#ENDSARS: FG’ll ensure justice for all affected Nigerians – Osinbajo

As the work of the about 30 judicial panels of inquiry established nationwide to investigate cases of police brutality against citizens and provide compensation for victims where necessary continues, the Federal Government has again assured that there would be comprehensive justice for all affected Nigerians.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, gave the assurance Monday in Lagos State at the launch of the Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund.

Prof. Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, extended the Federal Government’s “commiserations to the government and people of Lagos State for the loss of lives of citizens, the injured, and the colossal destruction of public and private properties, social amenities and infrastructure.”

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre was both the epicenter of the #ENDSARS protests and the destruction that followed few weeks ago.

Noting the unfortunate loss of lives and property in Lagos and across the country, the Vice President added that the whole nation was in need of healing and the Buhari administration will pursue restorative justice for all affected.

According to the VP, referencing President Buhari’s commitment to justice, “these deaths should never have happened. It is now our responsibility to honour their memory and ensure that justice is comprehensively served.

“Our State, like our Nation, is in need of healing. We recognize that the balm for a wounded society is truth and justice. This is why judicial panels of inquiry have been established all across the country. Their mandate is to investigate cases of police brutality against citizens, and where necessary compensate victims.

“Specifically, in Lagos, the mandate of the inquiry has been expanded to include a full investigation of the Lekki toll gate incidents. This process has begun and all Federal Agencies and the armed services are participating actively as Mr. President said, and I quote, ”We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.”

“The pursuit of restorative justice, recompense for injury to innocents and a reckoning for perpetrators of abuse are essential components of the moral and ethical reconstruction of our homestead. I urge all of us to give this process a chance to work and to commit to the advocacy and participation that it will take to enable this process succeed.”

The Vice President again emphasized the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to reform the Nigeria Police Force and address the root issues that led to the protests.

On the looting and destruction that followed the ENDSARS protests, the Vice President stated, “we have seen how the most noble causes, such as the ENDSARS protests designed to call attention to a serious malignant problem of brutality and extrajudicial killings, can be subverted leading to the exact opposite of its objectives, chaos, murder, looting and arson. We saw what can happen when the restraints of law and order are loosed and anarchy is given free rein.”

“In those difficult days when chaos swept from street to street consuming lives and livelihoods, we learned that society is built on the balance between freedom and order. But we have also realized that order itself is a social construct sustained by the consent of the governed.”

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He called for public and private collaboration in the rebuilding and reconstruction of the State, which he noted had not experienced such level of wanton destruction in the past.

Osinbajo said, “it is now time to rebuild. It is time for the painful and costly task of reconstruction and rehabilitation. It is now time for the private sector, our international friends and partners, and all who love this city to make their contributions to the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts. When Lagos works, it works for all.

“On the Federal Government’s part, Mr. President has said that he will await a full report from Your Excellency (Lagos State Governor) and I am sure that will be on hand soon. For businesses that were destroyed, the CBN has been developing a plan to suspend existing facilities that they may have in banks and lines of cheap credit to help them rebuild their damaged facilities and re-stock.”

While describing Lagos as Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, the VP made reference to the socio-economic ripple effects the State has on the nation as a whole.

The Vice President added, “perhaps it is worth emphasizing that the destruction and disruption of life and work in Lagos is a national tragedy and a major economic setback for the Nation even as we face the most difficult economic challenges in our generation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the State that leads by far in the collection of non-oil revenues. The bulk of VAT is generated here. The Lagos port, whose Marina office was attacked, generates the most revenue and is the busiest in the Nation; the Lagos airport is the busiest in Nigeria. In so many ways our fortunes as a Nation are closely tied to the fortunes of this great State.”

According to the Vice President, government will continue to make efforts to improve its engagement with the youth and all Nigerians, while it continues the process of holistic reforms of the Police. Prof. Osinbajo made a firm proposition for the integration of young people in the new task of repositioning society.

The Vice President noted that, “we certainly cannot afford to alienate our young people who constitute the majority of our society and bear the burden of enterprise, resourcefulness and innovation required to propel our economy into the future.

“For their sake and ours, we need a broad-based and inclusive prosperity that creates opportunities on a scale commensurate with the aspirations of our population.”

The VP added that the task of reconstruction goes beyond physical infrastructure or brick and mortar.

He said, “there is a moral, social and ethical reconstruction to be undertaken as well. We must rebuild trust between the Government and the governed; the vast majority of who are young persons; trust between law enforcement agents and the communities that they are meant to serve. Never again should law enforcement find itself on opposite sides of any conflict with society.

“We must in the process rebuild the morale of our police force, the gallant men and women who daily brave the elements to keep us all safe. The process of reform has commenced.”

Prof. Osinbajo stated that the reformed Police Act and the Police Trust Act signed by the President was part of government’s efforts in improving the Police while ensuring the rights of Nigerian citizens are protected.

“After 70 years of the Police Act, Mr. President signed the new reformed Police Act 2020 into law. The new law contains in many parts components of a charter of the rights of citizens when being questioned.

“The President has also signed into law the Police Trust Act, essentially to provide a source of extra funding for the police. Equally, the Police has also initiated its community policing programme aimed at reframing policing as an activity based on trust between law enforcement and the community,” the VP said.

The Vice President also commended the leadership shown by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo–Olu, throughout the challenging period.

“First, Mr. Governor, you led your State’s efforts in addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic to both local and international acclaim. When State Governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC) resolved that States should establish judicial panels of inquiry, Lagos was the very first state to constitute its inquiry. Your actions have been an example of responsibility, creativity, sensitivity and resolve under pressure.”

The VP added that “Lagos and the Nation at large will emerge from this crisis better and stronger,” while noting that, “even in the darkest of clouds bear a silver lining. These trying times offer an invaluable learning opportunity, a teachable moment, and it is the lessons we draw from this period that will shape our path going forward.”

Earlier in their separate remarks, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, called for collaborative efforts in rebuilding Lagos, emphasizing that the level of destruction could not be handled by the State Government alone.

Mr. Emefiele then pledged the support of the organized private sector in the rebuilding of Lagos State which he noted would include the reconstruction of destroyed police stations by the private sector coalition and supporting affected private businesses to survive the devastation.

Other speakers at the event were the representative of Senate President, and Senator representing Lagos-West Senatorial District, Sen. Olamilekan Adeola, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, among others.

The Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund Board led by Mr. Yemi Cardoso was inaugurated at the event.