Nigeria: Governor Ben Ayade takes Sweeping Measures to Favour Youths as #EndSARS Protesters Attack Media Houses

Governor Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade of Cross River State, south-south Nigeria has warned Nigeria’s political class of the consequences of neglecting the youths as this may have multiplier effects that would be dangerous for the future of the country.

He said this in reaction to the spate of protests of the #EndSARS movement that has paralyzed some parts of Nigeria in the last two weeks. The protests have claimed the lives of over 50 people, scores of public properties vandalized, jailbreaks in Edo, Ondo, and Lagos states, while a high number of private businesses have been looted.

Governor Ayade said during the inauguration of a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate police brutality in Cross River stated that “We can't as a nation continue to watch our young people we have failed by refusing to create opportunities for them to go into criminality and we turn back and increase the sizes of our prisons to put them in when the failure is ours. How can we watch our young ladies take to prostitution occasioned by the difficulties we have put them through? No harlotous womb can give birth to a virtuous child.

“I do not believe that the young men and women who are on the streets today on the protests of #EndSARS are leaders of the future of Nigeria. I believe that young people who are protesting are the leaders of today and that turns out to be a great opportunity for them because by the time they mature they would have had exponential growth process because when you create an opportunity for young men to express themselves, when tomorrow comes they will have more experience. 

“And that is why I stand with the young people of this country to say we must put an end to SARS, and we must put an end to police brutality. That is the primary and immediate cause, but the real remote cause is accumulated provocative unemployment and difficulty in survival. Every single human being has an element of criminality, it is only when the social environment does not allow us to express like the conditions of your own job placement or the circumstances of your parentage that yours does not elicit and become very evident but in the course of time, every single person when pushed to the wall, his survival instincts take over and then you call him a criminal, a kidnapper, an armed robber,” the Governor regretted. 

In efforts to make the electorate understand his frustration and better appreciate what the administration failed to do, Mr. Ayade said: “Government must recognize the fact that we have to first, provide that which is clearly stated in our constitution. Section 14 sub Section 2 states that the primary purpose of government is the welfare and security of our citizens…Governors, presidents, across the entire Africa must realize that citizens come first above infrastructure until we recognize that no project no matter how mighty no matter how beneficial is more important than the stomach of one citizen”. 

The Governor warned that “Until we begin to recognize that job creation is core essence of government nothing will change. If I come out of school and I have no job it's no fault of mine, I didn't go for an interview and fail because the interviews don't just occur, you don't just see an advert and take it and naturally get the job, you don't see a contract tender and you get it naturally, the country has changed and that's the reality and we must reverse this trend. We must create a new template to drive a new generation and create an opportunity because if Nigeria has failed, Africa of course has failed”.

He blamed the unacceptable situation on either poor or lack of leadership: “Despite all the blessings of solid minerals we have in Africa, yet Africa lives in poverty, the fault, therefore, is leadership and that leadership must change to reflect the sensitivity and the yearnings of the young people. Until that happens, we will continue to face the situation. Long before now I had said if this massive unemployment continues, we will get to a time where we will have this kind of cataclysm and that time has come and I plead with God in his infinite mercy to give the president and the entire leadership of this country the wisdom to deal with the situation that we have at hand”.

To deal with youth restiveness in Cross River, Governor Ayade has taken some drastic steps to reduce unemployment in the State.

“In my earlier press release, I was very clear that Cross River State was trying to do everything we can and continue to find means of creating jobs. We have 6000 plus political appointees at the state level but that is not enough when you look at it against the population of Cross River State, 4.2 million people and counting, therefore, we have to deliberately find ways to create jobs.

“It makes no sense for me to award a contract and pay in millions to a contractor perhaps a coloured man who takes the money and goes to his country, yet my people wallow in poverty. I, therefore, believe strongly that it is better I put food on the table and get the young men to put their hands on the plough”. 

Moving from word to action, Mr. Ayade said: “Therefore I have hereby directed that all chairmen of councils have an immediate recruitment of 1000 young people which means 18000 young people into the local government workforce, in addition, the state civil service will also recruit additional 2000 by so doing, we have ordered the immediate employment of 20,000 young people into the state and local government civil service”. 

These measures and many more would generally make sense if taken in normal circumstances not only times of crises like this one. The move would also be sustainable if it were rather creating an enabling environment for youth entrepreneurship to thrive. Seasonal job creation in services that might not really need all those employed could lead to lack of fulfilment on the part of the youths concerned, while also causing a strain on the government’s spending.

However, the move to ease the school fee burden on parents at this trying moment comes across as smart: “Today also, I have directed that all Cross Riverians who are students of CRUTECH should suspend the payment of school fees indefinitely. I also ask that for every single young Cross Riverian who is out of university and has no job who has finished youth service, immediately after your youth service, if you don't have a job we are starting a “National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) extension service where you will return to Cross River State and extend your NYSC by one year to give us the opportunity to find a placement for you”. 

Meanwhile, the violence that erupted in the wake of massacre of innocent #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria by the soldiers on Tuesday has taken a new twist with people believed to be hoodlums targeting media houses for vandalization.

Initially, it was thought the target of the hoodlums was major interests of a popular Nigerian politician, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a chieftain of the ruling political party, All Progressive Congress (APC), who has big stakes in the media industry in Nigeria, but Timescape Magazine can report that other media companies are now falling victims of the barbaric act of the hoodlums.

Mr. Tinubu's television station, Television Continental (TVC), his newspaper outlet, The Nation, were touched and burnt down by the protesters on Wednesday. The station of African Independent Television (AIT) in Benin, Edo State was also touched by the hoodlums, while journalists of Punch Newspaper and some other media houses in Logos are said to be having it tough in the hands of the protesters across the city. The protesters were also at the Channels TV complex in Ogun State.

“We find these recurrent attacks very worrisome and alarming as the rate keeps increasing. Lives and properties associated with these media organizations will no doubt be on the receiving end of these reprisals,” said International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos on Thursday, October 22. 

“IPC notes that the media is the voice of the people and so should not be made to suffer from the anger against perceived issues of bad governance. Journalists are also part of the society and their role in reporting issues and happenings of society is imperative.

“We are calling on the aggrieved citizens to reason that destroying and attacking the media is inimical to desired outcome. We also seek the immediate intervention of government, especially that of President Muhammadu Buhari to assuage the aggrieved citizens to end these unfortunate attacks,” said Melody Lawal, Programme Officer/Safety Desk Officer of the IPC.

The Editor of The Nation, Niyi Adeshina described how the attackers wreaked havoc on the Newspaper premises.

“Armed men on motorcycles invaded the headquarters of The Nation on Fatai Atere Way, Matori, Lagos on Wednesday afternoon…In a commando-like manner, they kicked their way into the premises after scaring away security men on duty, brandishing their sophisticated guns. They poured petrol on the frontage of the building and set fire to it. Some of the vehicles parked within the premises were set ablaze and others vandalized. Many boys came thereafter and swooped on the office, looting everything they could lay their hands on,” he said.

The attackers forced the Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) to alert its members on how best to cover the protests across the city. The Chairman of the Council, Dr Qasim Akinreti warned media owners to “ensure safety of journalists in your organizations either in the office or on the field, note that the life insurance policies of journalists are up-to-date, provide adequate logistics and conducive environment for journalists, let us adhere strictly to the code of conduct of our profession. Facts are sacred, comment free, let us ensure we don't escalate the conflicts but de-escalate the conflicts.”

To the journalists on the field, he said: “Carefully understand the environment you are going to cover, have all emergency contact numbers, do not walk alone, wear your Press kits - Jacket with PRESS inscription, have your NUJ and office identity cards with you, approach everyone politely and do not join discussions unnecessarily, either to justify or condemn the current situation, be a good listener and if you can avoid live reports at a volatile\ areas, please do, do not become the news or story, report the news or story. You must stay alive.”