The constructive engagement of youths in Niger state by the government through consultations and dialogue may have saved the state from looting and arson which had spread across many states.
AIDELOJE OJO reports that youths have shunned looting of Covid – 19 palliatives while protecting their own against glaring external incitement.
Foiled attempt to break ADP warehouse in Maitumbi
By 2am Monday morning of 25 October 2020, a sizable group of youths gathered at the Agriculture Development Project (ADP) office in Maitumbi area of Minna, the Niger state capital, targeting to loot palliatives they believed were stocked at the premises.
Police and local vigilantes mobilized to disperse the crowd at dawn before it attained destructive proportions. Thus, the desperate attempt to extend to Niger state the looting of CA-COVID palliatives from warehouses happening in several other states was nipped in the bud.
Blueprint learnt that the youths were mobilized to the scene by persons who sneaked into the state from other states where looting and stealing of palliatives had taken place while circulating in social media videos of looting spree which occurred in another state as if it was occurring in ADP premises in Maitumbi area of Niger state.
In the video clip seen by our reporter, people were seen carting away bags of food items and cartons of noodles with the footages that ADP Maitumbi has broken into and that residents should help themselves out.
It was learnt that residents who fell for the fake news met stern looking security men at the ADP gate before dashing back to avoid arrest.
On Monday when our correspondent visited the premises, local vigilantes and anti- riot police were seen patrolling while some sentinel were stationed at the gate.
The area, although calm, was filled with heightened tension with uncertainty and fears on the part of residents. A vigilante member who sought anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press, told our correspondent.
“The DCO of Maitumbi Divisional Police Headquarters is leading us here. However, I can tell you that no person broke into the ADP premises. Nobody has looted anything here and as you can see for yourself, there is no crowd around this premises.
They were gathering here last night before we came to disperse them. the area is calm now”.
Niger youths shunned violence, looting of palliatives
The youths in Niger state have so far maintained a high level of restraint in the protest against police brutality and the prolonged insecurity and banditry in the North.
A group of youths under the Coalition of Northern Youths led by Comrade Mohammed Mohammed, told journalists in Minna during peaceful protest that, “We have come out in solidarity to say enough is enough of the insecurity, the killing of our innocent villagers by bandits in the North Central”.
While decrying the dilapidated conditions of federal roads in Niger state, Mohammed argued that none of the federal roads in Niger state is in good condition. He said, “Our people are killed and stranded in roads while bandits have taken over the roads and our people can no longer travel on the roads.
He lamented that despite having three hydropower dams and the construction of a fourth one ongoing, Niger state has been in darkness without adequate electricity supply for years.
According to him, “today we cannot enjoy two hours of light in a day. We felt that this is unacceptable and it should be stopped”.
He said that the youths in Niger state will however not take up arms and resort to violence in the pursuit of their legitimate demands. According to him, the police need training and more weapons to fight crimes, adding that they also need more welfare to take care of their families.
He assured that the youths in Niger state would be peaceful and continue to be highly responsible in all engagements through consultations and dialogue.
Stoppage of lawmakers’ plan protest against epileptic electricity/ power supply
The poor electricity supply in Niger state has recently drawn the ire of the state House of Assembly with members firing hot words against the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).
It was learnt that the Assembly has severally summoned the management of AEDC in the past to mediate in the crisis between the company and Niger state youths over epileptic power supply in the state.
Checks revealed that such meetings have not yielded desired results as the power supply situation in the state has continued to dwindle.
It was also learnt that the state government has made efforts at resolving the issue with less success. The Deputy Governor, Ahmed Ketso, it was gathered, was a few years ago mandated to mediate on the matter when aggrieved youths threatened to cripple AEDC in the state in a protest, #giveuslightorleave.
Several tripartite meetings of the AEDC management, the youths and government were held to find acceptable resolution but it appeared that nothing much has been achieved.
Not even the visit of the Deputy Governor to Abuja headquarters of AEDC on the matter yielded fruitful results as the state continued to wallow in darkness with devastating economic consequences because the small scale businesses have continued to fold up for lack of adequate electricity supply.
Checks also revealed that against this backdrop, the lawmaker representing Bosso constituency and Chairman, House Committee on Labour, Mayaki Madaki Bosso, and one of his colleagues decided to lead a protest in Minna against the epileptic electricity supply in Niger state.
The protest, according to sources, was slated for Saturday 24, October 2020 and that the lawmaker who has gathered more fame from activism in recent time, has adequately mobilized residents for the showdown before the hijack of Endsars protest by hoodlums.
It was learnt that several efforts by the government and security to prevail on the lawmaker to drop the planned protest did not succeed until October 23, 2020 when security agencies discovered the infiltration of thugs into Minna prepared to hijack the protest.
Checks revealed that an intelligence report confirmed that the strangers lodged in various hotels in Minna waiting to join the protest and wreak havoc on the ancient city.
Honourable Madaki Bosso was said to have seen reason with the security on the need to postpone the protest and avoid the destruction of the city.
He was reported to have engaged all available means to call off the protest and prevailed on residents and his supporters to stay off the streets and keep safe at home. Thus the much talked about protest against AEDC in Niger state was aborted in the interest of peace and stability of the state.
Government sues for calm among youths
At least in the past one month, the Niger state government through the office of the Deputy Governor, Ahmed Ketso has constructively engaged leaders of the various youths organizations present in Niger state on the way forward and how youth restiveness could be averted.
Government House sources revealed that the Deputy Governor and the youths have agreed on how to resolve issues affecting them long before the #EndSARS protests erupted in parts of the country.
The youths, it was learnt, appeared to be convinced that the implementation of the policy thrust by the government on empowerment and other economic windows of opportunity could lead to uplifting of their living standards.
In addition to the peace efforts by the Deputy Governor, his boss and Governor Abubukar Sani Bello has also within the period announced a robust package for the youths of the state which included acquisition of skills and other forms of employment opportunities.
Our correspondent gathered that these mouthwatering incentives were too tempting for the youths to brush aside and joined in violent acts that could hinder them from receiving such packages.
Speaking with Blueprint on the low attention to protests in the state, a youth from Minna, Adamu Mohammed explained that the situation in Niger state is different from other states, adding that there is no communication gap between us and Niger state government.
According to him, “I do know that we the youths are represented by our leaders at the level of distribution of Covid -19 palliatives in the state but wouldn’t know whether there are items in warehouses or not.
I am sure that if there were problems our leaders would have told us, therefore we cannot be searching for stores to break into and cart away food items”. He stated that he was informed that some persons came into Minna to incite the youths into breaking warehouses for palliatives but we on ground in the state know more than the strangers and they were largely ignored.
17 persons arrested for inciting violence in Niger
They had arrived in Minna from other parts of the country where they had caused mayhem around October 23, 2020, hoping to incite the youths into looting and arson.
However, luck ran out of them and they fell into police cells. The Commissioner of Police, Niger state police command, Adamu Usman confirmed in a statement in Minna Tuesday that 17 persons have been arrested and that they will be prosecuted for inciting violence in the state.
According to the commissioner, “it is also very important to state that Niger state police command arrested 17 suspects who were planning to incite our youths in the state into unwarranted protest. Interestingly, most of those arrested are not from the state”.
The commissioner commended the youths for shunning violence in the state adding that the command will not allow miscreants to cause problems in the state.
Commissioner of Police commendation
The commissioner of police Niger state Adamu Usman on Tuesday commended Niger youths, residents and government of the state for working together to ensure peace of the state.
The commissioner in a statement hailed the youths for their restraint during and after the EndSARS protests. He said, “I commended the youths of Niger state for displaying a high level of responsibility, calmness, perseverance and restraint in the face of threats and calls from different quarters with deliberate falsehood through the social media”.
He also commended and appreciated the support and cooperation of the journalists in the state government, , traditional institutions, community and religious leaders including youth leaders in working with security agencies to maintain law and order in the state.
Usman however pleaded for more support from the people of the state, adding that “however, members of the public most especially parents/guardians and all the relevant critical stakeholders are enjoined to prevail on their wards to maintain peace and shun any act of lawlessness”, assuring that the command is prepared to provide adequate security and protection for the peaceful coexistence of all citizens in the state.