Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has stressed the need for traditional rulers to support his administration’s determination to address the demands of the country’s youths.
He made the call Thursday in Abuja at a meeting in the State House with a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III.
The Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had last month okayed the five-point demands of #EndSARS protesters.
It had described the demands of the protesters and the #EndSARS movement as genuine concerns that will be addressed by the Government.
Their demands include the immediate release of all arrested protesters; Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days); In line with the new police act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS before they can be redeployed and increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.
President Buhari reiterated at the meeting with the monarchs that, “we have heard the loud cries of our youth and children, and we are attending to their concerns.”
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari, however, stressed that “To succeed in all of this, we would require your support and voice to help amplify the message. Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful.”
Describing their “role as guardians of our traditional values and culture” as most critical, the President urged them not to compromise their neutrality “because this is what significantly confers on you, your moral authority and legitimacy.”
According to President Buhari, his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, would lead senior government officials to various parts of the country “and directly engage with you as part of this process. He will be reporting back to me on your various perspectives.
“I want to once again thank you for the role you all have played to calm down our youth with wisdom and authority. By instilling hope and keeping the peace, you have rendered the country great service.”
While warning that “we cannot allow anybody or group to threaten the peace or sabotage these efforts,” the President restated that “strong, transparent efforts are underway to address those rogue elements of the Nigeria Police Force. Simultaneously, the Nigerian Police Force will also undergo much-needed reform that covers welfare, working conditions, and code of conduct. That will usher in a more professional workforce.”
Recognizing the primary and important role of the monarchs in helping maintain peace and security in the country, the President expressed delight at their visit “given all that has happened recently in our country.”
While receiving the recommendations of the traditional rulers, he promised to study them and take appropriate action.
President Buhari had earlier drawn the attention of the eminent delegation to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic on the world.
“We find ourselves in very turbulent times, with a global health pandemic that has been incredibly challenging. Economies have been crippled as the response to the pandemic has forced businesses to shut down or devise new means of transacting. For a country like ours, with a large informal economy, our citizens have been particularly hit.”
He noted, however, that his administration has “designed various schemes and taken many measures to soften the impact, despite our own revenue struggles as government,” while recognizing that “more needs to be done to cater to our fellow citizens, not just those in the urban areas but also those in rural areas.”
According to President Buhari, “I am also fully aware that our strong farming belts have been impacted by floods. While we have seen record levels of farm outputs and increased level of fertilizer utilization, government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its agencies is working on how to help bring these farmers some relief.”
Admitting the enormity of these challenges and “our growing youth population,” the President declared:
“There is no hiding place regarding how we should address insecurity concerns, youth unemployment, job creation, boosting industrialization and preparing for a transition into a digital economy.”
Remarks were made by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, while two foremost traditional rulers representing each geo-political zone also attended the meeting.