President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday told youths campaigning against police brutality across the country to leave the streets and approach the negotiation table.
The president, according to a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the call at the maiden National Youth Day programme held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Represented at the forum by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, Buhari said it was important for the protesting youths to realise that protests cannot last indefinitely.
He said the Federal Government wants concrete and practical ideas from the youths on how to move the country forward.
The president said: “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 that they 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.”
Buhari reiterated his position that it was wrong to use violence to disperse peaceful protesters and warned against using security agents to brutalise the protesters.
The president stressed that his decision to allow protests was not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and belief in democracy.
“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 added.
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