Tuesday, November 17, 2020 2:50 pm
By Yemi Osinbajo
I bring you the warm greetings of Mr. President, H.E Muhammadu Buhari and he has also asked me to express once again, his sincere and deep condolences on the catastrophic events of the last few weeks. To that I add again, my own sincere commiserations to the government and people of Lagos State, this place of my birth, for the loss of lives of citizens, the injured and the colossal destruction of public and private properties, social amenities and infrastructure as we’ve heard and seen.
Never in the history of our nation has this former capital city, and our nation’s commercial nerve centre experienced such mindless acts of violence and the enormity of destruction that occurred.
Perhaps it is worth noting 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 challenges, perhaps in a 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. Of the 114 persons who pay self-assessed taxes of over N10million, 112 of them live and work here in Lagos. 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.
But even in the darkest of clouds, there is and will be silver linings. 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.
We have seen how the most noble causes, such as the ENDSARS protests designed to call attention to a serious problem of brutality and extrajudicial killings, can be subverted leading to the exact opposite of its objectives; chaos, murder, looting and arson. So, 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. Which is why it is important, as the Chairman of the Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund said, that we investigate and thoroughly interrogate the deep causes of the disenchantment that resulted in the chaos.
We recognize that our law enforcement agents who are tasked with keeping their fellow citizens safe do so under extremely difficult and challenging operational conditions; that while the dedication of the diligent officers among them is often overshadowed by the deviance and indiscipline of some of their comrades, there are undeniably a preponderance of competent officials who discharge their duties with a high sense of professionalism and patriotism. These good men and women in our police force and law enforcement agencies deserve our encouragement and support for standing in the gap between order and lawlessness.
At this point, let me pay tribute to the officers of the Nigeria Police Force who tragically lost their lives in the line of duty during the recent crisis. I offer my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the fallen. The task of serving and protecting the public is one of the noblest of professions and we are committed to upholding the dignity of all who do this work. Indeed, we recognize that the protests as well as the current national conversation they have inspired are ultimately about building a police force that will proudly represent our highest values. I will return to this point in a moment.
Your Excellencies, 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 and State, to make their contributions to the rebuilding and reconstruction effort. When Lagos works, it works for all of us.
For the Federal Government’s part, Mr. President has said that he will await a full report from Your Excellency, (the Governor) and I am sure that will be on hand soon so as to measure the sort of support that will be required.
We are also, of course, speaking with the National Assembly. I had a few conversations with the Rt. Honorable Speaker and we have also heard the representative of the Senate President, Senator Olamilekan Solomon, speak about the collaboration that must take place between the Executive and the Legislature and the National Assembly, in order to be able to do something that would make a difference in this reconstructive effort and of course, it is not just for Lagos, but for the rest of the country. But as we heard repeatedly, Lagos will clearly have to take the bulk of whatever effort that is put together.
For businesses that were destroyed, we also heard the CBN Governor speak about the CACOVID allowance and what the Bankers’ Committee will do. They have been speaking about suspending existing facilities that business owners may have in banks and also offering lines of cheap credit to help them rebuild their damaged facilities and re-stock.
But it is clear that the task of reconstruction goes beyond physical infrastructure or brick and mortar. 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, rebuild trust between law enforcement agents and the communities that they are meant to serve.
Never again should law enforcement find itself on the opposite side 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. After 70 years of the Police Act, the 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 even when they are questioned, or when they are detained, or whenever they have contact with the police or law enforcement agents under the purview of the police.
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 local communities. We recognize that our communities can be made safer when they are primarily policed by members of that same community who enjoy the trust of their neighbours. Which is why community policing involved recruitment of policemen from the local governments where these men and women live and they are required to remain in those local governments when they serve in the Police Force.
We must renew the ties that bind us together as a society. All of us who have a stake in a peaceful and prosperous Lagos must take upon ourselves, the task of expanding the umbrella of hope over all sections of our society.
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. Beyond restoring what we have lost, the task before us is nothing short of the reformulation of the social contract.
Let me extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those who lost their lives during the protests and to all those who have lost their loved ones or who have been affected by the actions especially of police brutality and brutality of law enforcement agents generally. Nothing can replace the life of a loved one and for that, I offer my deepest condolences.
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 the President has approved the setting up of Judicial Panels of Inquiry which has been established all over the country by the States of the Federation. Their mandate is to investigate cases of police brutality against citizens, where necessary recommend compensation for victims. Specifically, in Lagos, the mandate of the inquiry has been expanded to include the full investigation of the Lekki toll gate incidents. This process has begun in Lagos and you have seen already that all Federal Agencies and the armed services are participating actively in the proceedings of the judiciary inquiry. Mr. President said and I quote ”we will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to 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.
We have been through a very difficult time but all our moral traditions instruct us that character is forged in hardship. The things that truly strengthen us are gained in seasons of adversity.
It will be severely remiss of me if I leave here without commending the outstanding leadership shown by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo–Olu in what has been an immensely challenging season for the State.
First, Mr. Governor, you led your State’s efforts in addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic to both local and international acclaim with the sort of leadership you have shown. 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.
Throughout this period, your actions have been an example of responsibility, creativity, sensitivity and resolve under pressure. I want to say that we are extremely proud of what you have done and what you are doing. Thank you very much.
In closing, let me on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria assure you that we stand with you and the great people of Lagos as you undertake this difficult journey of rebuilding. It is my conviction that Lagos and our nation at large will emerge from this crisis better and stronger.
Igbega ipinle Eko, ajumose gbogbo wa ni o.
May God bless the government and people of Lagos State and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
-REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE REBUILD LAGOS INITIATIVE AND INAUGURATION OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF REBUILD LAGOS TRUST FUND IN LAGOS ON THE 16TH OF NOVEMBER, 2020