A youth town hall meeting organised to discuss the agitations of the #EndSARS movement and other demands of the protesters has been boycotted by the moderator and major discussants.
The largely peaceful protest, which has been ongoing since last week, is demanding the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), notorious for use of excessive force and other forms of harassment and a total overhaul of the police force.
Although some of the demands have been met, including the disbandment of SARS, protesters have refused to stop the demonstrations in Lagos, Ibadan and other major cities in the country.
They are currently demanding the immediate implementation of some of the promises of the government which include the release of all protesters in detention and the prosecution of killer-cops.
The protest has also gone beyond the police as Nigerians now use the opportunity to address major accountability issues such as seeking a reduction in the allowance of lawmakers and improvement in all sectors.
As a follow-up on the demands of the protesters, who are majorly youth, the virtual meeting on Friday was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Zoom, a video conferencing app.
The conversation between the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the Minister of Youths and Sports development, Sunday Dare; and a representative of the Human Rights Commission was supposed to be moderated by a former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Joe Abah.
Popular Nigerian rapper, Folarin Falana, widely addressed as Falz and a campaigner of police reform, Segun Awosanya, known as Segalink, were billed for the panel discussion.
However, in a twist of events, Messrs Abah, Falana and Awosanya announced their decisions to turn down the invitation.
About two hours into the meeting, Mr Falana said he was misinformed and that the meeting was needless.
“I will not be on this panel. I was given false information. Plus there is no need for all this please!! The agenda is clear #5for5 #SARSMUSTEND”.
Following Mr Falana’s withdrawal, Mr Abah said he will not be on the panel because the role should be assigned to a younger person.
“For the record, I can confirm that in organizing this event, Hon Minister @SundayDareSD acted honestly and transparently, and made efforts to bring as many key stakeholders to the table as possible. My role was simply to moderate the discussions but we can find a youth to do it.”
“Following @falzthebahdguy’s withdrawal from this event & the absence of more youth voices, I will regrettably no longer be moderating this event. I was only ever meant to be the moderator. Nothing else. I suggest that the format for the event be changed to hear more youth voices,” he announced.
However, for Mr Awosanya, the protest has gone beyond the discussion for police reforms and the disbandment of SARS.
“I believe it’s best I state categorically that the #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG Advocacy/Movement is clearly different from the youth PROTEST playing before our eyes, which started as an organic expression of discontent until other agenda crept in. I won’t be participating here,” he wrote on Twitter.
He then assured the youth of his support and organisation as done in the past three years of advocacy.
Nevertheless, the meeting, which eventually held, was attended by over a hundred participants but could not be live-streamed on social media as against the plan of the organisers.
When PREMIUM TIMES joined the meeting at the tail end, the sports minister was addressing the youth, assuring them of government’s commitment to their demands.