From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
For weeks now, Nigerian youths have taken to the streets protesting police brutality and bad governance tagged:EndSARS. Though the protest was initially peaceful and well coordinated, the infiltration of hoodlums and bandits who hijacked the exercise using it to perpetrate numerous unpatriotic acts, has, however, corrupted the protest as looting of property, destruction of both government and private installations and facilities have characterised it.
Indeed, there has also been allegations of killing of protesters by security operatives, a fall out of violent activities by protesters who ought to have carried out their activities in peaceful mannerism. No state across the federation is spared of this mayhem, as properties worth trillions of Naira have been either burnt or outrightly destroyed nationwide.
However, while other states are counting both human and material loses in large quantities, surprisingly to many, Kano has been able to maintain peace, if not for some pockets of skirmishes which was quelled and controlled. Last week, Kano was in the news when a group of EndSARS protesters clashed with hoodlums at Sarki Yaki/Airport Road. Hoodlums had hijacked the EndSARS protest which commenced in Sarki Yaki Road, Sabon Gari. The protesters who passed through the streets of Sabon Gari were, however, infiltrated by hoodlums at Igbo Road and Airport Road, during which properties were destroyed, cars burnt and business places looted.
Speaking to journalists in his office, the state Commissioner of Police, Habu A. Sani, said the groups of protesters who officially received approval from security agencies were all within Sabon Gari axis of Kano. He confirmed that they had been peaceful in their protest for three days, adding that on the day two, they even slaughtered goat in an open place and ate.
According to him, penultimate Tuesday was day three of the protest, but unfortunately, at Airport Road, they had a clash with another group which snowballed into violence. The Police boss added that, “some groups within Sabon Gari actually came to us and said they wanted to engage into peaceful protest. We asked them what their grievances were and urged them to write it down and channel them to government. We even called a security meeting with their leaders in attendance, including all the tribal chiefs from Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Delta. Religious leaders from CAN and the Council of Ulama were also in attendance.
He added that, “we now told them that we have security reports that something bad might happen. Today, instead of the protesters to remain in one place, they started moving around. As they move towards airport Road, they met another group and clashed, some of them were wounded. No single place of worship was burnt down. Some vehicles were burnt a d damaged. Seven vehicles were burnt, eight vehicles were damaged. Galaxy Mall along Igbo Road was vandalized. Summit Lodge along Hausa Road by Igbo Road was vandalized. We arrested a Medical Doctor in possession of gun and was during. We have invited all youth leaders and community leaders. We have discussed with them and they have promised to go back and talk to their people. I can assure you that the situation has been brought under control.”
Armed with security reports that some disgruntled elements wanted to give the scenario an ethno-religious colouration, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje inaugurated a 17-man peace Committee designed to ensure sustenance of peace in the state in the wake of pockets of violence that erupted as a result of the EndSARS protest that was used by hoodlums to cause skirmishes.
Ganduje responded to the ugly clash between groups of youths and hoodlums resulting to destruction of properties in some parts of the state. According to a Statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, Ganduje while addressing members of the Committee at the Africa House, Government House, Kano, charged the Committee to convene Ethnic Community Meeting with a view to assuming collective responsibility for measures that promote peaceful co-existence.
He also tasked the Committee to work on appropriate peace-building mechanisms for the sustanability of various peace efforts by the government and security agencies.
Ganduje, who described the incident as most unfortunate, urged the committee members to educate youth in their midst on the impotance of peace and been law abiding. Ganduje said that his administration has instituted various measures to safeguard life and property of people in the state.
The Committe, which is being co-chaired by Eze Ndigbo in Kano, Igwe Boniface Ibekwe and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Adeyemi Samuel, has representatives of various christian denominations, christian youth groups, representatives of ethnic nationalities and that of traders. A similar Committee was also constituted among Muslims leaders, Imams, Ulamas and other opinion leaders, including members of the business community.
Ganduje also met with the leadership of civil society groups in the state and explained why peace must continue to reign in the state. During the meeting at the Africa House, Government House, Kano, Thursday, he acknowledged that, while demands are ingredients of democracy, destruction is avoidable and not a right step in any democratic setting. He added that, “it is because of destructions that curfew is imposed in some states. Demonstration is seen from various perspectives and depending on certain variables. People should come to understand that, we have just graduated from the lockdown caused by COVID-19 pandemic. So it is absolutely necessary to understand that anything that could cause another stay at home should be avoided. ‘
Ganduje added that he was not holding the interactive session with the civil society groups in order to dig out from them why demonstrations were going on in some states, “but rather to point out the reason why putting a halt to it is extremely important. Here in Kano something started from Kofar Mata few days ago, but through dialogue we overcome the situation and peace reigns. So also another thing started erupting from Sabon Gari. We were also able to quench it down through dialogue.”
He disclosed that, ‘those who started the trouble from Sabon Gari, eight of them, were with me and we showed them the real reason why such development was avoidable and not necessary by any standard. They realised their mistake and apologised. So dialogue can heal any wound, anyway.” He added that surprising, what was expected, as to from where such ugly incident could happen, did not happen, “but the other way round. We didn’t expect it to start happening from where it started. But we told them that, they too, were born in Kano and must do everything possible to see that the state continue to live in peace. We reminded them about the economic position of the state, as to why they should allow peace to reign so that they too, could benefit from the peaceful atmosphere. What we always say is, everybody is an indigene of Kano, except that some are with primordial claims elsewhere. We don’t have this issue of non-indigene in Kano.”
He further recalled how Kano state government played a critical role in dousing tension some months back, when some Northern youth groups issued a Quit Notice to some sections of Nigerians to leave Northern part of the country, “we called those youth groups and the leadership of those people from across the 19 Northern states. We sat together eye-ball-to-eye-ball. And at the end of it all, we resolved and saved the situation amicably. I am still confident that, Kano is still one of the most peaceful states in the country. And that is not by accident. It is Allah’s Wish and all people have agreed to live in peace with one another. We are also grateful to Allah that our security agencies work with good and genuine synergy among them. ”
Recalling what happened as a build up to the then civil war, Ganduje said, “there were agitations here and there. We saw how many people were killed. Which led to the civil war. So if this development continues, I think it is developing a new dimension. You as leaders of the civil society groups, you are representing people. And your opinion is important and your interpretation is very important.”
In an interactive session with journalists on Monday night, Ganduje sued for peace, insisting that no society can achieve peace without synergy among stakeholders, particularly, security agencies and the media. Ganduje who hailed the media for their support towards ensuring a peaceful society, maintained that peace could not have been possible in Kano if the media did not play its critical role of disseminating accurate information to the public. He called for advise and inputs from the leadership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kano state chapter, insisting that the media remain critical stakeholders for a better society.
The Kano State NUJ chairman, Comrade Abbas Ibrahim, called for effective and robust Police Community Relations Initiative, which is already in place. He also promised that journalists in Kano will continue to synergize with government to ensure a peaceful and better society.
The AUTHORITY reports that normalcy has since returned to the Sabon Gari axis of the ancient commercial city as people have continued with their daily businesses, unperturbed. However, security agents are visibly sighted at strategic locations within the area. A top security chief in the state who spoke to our Correspondent on security arrangement, assured that there was no cause for alarm. The security boss who does not want his name mentioned said the State Security Service (SSS), the Police, Army, Civil Defence and other security and para-military agencies are synergizing to ensure that peace and order are maintained. “I am also happy to inform you that His Excellency, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is giving us all the support we need. He is a listening leaders. He is a man of peace and we have assured him the we are not going to fail.”