Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to Nigerian youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions to their demands.In a nationwide broadcast on Thursday after more than two weeks of protests by Nigerian youths against police brutality and bad governance, Buhari said: “It has become necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the Security Chiefs.
“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.”
He warned 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 (SARS).
The Nigerian leader noted that 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.
He lamented that human lives have been lost and that he was “indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary”.
Buhari assured that the Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund.
On the welfare of police personnel, he said that the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission had 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 reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to preserving the unity of this country and will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement.
“We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected.
“But remember that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence,” 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,” he added.