By Collins Agwam
Few weeks ago, youths from various divides across Nigeria came out in their numbers to protest police brutality by a unit of the Nigeria Police Force, Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
The EndSARS protests which is believed to have been triggered by an event in Ughelli, had thousands of Delta youths hit the streets in one voice, calling for the scrapping of SARS which according to many, intimidated people, including shooting at youths at the slightest provocation instead of protecting them from armed robbers and bandits.
Few days into the protest, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Muhammed Adamu announced the disbandment of SARS in a bid to calm the nerves of youths and get them off the streets but unfortunately, that even got them more angered as they felt the federal government were not being sincere with them in the scrapping of SARS as it wasn’t the first time such pronouncement was made.
The heat of the protest was all over Delta state like wild fire which if not controlled, could affect the social and economic standing of the state as businesses were already shutting down due to the barricade of major roads in the state by these ‘angry’ youths who wanted their voices to be heard at all cost.
As I pointed out earlier, the protest which had been adjudged as peaceful soon turned violent as hoodlums raided government-owned institutions and private properties – stealing and carting away belongings, and even maiming some who they felt stood in their way.
But as is consistent with Ekwueme, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa immediately swung into action to forestall breakdown of law and order while at the same time finding solutions to address issues that youths are concerned about.
As a compassionate father who feels the pains of his people, Governor Okowa met with the youths and explained that the ongoing nationwide protests for police brutality was a reflection of leadership and family failures over the years.
He told the protesters that as youths of the nation, they had every right to organise themselves to protest against societal ills.
The Governor pleaded with the protesters to remain peaceful and calm, assuring them that his administration would engage with the police authorities and other stakeholders to meet their demands.
Okowa however warned that hoodlums hiding under the guise of the EndSARS protest to perpetuate arson and destruction of public and private assets in the state would contend with the law.
In addressing the issues raised by the youths and ensuring that justice is served to erring officers of the disbanded Police unit, Governor Okowa approved the constitution of an 8 – man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra – judicial killings in Delta State from victims of the disbanded Special Anti – Robbery Squad (SARS) or any other police unit, with a view to delivering justice to them.
The Governor who was very emotional while inaugurating the panel decried that, it is unfortunate that those empowered to protect the lives of Nigerians are killing and brutalising them. He urged the panel to unearth all human rights abuses by the disbanded Police unit and deliver justice to the victims and succour to grieving families.
In his determination to ensure that the needs of the youths are met in the shortest possible time, Ekwueme organized a Town Hall meeting which had in attendance, the EndSARS protesters, civil society groups, students and community leaders across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Okowa discussed modalities on how to create more jobs for the youths while emphasizing that his administration has initiated several skills acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes to empower youths in Delta state.
Okowa further urged the youths to show interest in governance while also challenging them to show capacity that they can do what the elders have failed to do.
As a father that he is, the people’s governor assured youths that in the next local government elections, 80 to 90 percent of youths will occupy councillorship positions in the state.
With these efforts put in place by the Governor to address the needs of youths in the state, it won’t be out of place to say that Ekwueme is a youth friendly Governor and deserves to be applauded for standing by his words to protect the genuine interest and prosperity of all Deltans at all times.