President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to Nigerian youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions to their grievances.
President Buhari who made the appeal in a nationwide Broadcast on the ‘ENDSARS’ Protests in Abuja Thursday, said his government has taken cognisance of their demands and are responding to them.
According to him, “as a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.”
He made it clear that the scrapping of SARS was a proof of their commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.
President Buhari noted that the choice to demonstrate peacefully was a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of the Constitution and other enactments; but said that this right made it mandatory for the demonstrators to have the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the need for them to operate within the law.
He condemned the act of violence introduced in the quest for legitimate demands which led to the loss of human lives and properties; saying that all these tragedies were 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.
‘’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 judgment 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,’’ he pointed out.
He disclosed that government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society.
President Buhari announced that these included government’s 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.
According to him, no Nigerian government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like the current administration.
With regard to the welfare of Police personnel, the President disclosed that the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalisation of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force and the emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.
He added that in order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, his administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for Nigerian teachers.
Speaking further, he reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to preserving the unity of the Country, promising that it will continue to improve good governance and democratic process, through sustained engagement.
He also promised that his administration shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected.
While adding that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence, he appealed to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating Nigeria’s nascent democracy
‘’For you to do otherwise, will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.
‘’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.
‘’This government respects and will continue to respect all the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people, but it will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of our Nation,’’ he warned.
Continuing, President Buhari, thanked members of the international community, many of whom had expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, but urged that they seek all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements.
He also thanked the state governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint as well as youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their own hands.