President Muhammadu Buhari has backed the ongoing #EndSARS protests spearheaded by Nigerian youths who have been on the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Owerri, Awka, Aba, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Port Harcourt, Benin and other big cities for almost two weeks demanding an end to police brutality.
The president conveyed his endorsement of the youths’ protests through the minister of youth and sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, who addressed journalists in Abuja after a meeting he had with the president on the ongoing protests across the country.
Dare said the president acknowledged the youths’ demands, saying that, as a father, he wanted them to be protected and not suffer unjust treatment in the hands of police operatives.
He said the president assured him of the government’s readiness to accede to the demands of the protesters.
He added however that Buhari appealed to the youth to give the authorities time to tackle the demands as the team set up had already begun work on the issues.
“Mr. President assured that the demands of the protesters are being met in a timely fashion, some have been met already. He said he accepts their demands and that government is already responding at various levels.
“Mr. President said the youths of this country have spoken and he has heard and he has since gone to work for the youths of the country, not just as a president but also as a father of the younger generation.
“He said as a father to this generation of our youth, his desire is for them to be well protected and live in a country where they enjoy their freedom and do not suffer from any form of police brutality.
“The President promised that he would ensure that the reforms, as promised, were met, and that the reforms would be long-lasting to deliver for our country a police force that we will be proud of,” Dare stated.
Similarly, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said no one committed to the rule of law and good governance would be opposed to the youths’ protests.
He said in a statement entitled ‘#EndSARS protests – The remedy for national maladies is more, not less, democracy’ that the protests, which had gone on for 12 days, were justified, given gross human rights violations and impunity by the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force.
He also commended Nigerian youths for the level of organisation that went into the protests, saying it showed a new level of consciousness that could strengthen Nigeria’s democracy.
He said the ongoing resistance by the youths against police brutality was reminiscent of the emancipation struggle against the colonial rule and military dictatorship, which gave birth to democracy.
However, Tinubu said the protesters must admit that the federal government had “acted with commendable dispatch by not only scrapping SARS but also accepting the five-point demand that triggered the protests.”
He said it would only be fair for the youths to call off the protests and give the regime a chance to implement the reforms they had demanded.
“It is impossible for anyone truly committed to the rule of law, democracy and good governance to be opposed to the concern and demands of the protesters. There is no way that any society can make meaningful progress without the enthronement of these values.
“The protesters have, for the better part of the commencement of their civil action, conducted themselves with an admirable sense of responsibility, restraint and maturity. This is commendable. Indeed, the high level of organisation demonstrated by the protesting youths shows a new level of consciousness of the capability of a vigilant civil society as well as the efficacy of people’s power. This can only ultimately strengthen the country’s democratic evolution and sustainability,” he stated.
While urging the protesters to withdraw, Tinubu said Buhari had showed “a laudable sensitivity to the grievances of the youths.”
“You have made your point. Government has made a commitment to you. Please, please and please, call off the protests. Give the government a chance to implement your demands.
“It is only fair that government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand. If government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that that there is a positive change by government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency,” he added.
Tinubu urged the youths to be careful not to fritter away the considerable gains they had made within a very short period with “lack of moderation and strategic thinking”.
He described as “unfortunate” that hoodlums, thugs and assorted criminals had begun to take advantage of the protests to perpetrate violence and disrupt civil life.
He said he believed the intention of the organisers of the protest was not to “cause generalised anarchy or effect regime change.”
For its part, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) said Nigerian youths have inalienable right to protest against bad governance and police brutality.
It said in a communiqué signed by its chairman, Dr. Kayode Fayemi at the end of an emergency meeting held in Abuja on Sunday that it had endorsed the call by demonstrators for improved governance predicated on an enforcement regime that takes into cognisance the fundamental human rights and liberties of all citizens in the country.
Fayemi said the forum had resolved to act on all the demands made by the EndSARS protesters.
However, he raised some concerns on the shifting nature of the demands, which creates uncertainty regarding the exact expectations and ultimate goal.
Lamenting that criminal elements and hoodlums had hijacked the protests by maiming innocent citizens, looting and destroying properties, he appealed to protesters to call off the protests, maintaining that a continuation grossly exposes the fragile economic fundamentals of the country.
The Chairman said that the forum condemned the attack on the governor of Osun State, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola by armed persons while he was addressing anti-police brutality protesters in the state capital, Osogbo.
Fayemi noted that protesters were encouraged to engage with government appropriately, at both national and sub-national levels, to ensure that the protests were not taken over by hoodlums instigating a breakdown of law and order in many parts of the country.
He further disclosed that the forum had directed all states to activate panels of enquiry to receive cases of police brutality by officers of the disbanded SARS Unit.
“Each state is also expected to kick-start a compensation mechanism for all victims,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman, caretaker/ extra-ordinary national convention planning committee of the APC, Mr. Mala Buni, has alleged that there is a hidden agenda behind the nationwide #EndSARS protests.
Buni, who stated this in an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC monitored yesterday alleged that the refusal of the protesters to back down even after the inspector-general of police disbanded the SARS was an indication that the protesters have other objectives.
“When such things happen, there are those with ulterior motives. This is a nation where you have people with their own agenda.
“There are those asking for restructuring, some are secessionists, there are also criminals who see the disbanded unit as a threat to their activities. We should be careful.
“All leaders, irrespective of party affiliation, must come to their senses to realise that we must first have a peaceful Nigeria before they can attain whatever they want to achieve but if they instigate people to take to the streets for selfish reasons, it can only lead to chaos,” he said.