President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday delivered the much-awaited nationwide broadcast on the crisis surrounding the #EndSARS protests around the country.
The highlights include an assertion of his government’s resolve to enforce law and order, provision of empowerment programmes for youths, urging caution among protesters, and warning “subversive” elements against destabilisation the country.
In the broadcast, he said Nigerians mistook his administration’s swift disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as a sign of weakness.
The president said: “As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point 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 and two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed.
“Public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a Peace Maker, 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 #EndSARS 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.
“The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through 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 judgment and disruptive behaviour.
“Let me at this point reaffirm the Federal Government’s commitment to preserving the unity of this country.
“In the circumstances, 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.”
He also charged the youths to take advantage of the various initiatives put in place by the Federal Government to make lives more meaningful for the citizens.
President Buhari added: “On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the well being and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our 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 (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is paying three-month 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, giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans and guaranteeing market for the products of traders.
“These are in addition to many other initiatives such as Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech, and N-Agro.
“No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done.
The president also spoke on efforts to improve the welfare of police and other paramilitary outfits.
“With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force.
“The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards”, he said.
President Buhari also touted his administration’s support for teachers, thus: “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.”
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