters said they would not be cowed by plots to unleash violence and blame it on them.
One of the organisers in Apple Junction who addressed the protesters admonished them to shun crime and all acts of violence. He reminded them that the goal was to purge the country of bad eggs including bad leaders and bad followers.
He challenged them to have introspection and end every trait of SARS in them, adding that love for one another must reign in their hearts. He also advised them to avoid being used by politicians to disrupt the peaceful protests going on across the country because the end goal was the birth of a new Nigeria.