President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday finally spoke on angry youths’ protest of police brutality, urging them to end the demonstrations, which went violent after Tuesday’s crackdown by the army at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos.
Incidentally, the president was spectacularly silent on the tollgate shooting incident that brought his government worldwide condemnation.
He had come under severe criticism for his silence on the #EndSARS protests, which had raged for 14 days, spreading from Lagos State to over a dozen others with attendant disruption of essential economic activities.
But Buhari eventually broke his silence in a nationwide broadcast that was preceded by a National Security Council meeting in Abuja.
Pleading with the youths to leave the streets, he assured them that he had heard their cry and that his administration would address their concerns.
He urged the protesters to resist the temptation of being used by “subversive elements” to cause chaos with the aim of truncating the country’s democracy.
However, the president’s silence on the Lekki Tollgate clampdown by soldiers was made up for by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), who said the federal government was looking into the incident
The president said if the protesters failed to heed his call to leave the streets, they would be undermining national security and law and order, warning that his administration will under no circumstances tolerate any situation that could jeopardise national security.
He called on the international 1community, many of which had expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, to get their facts right before making hasty pronouncements.
The president promised to respect the democratic rights of all Nigerians, but warned that he would not fold his arms and allow some Nigerians impinge on the rights of others.
The president, who said he was pained by the losses in the course of the street agitations, noted that he had enjoined security agencies to protect the lives and property of all law-abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect.
Buhari listed his efforts to alleviate poverty and asked Nigerian youths to key into the programmes.
He stated that apart from schemes to reduce unemployment and rescue 100 million Nigerians from lack in the next 10 years, he had directed the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to expedite action on finalising of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
He said: “In the circumstances, 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.
“I, therefore, call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage the government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.”
While paying tribute to police officers and men killed in the line of duty, he called on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses and enjoined security agencies to protect them and their and property.