Amid continuing protests in Abia State by the EndSARS agitators, the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has announced cash gifts for the victims of brutality and extra-judicial actions committed by some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – the dissolved tactical unit of the Nigeria Police Force in the state, Igbere TV reports.
The governor announced this during a statewide broadcast on the security situation in Abia State on Wednesday.
Below is the full transcript of the broadcast;
“MY GOOD PEOPLE OF ABIA STATE
“I am addressing you today to keep you updated on the unfolding situation in the country and Abia State in particular and the latest developments as well as the steps we have taken as a Government in response to the developments.
“As you are all aware, a lot of Nigerians, comprising mostly of the youths, have been protesting for over a week now to request the disbandment of a Police Unit and draw general attention to incidences of Police maltreatment of citizens Nationwide. The protests have also held in Aba and Umuahia in Abia State.
“I wish to place it on record that I agree that peaceful protests are a legitimate means of ventilating anger in a democratic setting and I therefore agree with the rights of the citizens especially of Abia State to peacefully protest any situation that they are uncomfortable with. You will also agree that the Abia State Government and her officials have ensured that the legitimate peaceful protesters have been given every avenue to ventilate their grievances.
“It has however become obvious that the legitimate protesters have been unable to control the spread of the protest and have allowed it to degenerate into civil disobedience which has been hijacked by criminal elements as a means to foment trouble, endanger lives and damage public property.
“A situation where a Policeman will be killed, Police stations attacked and burnt down with other harm to government infrastructure, is sadly outside the realm of acceptable conducts in the cause of a protest. Citizens have become apprehensive with clear and present danger to lives of Ndi Abia and no responsible Government will sit back and allow this state of affairs to continue.
“Over the last 5 years, we have managed to keep Abia State very peaceful through the instrumentality of security agencies working in concert with Government and the citizenry and we intend to take all legitimate steps to safeguard the peace and security of the State and its inhabitants.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that some people are not happy with the peaceful atmosphere in the state and will seek any available means to foment trouble for their nefarious and political ends but we will continue to frustrate their efforts at every turn.
“As a response to the initial demands of the protesters, we have set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry chaired by a former Chief Judge of Abia State, Hon. Justice S.N. Imo with 70% of the membership made up of youths and those familiar with the situation. We are awaiting their report and I pledge to work with relevant agencies to ensure full implementation of the outcome.
“Furthermore, the Abia State government has provided a cash reward for any individual with incontrovertible evidence of police brutality and high-handedness that will help the Panel with its assignment.
“We have also announced a cash reward for those who will give us information about the criminal elements who carted away the arms and ammunitions of Police Officers who were attacked in Aba yesterday.
“I also wish to remind us that we have diligently ensured the arrest and prosecution of all officers who have been involved in highhandedness on citizens. Our records of intolerance to the maltreatment of Abians by security operatives speak for us. We therefore advise restraint and maturity on the part of the agitators while assuring them that the Abia State Government does not support the attack on innocent peaceful protesters.
“Let me also place it on record that the Abia State Government did not and has no intention to order the arrest of any peaceful protester and any report to the contrary should be discountenanced.
“I wish to emphasize that no sitting Governor controls rule of engagement of security agents but we shall ensure that all allegations of high handedness by security agents will be investigated by the judicial panel. But we encourage our people not to confront armed security agents as doing so might lead to unfortunate outcomes.
“I have just finished a Security Council Meeting with Service Commanders of all Security Formations in the State and all hands are on deck to keep the people of Abia State safe and ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order.
“Ndi Abia Ndi Nwem, I am aware that we are still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and our economy is not in the best state at the moment.
“It is therefore my view that what we, especially Ndigbo, need at the moment, is a peaceful atmosphere and the right ambience for our businesses to flourish. This is a key priority of this government and we are dedicated to creating that environment.
“As your Governor, exercising the mandate of security and protection of your lives, livelihoods and properties, I shall not allow our people to be cajoled, overwhelmed and intimidated in the course of their legitimate endeavours and I pledge to keep you safe at all times.
“It is for this reason that we have taken the painful but necessary step of imposing a curfew in Aba and Umuahia. It began by 6pm on October 20 and we will be reviewing prevailing security situations to decide on next steps. The curfew is a temporary measure meant to ensure the restoration of law and order in the state.
“We regret the inconveniences this will cause our citizens and residents and urge everyone not on essential duty to stay indoors for the duration. Law enforcement agents have been detailed to act decisively against anyone willfully disobeying the order. As is the custom, all essential service providers validly identified are exempted from the curfew.
“Let me also register my concern over the turn of events in other parts of the country and urge all relevant authorities to find peaceful means of resolving the situation so as to douse the current state of apprehension that has gripped the Nation.
“Dear Abians, let me once again reiterate our resolve to ensure the nurturing of an enabling environment for citizens to express their fundamental human rights while also assuring that we are fully committed to ensuring that our state does not descend into anarchy and lawlessness.
“I fully understand the issues that gave birth to the initial peaceful protests and share the pains of our people. But in protesting injustice, we should not allow injustice to be done to innocent citizens and institutions.
“As your elected Governor, I wish to call on all our youths to stand down now and allow us to do the needful to redress their grievances. I do not want any more Abia life to be lost and I am therefore appealing for calm and good sense. Nobody starts a fire in his mother’s kitchen and nobody cuts his nose to spite his face.
“Umu Abia, we have to be wary of those imported to cause problem in our state. We do not have any other state as ours than Abia.
“Whatever is our personal and collective grievances can and will certainly be resolved. Ndi Abia, please call your children and encourage them to stand down for peace to reign.
“We have to do this to avoid losing control of the situation and allow forces outside the state to have reason to unleash death, sorrow and tears on our people. Please Ndi Abia ndi nwem, ka anyi jiri ako n’uche mee ihe. Onye ndi Iro gbara gburugburu na eche ndu ya nche.
“I thank you all for listening and urge you all to please stay safe.”