Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has called on all stakeholders to deploy everything within their powers to appeal to the youths to desist from wanton destruction of public and private property as the government has noted their grievances and is taking steps to address them.
The Governor stated this while speaking at a special non-partisan stakeholders town hall meeting convened to foster peace in Abia State in the face of peaceful protests by Nigerian youths whose well-intended protest was hijacked by criminal elements who went on destroying public and private property. He said the essence of the meeting was to bring the stakeholders up to speed with what has befallen Abia State as a result of the recent protests and to chart the way forward.
Governor Ikpeazu who expressed regrets at the looting of four banks, burning down of Onions Market and police station, burning down of 18 brand new trucks belonging to an Igbo man among others, said that what was faced in Abia was not #EndSARS protesters but a well-orchestrated plot by strange youths from outside the State to take Abia years back in terms of development. He said their actions everywhere shook the fragile unity of the nation, adding that Igbos contribute about 80% of GDP in Lagos alone and do various businesses in the North and other parts of the country.
Governor Ikpeazu, who disclosed that his administration has done great in empowering youths in the State from 2015 to date, including having 60% of his cabinet drawn from that section of the population, ensuring LGA elections are held to include them in leadership, the institution of a Homeland Security outfit with 300 security agents trained, employment of 500 persons in TIMASS, the establishment of E4E with 3,400 youths on the database and linking up of youths to federal government empowerment programmes among, others, commiserated with those who lost their lives in the protests.
Speaking also, the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu highlighted the efforts of the present administration in including youths in the governance of the State. He appreciated the issues raised by various groups at the meeting and assured the further engagement of the various groups in due course.
The Deputy Governor who emphasised the need for all to go back and convince people in their respective localities to embrace peace stressed the need for youths to key into the various skills acquisition programmes introduced by the government.
Also Speaking, the Minister of State for Mines & Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah, thanked the Governor for agreeing with the directives of the Federal Government to convene the meeting to inform the stakeholders on the negative implications of fanning the embers of violence and war.
He said the unity in diversity is of the essence to the Igbo man and if there is no peace, the Igbo man would have more to lose. He x-rayed the consequences of war including violence, hunger, homelessness among others According to him, being united as a nation is the strength of Nigeria.
Although he agreed that the youths have rights to protest but that should not be done through violence. The minister, therefore, urged all stakeholders as opinion moulders to appeal to the people that they should refrain from all forms of violence but rather engage the government constructively.
Contributing, the Member representing, Bende Federal constituency at the National Assembly, Barr. Benjamin Kalu
challenged the stakeholders to take the message of peace back home and assist the government to maintain peace and tranquillity.
He praised the Muslim community for preaching peace at their mosques on Friday. He said the youths need to be part of governance and called on them to stop the protest as their grievances have been noted and being acted upon.
Barr. Kalu appreciated the avenues created by the Governor to employ more youths and said if more youths were engaged in various employments, it would help to curb restiveness among them. He commended the State for the way it managed Covid-19 in the State as well as the fact that no warehouse where palliatives were kept was broken, as the State distributed all its palliatives to the people and said it is a sign of transparency and accountability.
In his speech, the Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji regretted that the hitherto peaceful protest was hijacked by rioters and called for calm as well as requested everyone to join hands with government to achieve peace in the State.
He urged politicians to empower the youths so that the youths would assist in the fight against crime and criminals brought into the State from outside. He equally requested the National Assembly to enact a youth-friendly law that will ensure and enhance job creation, assuring that Abia State House of Assembly would domesticate such a law once passed at the national level.
In their various speeches, Chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Joseph Nwabekee, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Apostle Emmanuel Agomoh, Chairman, Northern Community Alhaji Sariki Yaro Danladi, Chairman National Youth Council, Engr. Smith Sylvanus, NANS representative, Comrade Frank Eme Orji, representative of SUG Presidents, John Nwakanma, Saint Moses Ogbonna, Hon. John Godson among others, called for empowerment of the Local Government Councils to empower the youths and other stakeholders. They regretted the incessant hike in petroleum products and called for the creation of more jobs for the youths stressing the need for such regular town hall meetings.