President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the #ENDSARS protesters to discontinue the street protests, saying the government has heard their voice loud and clear.
He said this in a national broadcast to Nigerians on Thursday.
The president said it was time for the protesting youths to constructively engage the government.
He appealed to the youths to take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of his administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful.
He urged them to resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating the nation’s nascent democracy.
He also advised them not to engage in actions that would undermine “national security and law and order,” warning that “under no circumstances will this be tolerated.”
The president noted that “the choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of the 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 said as a democratic government, “we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters,” and had promptly scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of the youths.
He, however noted that “sadly, the promptness with which the administration took this action has been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some people for their selfish unpatriotic interests.”
He said the spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, “that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.”
The president argued that on the contrary, his administration’s deeds and words, had shown how committed it has been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, “even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
He listed some of the government’s intervention programmes targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in the societ to include 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 Survival Fund.
Expatiating on the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survival Fund, the President said it involved paying three months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small – and medium – enterprises,
paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Others are giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans; and guaranteeing market for the products of traders among others.
He noted that no Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like he had done.
While the President equally said he was pained by the level of wanton destruction of property and loss of lives in the protests, he, however,called on the international community and African neighbours “to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements.”