Yemi Osinbajo and the Lekki tragedy
Sir: It is regrettable that the peaceful protests by young Nigerians ended rather tragically in the shootings at Lekki toll points in Lagos last Tuesday night. What started as a campaign against police brutality by thousands of our young citizens across the country has ended in a painful calamity. The EndSARS campaign is undoubtedly a noble attempt by our young ones to raise their voice against police brutality, corruption, poverty and other ills plaguing our nation. But the infiltration of the campaign by hoodlums who burnt down police stations and private cars, invaded prisons and harassed innocent citizens changed the narration. The authorities should have taken greater care to prevent the deaths of guiltless Nigerians.
Many political leaders have condemned the killings and destruction. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo posted his words of sympathies and condolences to those hurt in the violence: ‘‘I spoke to some of those in hospital. The pain of these terrible events is palpable in our towns and cities, and some losses are irreplaceable, but we can and will get justice for all of them,’’ he wrote. It is the second of such outpourings of grief in as many weeks by the VP.
I must commend the Vice President in his untiring efforts in driving the Federal Government’s response to this crisis and the reforms of the police as a major law enforcement institution. It was the Vice President that summoned the Inspector General of Police on October 4 to his office after which the IG made the initial announcement of the ban on SARS. The following Friday, the VP took the IG to the President who then gave the authority that led to the outright dissolution of SARS on Sunday, October 11. Next, the VP used the National Economic Council, which he chairs, to further push and deepen the reforms. In its October 15 meeting and under the direction of the VP, NEC directed state governors to establish Judicial Panels of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra judicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of SARS and other police units. So far, up to 13 states have established these panels.
Osinbajo’s role in the government’s response to this crisis is not his first step on the nation’s turbulent firmament. Early on in the life of the administration, the President deployed him to the Niger Delta region when pipelines were exploding and oil output significantly declining. The VP toured every all community and won the peace, and with that oil production level went north once again. When the President was away on a long medical leave in London in 2017, the VP stepped in and led creditably well. In all the situations, he has been trustworthy, truthful, humble and honest with Nigerians and to the president.
In moments of personal tragedies faced by some families, Osibanjo would step out to visit and comfort. In a moment of crisis, citizens expect to hear the comforting words of their leaders and see swift ameliorating interventions of their government. By stepping up and speaking to us when we hurt, and consoling the afflicted in their moment of anguish, the law professor continues to endear himself to us.
Etim wrote from Abuja.