Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, says the reforms promised by government in relation to the #EndSARS protests must show improved level of trust in governance.
Youth across the country had taken to the streets in October to demand an end to police brutality under the #EndSARS campaign.
Speaking to state house correspondents on Monday after separate meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Mohammed disclosed that the UN was disturbed by the level of damage that followed the protests.
Mohammed led a delegation of senior officials of the UN to Nigeria to discuss strategies on supporting government to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She had earlier joined Osinbajo to launch the ‘Nigeria UN Plus Offer for Socio-Economic Recovery – 2020-2022’.
Speaking on the protests, the UN deputy secretary-general urged government at all levels to ensure proper engagement with the youth to address the underlying issues raised during the demonstrations.
“We did raise while we were with Mr. President the issue around the recent challenges of EndSARS protests that happened in the country. Young people and their demands for social justice, governance are all legitimate ones and must be done peacefully. But we were all disturbed by the damage level, loss of lives and we continue to condole with those families who suffered those loses,” she said.
“Today was one in which we encouraged efforts that are being made by government to the process of engaging with the demands that have been made by the young people. It’s a start on that journey of reforms that are needed in the security sector, but also root causes of the issues that are happening today, which is about investing in development.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government of Nigeria. We are happy today to launch the UN Plus Offer, which has to do again with supporting economic sustainability plan over the next two years so that we can respond a little bit better.”
Speaking on the Lekki shooting, she emphasised the importance of ensuring that people exercise their right to protest peacefully.
“The UN stance is clear. Like the UN secretary-general had said in his speech, we believe everyone has a right to demonstrate peacefully for those issues they want to raise with their government. There is a social contract in place between the government and the people and it is important to have that freedom of speech, provided it is done peacefully,” Mohammed said.
“I think in the case where we heard that lives and property were lost, it was unfortunate and we believe that in addressing the demands that were made by young people, that in fact perhaps, this is a lesson we can take into the future on how we engage in such issues.
“I have to say that there are lot of protests around this world that has been exacerbated by COVID, because COVID has left people out of work, left people hopeless because of the socio-economic impact. And in many of those protests, we have not seen governments turnaround in response as quickly as this government did.
“So, the UN response to this is that we must make sure that what happened in these protests, we are able to address those issues, those gaps and begin the reform. In fact, I will say transformations are needed to address many of these outstanding issues, and for that we need an engaged youth; we need to engage government.
“I think what has been put in place are those building blocs and the support of the UN has been asked to make sure that those conveniences can happen. And that we can build back trust and have confidence-building measures in order to get to where we need to, where the social contract between government and the people is firm and trustworthy and is working for the benefits of the Nigerian people.”