PRESS STATEMENT — Following the #EndSARS protests, the Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), led by Comrade Igboayaka O. Igboayaka, has urged the Nigerian government to genuinely engage youths in the country with the view to effectively implement their legitimate concerns, noting that their agitation for a better Nigeria with responsive governance is justified.
In a press briefing with news men in Abakaliki Ebonyi State on Friday, 30th October, 2020, the council noted that both the youth and the government have a key role to play in moving the nation forward while challenging the younger generation to prepare themselves for leadership positions as they are the major stakeholders of any nation which desires to progress and reach its Eldorado in infrastructural development, robust economy, human capital development and what have you.
We therefore express optimism that youths as major stakeholders of any nation and agents of positive change shall demonstrate quality character for leadership if given the chance to nagivate the waters of mainstream leadership positions in the country.
Acknowledging that the demonstrations which was simultaneously conducted for two weeks in many states across the country, was largely peaceful until the terrible and unfortunate incident of the invasion and irresponsible shooting of unarmed protesters by military personnel at Lekki Tollgate, he, however, regretted the destruction of private and public businesses and valued assets which ensued when hired hoodlums and political thugs decided to discredit the #EndSARS movement by hijacking it to their mischievous advantage. He noted that the incident mostly affected the youths.
We must however admit that the #EndSARS movement was the tipping point which the youths employed to vent out their anger, dissatisfaction and frustrations; a valid tone of rebellion over the reign of bad governance, disenchantment, unemployment, police brutality, harassment, extortion and other injustices orchestrated against the youths. The many years of ongoing social trauma caused by inadequate healthcare systems and institutions of education, systemic corruption, nepotism, electoral fraud, poverty and more.
The protests also proved that there is a serious disconnect between the youths and the government at different levels and instead of find ways to bridge the gap, they try to use force and intimidation to quell it which snowballed into something else. The government should be sensitive enough to understand that they owe the youths an apology for failing in their responsibility and not to employ or deploy elements of force against them.
Amnesty International documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria between 2017 and 2020. In a damning report published in June 2020 the human rights organization said people in SARS custody were “subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence.”
Adding to that, the hardship and suffering of the youths has aggravated these past few years so much such that eonomic inequality has reached its extreme levels in Nigeria, according to the United Nation Human Rights Commission, while Oxfam reported that in 2019 close to 70% of Nigeria’s population live below the poverty line of which its clear example can be adduced by the recent ‘looting’ of COVID-19 food palliatives hoarded at various warehouses across states of the country.
Government at all levels must display genuine efforts targeted at addressing these issues; showing seriousness in building trust in its disposition and dissemination of information and/or news, creating and providing adequate employment for the young and growing population, compensation for victims of police brutality, extra-judicial killings and the #EndSARS protesters and bringing the perpetrators(security personnel) to face the law.
The council x-rayed the nature of youth restiveness in Ebonyi State and urged the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi to avoid subsequent occurrence and to immediately commence the rehabilitation and dredging of Ozizza River in Afikpo that will link Ebonyi and its environs to the Atlantic Ocean thereby creating job and business opportunities to over 500,000 Igbo youths.
Once again, we wish to reiterate that all these, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria needs massive restructuring. Nigeria was in prosperous state when we were practicing true Federalism with three regions. It is on history that between 1954 and 1964 Eastern Nigerian Government was the fastest growing economy in the world. Therefore the only antidote for the continous crisis in Nigeria is to have a “UNITED STATE OF NIGERIA LIKE WHAT WE HAVE IN UNITED STATE OF AMERICA”.
The country is facing a reckoning, one that is long overdue. A lot of things needs to be amended to bring about the desired long lasting solution to all these quagmire and multifaceted issues fanning the embers of agitation by the young population of this country. With a youth bulge of under 30 years old, Nigeria can no longer ignore the demands of young people. We need to fortify the pillars of this country to hold the building if it must not collapse.
Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the National President, Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC)
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