The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating protests around the world including the #EndSARS demonstration in Nigeria, the United Nations (UN) has said.
The Deputy Secretary-General of the world body and former Nigerian Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, made this assertion after discussing the issue of the recent protests among others with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Monday.
Fielding questions from correspondents, she observed that the pandemic has caused people to be out of work.
She praised the federal government’s speed in responding to the demands of the protesters, stressing the need to put in place confidence-building measures to restore trust.
Speaking specifically on the UN’s stance on the #EndSARS protests, she revealed that it was one of the issues she discussed with the president, affirming the right of Nigerians to peacefully exercise their freedom.
She said: “The UN stance is clear like the UN Secretary-General had said in his speech, we believe everyone has a right to demonstrate peacefully for those issues they want to raise with their government.
“There is a social contract in place between the government and the people and it is important to have that freedom of speech provided it is done peacefully.
“I think in the case where we heard that lives and property were lost, it was unfortunate and we believe that in addressing the demands that were made by young people, that in fact, this is perhaps this is a lesson we can take into the future and how we engage in such issues.
“I have to say that there are lots of protests around this world that have been exacerbated by COVID because COVID has left people out of work, left people hopeless because of the socio-economic impact. And in many of those protests, we have not seen governments turn around in response as quickly as this government did.
“So, the UN response to this is that we must make sure that what happened in these protests, we’re are able to address those issues, those gaps and begin the reform.
“In fact, I will say the transformations that are needed to address many of these outstanding issues and for that, we need to engage youths, we need to engage government.
“I think what has been put in place are those building blocks and the support of the UN has been asked to make sure that those conveniences can happen.
“And that we can build back trust and have confidence-building measures in order to get to where we need to, where the social contract between the government and the people is firm and trustworthy and is working for the benefits of the Nigerian people.”
She said the UN is concerned about the #EndSARS as it was alarmed by the dimension of assumed.
Mohammed added: “We did raise while we were with Mr President the issue around the recent challenges of #EndSARS protests that happened in the country. It was, of course, one that the Secretary-General, we’re all alarmed and of course support the country in trying to get back on track.
“Young people and their demands for social justice, governance are all legitimate ones and must be done peacefully. But we were all disturbed by the damage level, loss of lives and we continue to condole with those families who suffer those loses.
“Today was one in which we encouraged efforts that are being made by the government to that, the process of engaging with the demands that have been made by the young people.
“It’s a start on that journey of reforms that are needed in the security sector but also root causes to the issues that are happening today, which is about investing in development.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government of Nigeria. We are happy today to launch the UN Plus Offer, which has to do again with supporting economic sustainability plan over the next two years so that we can respond a little bit better.”