While local media, international rights groups and many Nigerians keep harping on the brutality of soldiers killing unarmed youth protesting bad policing at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Tuesday, the Southwest Governors Forum has taken a position that could anger many.
The forum doubted the veracity of the news of casualties spread by the Nigerian media which largely depend on reports by the Amnesty International claiming soldiers shot dead no fewer than 12 protesters.
“There were no doubt different levels of injury to persons arising from the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate,’ said Forum’s chairman and Ondo Gov Rotimi Akeredolu in a statement in Akure on Friday.
“We note, with great relief, the confirmation by the governor that no fatality was recorded at the Lekki Toll Gate incident based on visits to hospitals, mortuaries, both private and public.
“Consequently, we insist that full investigation be conducted to ascertain the veracity of the news items liberally circulated by some local media.”
It also commended the calmness of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the face of wanton destruction and provocation by the rampaging protesters.
“We note his patience and understanding in the face of unwarranted provocation by agents of darkness. We stand, resolutely, with him at this trying period.”
Akeredolu and his colleagues expressed worries that the ENDSARS movement has been infiltrated by destructive elements in the wake of curfews across the south-west since Tuesday.
According to him, the protests started as genuine, demanding reforms and restitution, but the current happenings have exposed dubiousness and complicity evidencing malice afore-thought.
“We enjoin our youth to rise to defend our land and people against the diabolical incursions ravaging our space. What do we stand to gain by destroying ourselves?
“We cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our heritage destroyed, and our people suffer.
“We must engage, constructively, all those whose dubious solutions to a social problem is the descent to anarchy. We appeal to them to ‘calm down’.
“We should not allow brigandage and wanton destruction of lives and property within our walls in the South-West.”
The forum noted that regression into savagery exposes the region as not only vulnerable but susceptible to vile manipulations by elements keenly anxious to annihilate the south-west and destroy its heritage.
“We are deeply concerned with the ease with which public buildings, utilities, police stations and investments of our people have been burnt despite the proximity of security agencies in those areas.
“We call on the heads of all security agencies to be alive to their obligations to defend the country. We charge the relevant security agencies to investigate all cases of violence to identify the culprits.
“We are particularly worried that 48 hours, after the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos by persons adorning military fatigue, there has been no definitive statement from the military authorities on the incident.
The group insisted Sanwo-Olu could not have deployed soldiers to quell the protest.
“No governor has the power to authorise the deployment of military personnel in Nigeria,” the governors said.
They called on the Nigerian army to make a public statement about the deployment.
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