President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday called on the #ENDSARS protesters to embrace peaceful talks with the federal government and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating the country’s democracy.
In a broadcast to the nation on the #ENDSARS protests which caused destruction of lives and property in some parts of the country, especially Lagos state, the president said government would not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of the nation.
“I would like to appeal 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 our 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.
“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 said.
The president said there was the urgent need for the protests to be stopped because the voices of the protesters have been heard snd their demands being addressed.
“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.
“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,” he said.
The president also expressed concern over what he referred to as the spread of falsehood and misinformation on government’s decision on the #ENDSARS protests, saying no Nigerian government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like the present administration.
“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…,” he said.
The president also spoke on the welfare of police personnel, saying the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure for the Nigeria Police Force.
“The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards. 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,” he said.
The president said the federal government is committed to preserving the unity of this country by improving good governance and democratic process, including sustained engagement.
“We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected,” he said.
He said government has the obligation to protect lives and property and the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence.
The president also thanked neighbouring countries and the international community for their concerns over the #ENSARS protests.
“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,” he said.
He also called on Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoined security agencies to protect lives and property 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.
“I would like to thank those state Governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint.
“I also thank youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands,” he said.