Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, says hoodlums have hijacked the protest against police brutality and agitation for disbandment of special anti-robbery squad (SARS).
In the past week, major cities across the country have been on lockdown following fresh reports of police brutality and extra judicial killings by SARS which has led to strident calls for scrapping of the unit and a holistic reformation of the police.
During these demonstrations, there have been attacks on protesters with some killed as the police deployed excessive and brute force to quell the public agitation.
But in a state-wide broadcast on Tuesday, Bello implored citizens protesting against police brutality should to pipe down and end the demonstrations and explore other avenues to express their grievances.
Bello said the ranks of peaceful protesters have been infiltrated by “criminal elements armed with dangerous weapons”.
Bello said these criminal “elements” are capable of derailing the cause because their objectives are sinister which is not in tadem with goal of the protesters.
“We are now concerned that what has been a generally peaceful citizens’ protest is now threatening to dissolve into mindless attacks on government facilities and running battles with the police,” the governor said.
“Greatest and ever gallant Nigerian youths, from what we saw yesterday, the ranks of genuine protesters have been infiltrated by criminal elements armed with dangerous weapons.
“Not only that but they are acting in pursuit of nefarious intent which have no nexus with your noble objectives. I hold the opinion that you have won a battle, and I must now urge you not to lose the war. Protesters have a tangible and moral victory in the bag, and it is wisdom to safeguard it.
“It is now time to step back and explore other forms of dissent which will not provide crowd cover for persons and agenda which you obviously do not endorse.
“The nation’s leadership must also be accorded some time and breathing space to push through on promises of change.”
Bello said he is confident that President Muhammadu Buhari will take steps towards reforming the police.