Calls on youths to end protest, embrace dialogue
Urges them to resist temptation to truncate democracy
Says govt. won’t allow disruption of national peace
Adds that extensive Police reforms ongoing
By Egena Sunday Ode
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday urged the #EndSARS protesters to discontinue their agitaton, saying that their voices have been heard loud and clear.
The President gave this admonition in a national broadcast following days of protests by the youths which was eventually hijacked on Wednesday by hoodlums to cause mayhem in some states of the federation.
He, however, warned that the government’s prompt response in disbanding the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad, FSARS, should not be misconstrued for weakness.
Scores have been reported killed by security agents in the course of the nationwide protests, especially in Lagos and Abuja.
“On Monday 12th October, I acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force by some members of SARS.
“The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law.
“As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.
“On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.
“The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a Peace Maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors.
“I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.
“And I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect. Let me pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.
“All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country,” Buhari said.
The president also asserted that his administration, unlike the previous ones, had never toyed with the welfare of Nigerians.
He pointed out that falsehood and disinformation had been spread in the social media to give the impression that his administration did not care about the pains and plight of its citizens. This he said is a ploy to mislead the unwary.
He said: “The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.
“On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is:paying three months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small – and medium – enterprises,
paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission,
and giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans as well as
guaranteeing market for the products of traders, among others.
“No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done.
On the welfare of Police personnel, Buhari said: “With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force. The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.”
He added: “In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers.”
On the reactions by the international community, the president cautioned: “To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements.”