President Muhammadu Buhari has again said that the government would not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism in the country.
President Buhari said this on Friday in a virtual meeting with former Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria, including Gen. Yakubu Gowon, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Abulsalami Abubakar, and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The President said it was unfortunate that the initial genuine and well-intended protest of youths in parts of the country against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was hijacked and misdirected.
He spoke on the initial concessions made by his administration on the demands of youths protesting against the excesses of some members of the SARS, recalling that they had demanded that the squad be disbanded.
The President said, “We accepted all the demands and proceeded immediately to scrap SARS and started the process of addressing the other demands.
“Unfortunately, the protesters refused to call off the protest and engage the Government to address their grievances. Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent.”
President Buhari, in a statement issued by his spokesman, voiced concern that in the mayhem that ensued, many lives had been lost, while a number of public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalized.
The President, while restating his pledge to Nigerians from the nationwide broadcast Thursday, said: “We will continue to improve good governance through our democratic process including through sustained engagement.
“We shall also continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected. Here, I want to also reaffirm our commitment to preserving the unity of this country.”
Ex-leaders urge dialogue with stakeholders
Buhari, who thanked the former Heads of State for attending the meeting and their invaluable comments, observations and advice, said “Nigerians expect nothing less from responsible statesmen.”
Each of the former leaders lauded President Buhari for steps taken so far to restore calm and order to the country, especially the presidential broadcast of Thursday as detailed and soothing to the country.
“I commend the speech of last night. The nation had been waiting. You made points that I believe need to be commended. Peaceful demonstration is part of democratic practice. The demands of the genuine protesters were accepted, and you are working on implementation. We commend you,” former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said.
The former heads of state were unanimous in their view that generation of employment and growing the economy including through direct foreign investments were critical to checking youth restiveness.
They also voiced their condolences to the bereaved families of civilians, policemen and soldiers killed as a result of the violent protest, and reaffirmed the commitment to respect the fundamental rights of citizens, including for peaceful protest as enshrined in the Constitution.
Youths advised to pursue redress through peaceful means
The former Heads of State also condemned the divisive and inciting pronouncements of separatists, and were of the opinion that such acts should be stopped.
The former leaders also lauded the actions taken by Governors to address the demands of the #EndSARS protesters and their efforts to check the excesses of those who perpetrated violent acts and conduct.
They called on youths to pursue peaceful means, in seeking redress through engagement with government and encouraged further conversation with the youths and other stakeholders in the country.