As the nation continues to count its losses to the arson perpetrated by hoodlums at the wake of the protests against police brutality, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday pleaded again for peace, assuring the victims of the violence that justice would be done.
A wave arson, looting and killings have convulsed many states of the federation since last week when hooligans seized the #EndSARS protests against police brutality to vandalise public and private assets.
The violence, which worsened after last Tuesday’s shooting of peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, has spread to states in all the six geopolitical zones, with those in the South-west worst hit.
Buhari, briefing while briefing the Council of State, comprising his predecessors, had said last Friday that at least 69 people have been killed in the protests raging across the country.
He had given the breakdown of the death toll as 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers.
With the breakdown of law and order occasioned by the violence, many states have imposed curfews to curtail looting and vandalism.
However, the president, in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Malam Shehu Garba, pleaded with Nigerians to maintain peace and brotherhood, saying the incidence of last week did not speak well of the country.
Explaining that he had avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Tollgate incident until all the facts are established, he assured Nigerians that the victims of the protests would get justice.
Buhari commended the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested for allegedly using the protests to destroy and loot public and private property.
He condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups asking Nigerians to take pride in the fact that the country’s diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages.
He came down very hard on the attacks and the organised looting and plundering of public and private property in many states, saying they are inimical to public good.
The president, who described the actions as criminal, added that it could weaken and erode the confidence of the people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.
He warned that his government will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into a free-for-all vandalism and looting.
Buhari stated: “A government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.
“While the administration has, for its part, blocked so many means of looting public money in a war against corruption, it is the expectation that all civil authorities, community and religious leaders in the country must rise against the organised looting and plunder we are witnessing in parts of the country. Families must turn back children who bring home unaccounted goods, in the same way, wives must ask their husbands to return looted items brought home.”
He warned further that looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in the country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy.