The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, berated people he called subversive elements whom he alleged were bent on using #EndSARS protesters to cause chaos and truncate the country’s democracy.
Buhari, who said this in a national broadcast, begged youths calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and police reforms to suspend their protests..
Advising them to resist the temptation of being used by those he described as subversive elements, he said his regime would not tolerate undermining of the country’s unity by anybody.
The President’s address came two weeks after youths demanding disbanding of SARS began protests.
But eminent Nigerians and #EndSARS protesters, who reacted to the President’s speech, berated him over his failure to comment on the shooting of protesters by soldiers in Lekki, Lagos. They said his broadcast was devoid of empathy.
Although the Federal Government disbanded SARS on October 12, the protesters insisted that government had not met all their five-point demand, which included release of all persons arrested and justice for victims of police brutality and setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days).
Others are psychological evaluation of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed, and increase in police salary.
The protests, however, assumed a tragic dimension on Tuesday when soldiers shot protesters in Lekki, Lagos. Scores of protesters were killed in Lagos and other parts of the country by security agents and hoodlums.
Several policemen were also killed in the violence.
On Thursday, Buhari said the youth protesting against police brutality must stop their protests immediately.
He warned the protesting youths that allowing themselves to be used against democracy amounted to undermining the nation’s security which his regime would not tolerate.
The President said, “I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy.
“For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.
“I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.
“And I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law-abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect.”
The President also warned “those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad.”
Don’t make hasty pronouncements, Buhari tells international community
The President also advised members of the international community not to make hasty pronouncements on the situation that had turned international attention to Nigeria.
He asked them to first seek to know all the facts on the matter before rushing to take positions.
“To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements,” Buhari said.
‘My quick action on SARS misconstrued as weakness’
The Nigerian leader regretted that the promptness in which his regime responded to the demand of the protesters to disband SARS was misconstrued as a sign of weakness.
He claimed that some people twisted the gesture for their selfish interests, therefore leading to violence.
According to the President, “The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our 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.
“As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.
“On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive police reforms.
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.
“The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the palace of a peacemaker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an international airport and, in the process, disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors.
“All these executed in the name of the #EnSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.”
Buhari also said some people were spreading falsehood, particularly through the social media that his regime was oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens.
This, he said, was a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into “unfair judgment and disruptive behaviour.”
The President said contrary to what the peddlers of the misinformation wanted people to believe, his regime’s deeds and words had shown how committed the government had 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 said his government had put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in the society.
These, according to him, included the plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75bn National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youth and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survival Fund.
All these, he said, were in addition to other initiatives such as Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech and N-Agro.
Buhari boasted none of his predecessors in office had done what his regime was doing to alleviate poverty.
He added, “No Nigerian government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done.”
According to him, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalisation of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force.
“In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers.”
The President paid tribute to policemen who lost their lives.
He also thanked state governors as well as traditional and religious leaders who had appealed for calm and restraint.
President silent on soldiers who invaded Lekki protest site
Surprisingly however, the President failed in his speech to mention the issue of armed soldiers who at the Lekki toll gate on Tuesday and shot protesters.
The action of the soldiers was what led to the subsequent vandalism of public and private properties in Lagos and other states on Wednesday and Thursday.
The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had claimed he was not aware of the deployment of soldiers in the protest site while instituting an investigation into the matter.
Many observers had indicated that troops could not be deployed in any location without the knowledge of the President who is the Commander-in-Chief
A few hours after his broadcast eminent Nigerians and senior lawyers lashed out at the President on his silence on Lekki tollgate killings and key issues of the #EndSARS protests.
Speech short of expectations – Oyetibo
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, said Buhari’s speech fell below expectation, particularly as no reference was made to the Lekki tollgate killings.
Oyetibo said, “The speech was short of the expectation of many of us because there was no mention of what happened in Lekki and other parts of the country, specifically. You may not agree with what people are saying but it ought to have been mentioned.
“There was no sympathy or empathy for those who have lost their lives and what needed to be done to assuage the feelings of those people. And more importantly, they had whetted the appetite of Nigerians that far-reaching decisions were going to be taken. We didn’t see any decision taken in the speech.
“My advice to the youth is that they should go out and register for the next election, from 18 and above, they should go and register and begin to prepare for the next election.”
Buhari’s speech contains avoidable gaps – Falana
A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) also picked holes in the speech delivered by the President in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests in the country.
Falana told The PUNCH that the speech contained avoidable gaps.
He cited an instance of where Buhari accused the international community of jumping into hasty conclusion over the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State on Tuesday.
He said, “The presidential speech contained some avoidable lacunae. For instance, the President accused the international community of jumping into hasty conclusions with respect to the Lekki shootings.
“My worry is that the President would be embarrassed at the end of legal inquiry into the military invasion of the Lekki toll gate as the number of the unarmed protesters that were mowed down and the circumstances of the barbaric attack by the soldiers from a particular military barrack in Victoria Island would be exposed.
“It was good that the President consoled the families of the police personnel who unfortunately lost their lives in the course of duty. Similar presidential condolences ought to have been extended to the families of the unarmed protesters who were brutally murdered in Ogbomoso, Ibadan, Benin, Lagos etc. I want to believe that the President was not informed that unarmed protesters were slain in the premeditated attacks by police and military personnel.
“However, the President reiterated the point that the voice of the protesters had been heard loud and clear and that the Federal Government is committed to addressing the outstanding demands. Specifically, the President announced that the emoluments of police officers would be reviewed upwards. That is a concession of one of the key demands of the protesters.”
Buhari’s speech lacks empathy, emotion – #EndSARS protesters
A member of the #EndSARS movement in Abuja, Kaka George, said the President’s broadcast did not meet the expectations of the campaigners, noting that his speech lacked empathy and emotion.
George, a lawyer, noted that the presidential address failed to assuage the people’s pain and loss, adding that it was rather filled with recriminations and threats of sanctions.
The activist whose Toyota SUV was damaged during an attack on #EndSARS protesters in Abuja stated, “He (Buhari) didn’t speak to the protesters; there was no empathy, no any form of emotion to show that he felt the pain Nigerians have gone through in the past couple of days and hours.”
Another #EndSARS campaigner, Uche Philips, criticized the broadcast which he said did not address the aspirations of Nigerian youths.
He noted that the President failed to use the opportunity to speak to the issues that concerned the activists, stressing that the presidential speech fell below expectations.
Buhari’s broadcast empty, devoid of leadership – African Bar Association
Similarly, the President of the African Bar Association, Mr Hannibal Uwaifo, said the President’s speech was devoid of leadership qualities.
Uwaifo said, “The African Bar Association hereby unequivocally condemns the national broadcast of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. The address, which was empty and devoid of any leadership, shows that Nigeria is on a rudderless passenger train heading for an unknown destination.
“AfBA views the President’s recalcitrance, thoughtlessness and lack of empathy as irresponsible and evil and a naked display of cruelty and arrogance. Our commitment to dragging the Nigerian government before the International Criminal Court and other international organisations to account for its criminal acts against the people of Nigeria has been further reinforced.” ,,
Buhari acts like engaging Nigerians is beneath him – Chimamanda
Bestselling author, Chimamanda Adichie, says the President sometimes acts in a manner that seems as if engaging with Nigerians is beneath him.
Adichie stated this in an article published in New York Times titled, ‘Nigeria Is Murdering Its Citizens’ on Thursday, hours before Buhari’s televised speech.
She wrote, “The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has long been ineffectual, with a kind of wilful indifference. Under his leadership, insecurity has worsened; there is the sense that Nigeria could very well burn to the ground while the President remains malevolently aloof. The President himself has often telegraphed a contemptuous self-righteousness, as though engaging fully with Nigerians is beneath him.”
Buhari’ broadcast speechless speech – Fayose
Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, in a tweet expressed disappointment with the broadcast of the president.
But Fayose, who, in a tweet, reacted to Buhari’s broadcast, described it as “speechless speech,” adding, “i warned Nigerians”.
On her part, Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said the President seemed to be forgetting that the #EndSARS protest was not about his initiatives but rather about police brutality in Nigeria and the level of impunity in which security officials operate in Nigeria.
The People’s Democratic Party also dismissed the address by the President.
The party’s position was contained in a statement titled “EndSARS: Buhari’s Address Disconnected, Failed Empathy Test – PDP,” signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, late on Thursday.
He said the PDP described the long-awaited address by the President about the protests rocking the nation, as disappointing and completely disconnected from the realities of the tragic occurrences in the country in the last two weeks.
Nigerian celebrities express disappointment in Buhari’s address
Nigerian celebrities expressed disappointment in the address of the President.
Popular artiste, Adekunle Gold, in a series of tweets, wondered why the President did not mention the Lekki shootings and killings in Zamfara.
He urged the youth to be united.
“Wait what?!! My heart cannot take this! My God! I’m dazed!
“We all have one common challenge and it’s our bad leaders not our fellow brothers and sisters,” he wrote.
Also, singer and songwriter, Ayodeji Balogun, aka Wizkid, sighed, saying, “God help Nigeria.”
While David Adeleke, aka Davido, simply remarked, ‘Wahala’, Damini Ogulu, aka Burnaboy, quipped, ‘Huh?’
Singer, Paul Okoye, of the Psquare fame, fell on the floor of his house, as he ‘fainted’ after watching the address.
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