Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo has assured youths in the state of 60 per cent representation in his new cabinet as part of his administration’s efforts to redress their grievances.
Obaseki gave the assurance on Thursday, when he held an interactive meeting with youth groups at the Government House, Benin.
He described the Edo protest as politically motivated, following its hijack by agents allegedly determined to cause political instability in the state.
Obaseki said: “I am worried about the level of criminality.
“Part of the fight we had in our first term was the issue of maintaining law and order and fighting criminality.
“Lots of these criminals hid under the cover of the godfathers who called them their infantry, lions and tigers.
“You could see them in the last few days, the way they came out pouncing on people’s private properties.
“The crisis in Edo is not the #ENDSARS protests but political because the government supports the #ENDSARS protests.
“Just as we defeated them in the election, we will contain them. With my #ENDSARS people, we are going to arrest them and put them back to the zoo.”
“Without law and order, there can’t be economic growth because no investors will come here to invest.
According to the governor, his administration recognises the role played by youths in his re-election.
He therefore said that his administration had plans to reward the youths with 60 per cent of appointment of youths under the age of 40 in his second tenure.
He said his government had no problem with peaceful protests, adding, “I asked the police to give you protection but the police authorities have a choice to either obey me or not.
“Our position as a government is to support the position of the #ENDSARS protesters because their demand is legitimate,” he said, and assured the youths that he was on their side.
“The Judicial Panel of Inquiry is the first step to go and we have instructed that the number of members be increased to 20 to accommodate other groups.
“The panel has 90 days and I urge you all to give evidence to the panel, which should be documented to enable us to implement its report.
“Our security arrangements in the country must reflect our federal system because I can’t be a governor of a state and not be able to hire and fire my Commissioner of Police.
“But the #ENDSARS has helped us start the process.
“The Public Works Volunteer is a version of our neighborhood watch in the state.
“We have 900 people being trained. 1,100 others will be trained after this set and another 20 persons per ward will be hired to be in charge of public safety.
“As the governor, I will do everything within my power to have strong internal security because we need to protect ourselves,” Obaseki said.
Our correspondent reports that the meeting was attended by leaders and representatives of over 30 youth organisations in Edo.
A representative of the protesters, Abraham Oviawe, said their demand emanated from the pain Nigerians had suffered in the hands of security operatives over the years.
He thanked the governor for constituting the panel to investigate the excesses of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and urged him to ensure that the panel discharged its assignment creditably for Edo people.
Oviawe urged the police to be civil in their dealings with members of the public, while urging the police authorities to scrutinise the activities of the anti-cultism unit of the force.
“We urge your government to re-constitute the neighborhood watch and ensure the recruitment process is open and transparent in order to assist community policing in Edo,” he said.
Also, a representative of Civil Society Organisations in the state, Curtis Ogbebor, urged the government to arrest and prosecute those who shot and killed some protesters at Kingsquare in Benin.
A representative of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Steven Imafidon, said that 60 per cent of victims of police brutality were students.