Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the country’s youths who have been protesting against police brutality and bad governance under the movement #EndSARS to put an end to the demonstrations and come to the negotiation table.
”You must realize that protests cannot last indefinitely,” the Nigerian leader said Sunday in his message to the maiden National Youth Day celebration.
He added that “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.”
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president said he ‘‘now wants to hear concrete and practical ideas,’’ from the youth.
He acknowledged the youths constitutional right to peaceful protests, but observed 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.”
According to the president, ”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.”
President Buhari also used the occasion to express his strong opposition to the wrongful use and imposition of violent force against innocent, law-abiding persons, particularly young people.
”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,” he said.
”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,” the president added.
According to the Nigerian leader, “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,” he said.
Describing Nigerian youths as agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development, President Buhari said his administration has established no fewer than 25 initiatives aimed at empowering youths across the country.
He noted that these initiatives, ongoing in the last five years, were aimed at placing Nigerian youths on the path of career development, entrepreneurship, skills development and direct employment.
”Today we will unveil the official logo of the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund for the period of 2020 – 2023.
”This novel fund is dedicated to investing in the innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian youths and to provide our youths with a special window to access much needed financing, business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprise,” he said.
By Abel Ejikeme