By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
A non-governmental organization (NGO), Tor Gowon Yaro Foundation, has petitioned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami SAN, demanding his intervention to prevail on the Federal Government to reverse all punitive actions taken against certain Nigerian Youths and business interests perceived to be active in the October 2020 peaceful #EndSARS protest in Nigeria.
The Tor Gowon Yaro Foundation, in a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, dated January 11, 2021, signed by the Executive Director, Tor Gowon Yaro, demanded the urgent intervention of Malami “for the reversal of the restrictions imposed on some Nigerian youths, whose bank accounts were frozen by the Federal Government of Nigeria which identified them as leaders of the peaceful #EndSARS protests in the country in October 2020.”
Tor Gowon Yaro observed that the Nigerian Youths had peacefully protested police brutality allegedly unleashed on citizens by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force, pointing out that President Muhammadu Buhari took swift action to order the dissolution of the SARS by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in acceptance of the five demands of the #EndSARS peaceful protesters, which include the reform of the Nigerian Police Force. He also noted that the President had repeatedly admitted in his national broadcasts on the #EndSARS peaceful protest that the protest was, indeed, peaceful; acknowledging that Nigerian youths involved in the protest had the right to protest. President Buhari, however, decried that the peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums who tuned the peaceful protest to violence. The Foundation further noted that the President had appealed to the Nigerian youths to withdraw from the streets, assuring them that their voices have been heard, and that the five demands had been accepted by the government. President Buhari had also assured the Youths that the disbandment of the SARS was the first phase of the reform of the Nigeria Police, promising that the Federal Government will in the reform consider the salaries and welfare of police officers in the country which were part of the #EndSARS demands.
Tor Gowon Yaro in the letter to the AGF acknowledged: “to the credit of the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari responded positively and timely to the five demands of the #EndSARS peaceful protesters, disbanding the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force, including other actions which the Foundation perceives to be good and patriotic advice of your Office.
“Also, President Buhari repeatedly acknowledged in some of his national broadcasts that the Nigerian youth involved in the #EndSARS peaceful protest have the right to protest, assuring that their voices had been heard loud and clear; and they should give the government chance to implement their demands.
“The President also admitted in his speeches that the #EndSARS protest was peaceful, until it was hijacked by hoodlums.”
The Executive Director, therefore, argued: “By the President’s own statement, the #EndSARS protesters were not culpable in their action but the hoodlums who hijacked the protests and unleashed violence on public institutions and the society. The Federal Government ought to have gone after the hoodlums who were violent and not the peaceful #EndSARS protesters.”
The Executive Director of the Tor Gowon Yaro Foundation expressed displeasure that the Federal Government after promising to implement the five demands of the #EndSARS protesters, later turned to purportedly go after some Nigerian Youths identified as leaders of the peaceful #EndSARS protest. The Federal Government was alleged to have frozen the bank accounts of some youths, including business interests; the government was alleged to have confiscated the international passports of some youths, though, the Nigerian Immigration Service denied seizure of passports, while explaining that those who encountered temporary routine checks of their passports had them returned without delay. There were also reports of alleged arrest of some youths by the security operatives during the tenure of implementing the five demands of the #EndSARS peaceful protesters. He demanded reversal of these purported punitive actions.
The Foundation Executive Director advocated that the Nigerian government should treat the Youths as relevant stakeholders and future investment in the country’s national development and reassure them of rebuilding their confidence and mutual trusts in the nation building process.
Tor Gowon Yaro had accordingly, declared: “While the Federal Government of Nigeria has continued to implement the five demands of the #EndSARS protesters, essentially, the reform of the Nigerian Police Force, it is apposite that the government seeks ways to handle the Nigerian youths as relevant stakeholders and future investment of the country’s development and nation building processes in their patriotic demand for a better Nigeria which is the expectation of all citizens, including those in the current government.
“It is necessary to reassure the Nigerian youths of their self confidence and trust in government, which will facilitate their mobilization for national responsibilities, including civil duties.
“It is in view of the above that the Foundation is appealing for a reversal of the various sanctions and intimidation of the Nigerian youth by the Federal Government, in ways of ‘the frozen of their bank accounts and seizure of their national passport and arrest.’
“The Foundation demands that their bank accounts be unfrozen, passport returned and no more seizures, and end to arrest.”
The Foundation presented a list of 20 victims whose bank accounts were purportedly frozen by the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria. The list includes the following:
- Bolatito Racheal Oduala
- Chima David Ibebunjoh
- Mary Doose Kpengwe
- Gatefield Nigeria Ltd
- Saadat Temitope Bibu
- Bassey Victor Israel
- Umoh Grace Ekanem
- Babatunde Victor Segun
- Mulu Louis Teghenan
- Mary Oshifoworu
- Winifred Akpevweogh Ene Jacob
- Wisdom Busaosowo Obi
- Nicholas Ikhalea Osazele
- Ebere Idibie
- Akintomide Lanre Yusuf
- Uhuo Ezenwanyi Promise
- Mosopefoluwa Odeseye
- Adegoke Pamilerin Emmanuel
- Victor Solomon
- Idunnu A. Williams
“…given the urgency of this delicate matter, and in forestalling another mass protest, the Foundation will appreciate if the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as the chief law officer of the country, could offer wise advice to the Federal Government of Nigeria on the need to grant our demands and restore the rights of these youths…” Tor Gowon Yaro had declared.