Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has called on the protesting youths in the state to sheath their swords and allow the government time to redress their grievances.
Ikpeazu made the call in a statewide broadcast in Umuahia on Wednesday, saying: “I do not want any more Abia life to be lost and I am therefore appealing for calm and good sense.
“Whatever is our personal and collective grievances can and will certainly be resolved.”
He appealed to parents to prevail on their children “to stand down for peace to reign.
”We have to do this to avoid losing control of the situation and allow forces outside the state to have reason to unleash death, sorrow and tears on our people,” he said.
He gave assurance that his administration would continue to provide an enabling environment for citizens to express their human rights.
The governor said that he understood the issues that gave rise to the initial peaceful protests and shared the pains of the citizenry.
He said that government imposed a 24-hour curfew in Aba and Umuahia as part of its efforts to manage the current security situation in the state.
He regretted any inconveniences caused by the measure, adding that government would continue to review the security situation to decide on the next line of action.
Ikpeazu residents to comply with the curfew, saying that law enforcement agents had been directed to deal decisively with any case of disobedience.
He said that government was focused on creating a peaceful and right ambience for economic activities to thrive in the aftermath of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He promised to take necessary steps “to keep the citizens safe and ensure that they would not be cajoled, overwhelmed and intimidated in the course of their legitimate endeavours”.
He further said that government had no intention to order the arrest of any peaceful protester.
“Over the last five years, we have managed to keep Abia very peaceful through the instrumentality of security agencies working in concert with government and the citizenry.
“We intend to take all legitimate steps to safeguard the peace and security of Abia and its inhabitants.
“I wish to place on record that I agree that peaceful protests are a legitimate means of ventilating anger in a democratic setting.
It has, however, become obvious that the legitimate protesters have been unable to control the spread of the protest.
“They have allowed it to degenerate into civil disobedience, which has been hijacked by criminal elements as a means to foment trouble, endanger lives and damage public property.
“A situation where a policeman will be killed, police stations attacked and burnt down with other harm to government infrastructure, is sadly outside the realm of acceptable conducts in the cause of a protest.
“Citizens have become apprehensive with clear and present danger to lives of Abia people and no responsible government will sit back and allow this state of affairs to continue,” Ikpeazu said.
He said that government had set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry, with 70 per cent of the membership made up of youths, in response to the initial demands of the protesters.
He pledged to work with relevant agencies to ensure full implementation of the findings and recommendations of the panel.
“Abia government has provided a cash reward for any individual with incontrovertible evidence of police brutality and high-handedness that will help the panel with its assignment.
“Let me assure our people that we are prepared to accept, and in appropriate cases, grant audience physically to all those who wish to bring forward documented cases of police brutality in Abia.
“We commit to presenting these documented cases at the highest level in the country.
“Our records of intolerance to the maltreatment of Abians by security operatives speak for us,” he said.
The governor appealed to the protesters not to confront armed security agents, saying that such action could have disastrous consequences.
He urged relevant authorities to find peaceful means of resolving the crisis in order to douse the current state of apprehension that had gripped the nation.