President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to Nigerian youths to end street protests and participate in meaningful discussions with government, aimed at comprehensive reforms towards ending all forms of police brutality against Nigerians.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, the President stated this during the maiden National Youth Day celebration, observed on November 1, coinciding with the African Youth Day celebration.
Against the backdrop of the recent protests against police brutality in the country, leading to the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), President Buhari who was represented by the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello told the gathering that the pleas of Nigerian youths have been heard by his administration.
He added that the federal government, “now wants to hear concrete and practical ideas” from the youths, while acknowledging their constitutional right to peaceful protests. “You must realise 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 and 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 youths, you have a nation and a future to build. My government will always be your faithful partner in this essential and patriotic endeavour”, he said.
President Buhari also used the occasion to express his strong opposition to the wrongful use and imposition of violent force against any 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. 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,’’ 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.