President Muhammadu Buhari has told young Nigerians that they are better off sitting at the table to extract concessions from government, than hitting the streets in protest.
On October 20, soldiers marched to one of the protest grounds in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, and shot into a crowd of peaceful, unarmed protesters, leaving scores injured and dead.
President Buhari is yet to acknowledge the Lekki toll gate shooting or own up to what has been called a massacre in several quarters.
During the maiden National Youth Day celebration which is observed on November 1, President Buhari, in remarks delivered by FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, said young people have made their point and should now get off the streets.
“President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to Nigerian youths to end street protests and participate in meaningful discussions with government aimed at comprehensive reforms to end all forms of police brutality against Nigerians,” Garba Shehu who is the president’s spokesperson, wrote in a statement.
Buhari added that; “Against the backdrop of the recent protests against police brutality in the country, leading to the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the federal government now wants to hear concrete and practical ideas from the youths, while acknowledging their constitutional right to peaceful protests.
”You must realize that protests cannot last indefinitely. My government will not lift a hand to stop or suppress you.
”However, the fact of the matter is that other forces and actors will seek to take over your protests that they may redirect them in ways you did not intend and perhaps do not agree with.
”Every successful protest movement the world over has understood that there comes a time when activity must move from the street to the negotiation table. That time for you has come. Do not be afraid of this reality. You should welcome it.
”It is important that we all strive to use this moment constructively. Too many people have already sacrificed too dearly. It is our duty to use this fateful situation to move ourselves to a more just and caring society.
”As youth, you have a nation and a future to build. My government will always be your faithful partner in this essential and patriotic endeavor,” he said.
The president also said his administration believes in the rights of people to protest in a democracy and that he wouldn’t do a thing as evil as quashing peaceful protests with guns.
”No one who is obeying the law, whether they are in line waiting for a taxi or in a peaceful protest line, should be harassed or brutalized by law enforcement agencies.
”It is because of my abiding belief in the people’s constitutional rights that we moved with dispatch to abolish SARS and to consider other reforms that will enhance the quality of law enforcement and improve the relationship between the police and public which is a pre-requisite in a just society.
”To allow protests is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and belief in democracy, and faith in the innate goodness of our people.
”This also shows confidence in the ability of our government to work with the people toward a reasonable and practical resolution to any challenge,” Buhari was quoted as saying by Shehu.
Close to 60 people reportedly lost their lives nationwide during the #EndSARS protests that lasted two weeks.
The federal government has mandated state governments to set up judicial panels of inquiry to probe decades of human rights abuses by personnel of the police force.
Source: Pulse Nigeria