Bashir Magashi, minister of defence, says over 60 percent of #EndSARS protesters don’t know why they participated in the demonstrations.
On Saturday, a second wave of the #EndSARS protest began in Lagos under the #OccupyLekkiTollGate rally, with more than 30 protesters, including Debo Adebayo, a Nigerian comedian better known as Mr Macaroni, arrested by security operatives.
The protesters have, however, been arraigned before a mobile court in Lagos, and granted bail.
Speaking on Saturday after participating in the revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano, the minister alleged that some of the protesters are rogues and thieves.
“I am the minister of defence and the defence of this country is entirely my responsibility. We have the mandate to ensure that the lives and property of people are protected,” he said.
“There is a basic responsibility of the government, and that is to protect every Nigerian, whoever he is. We always believe that given the necessary intelligence, no agent of government will sit down and fold its hands without doing something.
“This #EndSARS issue, if you recall, the minister of information has briefed this nation and alerted that something like this is coming; and we know we are always prepared. This is our job, to ensure internal security.
“We must plan for it. We don’t want to be taken by surprise. And if you want us to be taken by surprise, then, there is no need to call us protectors. If #EndSARS is to take place today, we will ensure that we have peaceful counter plans that we will put in place to ensure that mistakes are not made in protecting the people.
“You know the composition of the EndSARS crowd. Over 60 percent of them are people who don’t even know why they are there. They just come to take part. Some of them are rogues; some are there to steal. They want to do whatever they think. There are a few actual people.”
The minister added that the government will not allow “unpatriotic elements” to destabilise the country under any guise.
“The genuine ones, we want to get them enlightened. They should stop doing things that will create collateral damages for the country. We need people who will sit down and use their brains. Sit down with the government and see what we can do,” Magashi said.
“We ask them, ‘what are your problems?’ In the initial one, when they said this is their problem, even Mr. President spoke. They gave five-point demand and they were attended to. But if some people want the country to be governed the way they want, we are not elected to serve particular people. We were elected to serve this country.
“Whoever is involved in this #EndSARS issue, the military and the government will not allow it to happen. But we will be as good as any other citizen to protect this country.
“We are not going to be harsh on anybody. We will maintain the law and peace to the best of our ability. We can use force when it is required. When you use force, we don’t say you will go and start killing people. We can use minimum force, commensurate with what is seen on the ground. And that is where some people are getting it wrong.
“We cannot sit down and then you shoot at somebody, and we allow you to go because somebody thinks that you are one that can kill and go away. Please give us time. In this country, we are in a state where we want everybody to look up and see what he can do for this country, not what the country can do for you.”