A coalition of 17 Nigerian organisations in the Diaspora says it has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the #EndSARS protests.
In the letter dated Oct. 27, the coalition, comprising professional, ethnic and religious bodies, expressed outrage at the loss of lives and destruction of properties during the protests and made suggestions to move the country forward.
A copy of the letter titled, “Nigerians in Diaspora Appeal for Calm and Express Outrage over Loss of Lives and Destruction of Properties’’, was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York on Saturday.
The coalition suggested seven immediate actions the government should take to foster calm as it engaged all stakeholders on the path to lasting peace.
They include the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the alleged killing of unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos on Oct. 20 and the provision of security for legitimate protesters, and protection of properties against looters and other criminals.
The coalition also suggested that all state governors should “speedily and fairly review cases of arrested unarmed protesters, to facilitate quick release of innocent citizens”.
It also suggested the banning of the use of live bullets to enforce law and order during legitimate peaceful protests.
“In the unlikely event that the use of force is needed, it must be limited to activities that put the life of our security personnel at risk, and it must be the last resort.
“By taking the above steps, you are by no means caving to pressure, but doing what an effective leader must do during crisis of this nature.
“It must be ‘COUNTRY FIRST’, to bring everyone back to the table for meaningful discussion,’’ it stressed.
While pledging to continue to engage the Buhari administration on the matter, the coalition urged the youth to embrace peace and push their demands through dialogue.
“We are much better than what the world is seeing on social media and we must not allow others to shape the narrative about Nigeria.
“We have done so much in the diaspora to improve Nigeria’s image and would hate to see all our efforts go to waste,’’ it stressed.
The coalition said it sent copies of the letter to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
It said in the letter that the coalition was “painfully perplexed, distraught and distressed’’ by negative images of the protests that flooded the social media.
It noted that the portrayal of the protests in the social media eroded the positive image of the country that Nigerians at home and abroad had laboured hard to build.
“There is no doubt that we have our internal issues and that successive governments have not equally created opportunities for all citizens.
“These issues, however, could be addressed in much measured ways through dialogue, rather than the endless carnage we are watching from all social media avenues,’’ it stated.
It acknowledged government’s deference to the protesters’ demands and steps it took to meet the demands, including the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“While the above actions are commendable, we ask that you carefully consider what is driving the insistence of the youth for broader and deeper reforms in Nigeria.
“Successive administrations have consistently failed the youth to the point of despair and hopelessness.
“This protest is not just about inadequacies of the current administration, but an accumulation of issues of over many years.
“We appeal to you to look beyond the symptoms and focus on the root causes of what has driven our youths, our future leaders to the streets, to attempt to shape the narratives about their future,’’ it added.
Signatories to the letter are the Igbo Organisation, New York; Reimagining Black Matters; Akwa Ibom State Association, New York, and the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians.
Others are the Nigerian Independence Day Committee; the Nigerian American Public Affairs Committee and the Regional Council of Nigerian Muslims.
The Christ Apostolic Church, First in the Americas; Absolute Faith in Jesus Christ International Church, and Celestial Church of Christ also signed the letter.
The Nigerian Lawyers Association, Association of Nigerian Physicians, Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement, Nigerian Diaspora Voice, Nigerian Youth Diaspora Engagement Forum, Occupy Nigeria and the Association for Credible Leadership in Nigeria are also signatories.