- Says ‘Your voice has been heard’
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari was silent on the shooting of protesters in Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, during his to address the nation on the #EndSARS protests.
This is even as he has urged the #EndSARS movement to discontinue their protests, assuring that their voice has been heard loud and clear.
In his under 15 minutes long national broadcast on Thursday, Buhari said while the choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right, it however comes with responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens.
He however, warned that his government would not tolerate breakdown of law and order, calling on the protesting youths to stay off streets.
Buhari said: “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.
“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.
“For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.”
The President expressed deep pain that innocent lives have been lost, saying “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 advised 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.”
The President also warned miscreants who have taken advantage of the situation to loot and destroy public and private assets.
He said, “I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad.”
He blamed hoodlums for the arson, looting and violence in the country at the moment.
He said, “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.”
President Buhari also enjoined security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect.
He also said there would be an upward review of salaries of police personnel, as well as their overall welfare, which is one of the five demands of protesters calling for an end to police brutality in the country.
“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 said.
The president further urged Nigerians to take advantage of some of the poverty alleviation initiatives by his administration, targetted especially at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in the society.