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Buhari breaks silence on #EndSARS panels’ reports

Buhari

*Says state govts will have to act on reports of their panels before FG will act on the recommendations

*US expects responses that address grievances of victims – Blinken

*Govt agents attacking Lagos panel members, Adegboruwa raises alarm

For the first time since the panels set up by various state governments to probe cases of Police brutality started turning in their reports, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday broke his silence on the reports of the panels.

Speaking on Thursday at a meeting with the United States secretary of state, Antony Blinken, in Abuja, President Buhari said the Federal Government will allow the system to exhaust itself, and will, therefore, wait for pronouncements from state governments that set up panels to probe police brutality in the country.

While the probe panels set up by governments of Rivers, Delta, Ogun, among others, had earlier submitted their reports, the Lagos State panel presented its report on police brutality — including the Lekki shooting — to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday.

In its findings, the Lagos panel said security operatives “killed unarmed protesters” who had gathered at the Lekki tollgate.

The panel had also listed recommendations, including ensuring justice for victims and bringing security operatives found culpable to justice.

Speaking on Thursday at the meeting with the United States secretary of state, Buhari said state governments will have to take steps on the reports of their panels, before the Federal Government acts on the recommendations.

“So many state governments are involved, and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels.

“We at the federal government have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. Federal government has to wait for the reaction of the states,” he said, according to a statement by Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman.

Speaking on the removal of Nigeria from countries violating religious freedom, Buhari said his administration remains committed to freedom of worship, adding that “no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith”.

The President equally appreciated the United States of America for allowing Nigeria to procure military hardware to fight terrorism in the country, and for the training given to Nigerian military.

“It’s helping us to stabilise the situation in the north-east, and we’ve made a lot of progress since 2015,” he said.

“We are doing a lot on security, and the people involved appreciate our efforts,” he added.

He said education is a priority in the country, “because when you educate a people, there are certain levels they will not fall below.”

On development of democratic ethos, President Buhari said Nigeria has adopted the American model, “hook, line, and sinker, with its term limits.

“Those who have attempted to breach it were disappointed, if not disgraced. You are even lucky if you have two terms. Others try hard, and don’t get it. The American model has been accepted by Nigerians as the best,” he said.

Nigeria and her neighbors, President Buhari noted, have been living with the impact of climate change for a while, which has seen the Lake Chad shrink drastically from its original size, and affected the livelihood of about 30 million people in the Lake Chad Basin countries.

“That is why the youths defy the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean to attempt emigrating to Europe. Inter-basin water transfer is needed to keep the youths at home, and they can resume their lives of farming, fishing, and animal husbandry.”

Speaking, the US secretary of state, who had held a virtual meeting with President Buhari earlier in the year, said jokingly that it was now good to see him “mask to mask, hoping that we will soon see face to face.”

He appreciated the contributions of President Buhari to protection of the climate, particularly his presence and contributions at the recent COP26 climate conference held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Blinken said America and Nigeria have diverse challenges, but a common denominator is security, and hoped for better partnerships, “so that the bad guys won’t get the good guys.”

He described the report of the EndSARS probe panel as “democracy in action,” stressing that America equally had its own police brutality, and hoped that necessary reforms would be made.

Briefing State House correspondents shortly after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Blinken said the United States welcomes the conclusion of the independent panel of inquiry established by the Lagos State government to look into the events that took place at the Lekki Toll Gate in October, 2021.

He said: “This report is amidst the EndSARS protest including the killings and other alleged abuses by security forces.

“We anticipate and look to the state and federal governments’ response to the findings and expect these to include steps that show accountability and address the grievances of the victims and their families.”

The Secretary of State further noted that the US is working with the Nigerian government to help those who are most affected by conflict and violence in the country, particularly in the Northeast.

He stated that the United States is providing vital humanitarian aid to approximately 2.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Meanwhile, Legal practitioner, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), has raised an alarm over what he described as “vicious attacks” on members of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Enquiry on Police Brutality following the group’s submission of its report.

“Since the submission of the EndSARS Panel Report to the Governor of Lagos State on November 15, 2021, members of the Panel have become the subject of vicious attacks by those suspected to be agents of the government, ” Adegboruwa, a member of the panel, said in a statement he issued on Thursday.

“All manner of allegations has been heaped upon Panel Members, some of who have been called unprintable names.”

He restated that members of the panel were appointed on merit, debunking reports that they lobbied to get into the position.

“As a matter of fact, in my own case, His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, appealed to me to accept my appointment, which I saw as a call to national service,” he added.

“The primary reason the Governor gave to me then was that he wanted men and women of integrity, independent and not subject to manipulation, to be on the Panel.”

Adegboruwa described a report credited to an unnamed counsel to the Lagos State Government that members of the panel took bribes as “unfair, ungodly, and least expected of the government and its lawyers”.

According to him, the panel is waiting for the Lagos State Government’s white paper on the report submitted by the panel but decried the “mindless propaganda upon Panel Members”.

While calling on the Lagos State Government to “call its agents and lawyers to order so as not to provoke aggravated responses,” he said members of the panel deserve better treatment from the government.

“I should not become a victim of unwarranted attacks just because I accepted to serve the government and the outcome of that assignment did not favour the expectations of the government,” Adegboruwa, further noted.

“Suffice it to mention that I worked with men and women of unblemished integrity and I’m proud to be associated with them all,” he added.

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Chuka Francis

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