The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, claimed that his regime’s decision to accept the demands by youths who protested against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force emboldened them to become violent.
His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement, quoted the President as speaking during a virtual meeting he had with former Nigerian leaders.
The statement was titled, ‘How EndSARS protest was hijacked; misdirected, President Buhari tells former Heads of State.’
Adesina quoted the President as saying, “We accepted all the demands and proceeded immediately to scrap SARS and started the process of addressing the other demands.
“Unfortunately, the protesters refused to call off the protest and engage the government to address their grievances.
“Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent.”
The presidential aide further quoted Buhari as expressing concern that in the mayhem that ensued, many lives have been lost, a number of public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised.
He said the President reiterated his pledge to Nigerians in his nationwide broadcast on Thursday that “We will continue to improve good governance through our democratic process including through sustained engagement.
“We shall also continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected. Here, I want to also reaffirm our commitment to preserving the unity of this country.”
Adesina further said Buhari told his predecessors that it is unfortunate that the initial genuine and well-intended protest of the youths was hijacked and misdirected.
He said Buhari reiterated that the government will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism in the country.
He recalled that the youth had demanded that the squad be disbanded, and further articulated the additional demands, including: “The immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
“Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of Police misconduct within 10 days; psychological evaluation and re-training of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be re-deployed; and increase in Police salary.”
He said The President thanked the former Heads of State for attending the meeting and their invaluable comments, observations and advice, adding that “Nigerians expect nothing less from responsible statesmen.”
According to the statement, each of the former leaders commended Buhari for steps taken so far to restore calm and order to the country and also applauded the presidential broadcast of Thursday as “detailed and soothing to the country.”
The statement listed living past Nigerian leaders that attended the meeting to include Former President Obasanjo; General Yakubu Gowon (retd.); General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.); Chief Ernest Shonekan; General Abulsalami Abubakar (retd.); and former President Goodluck Jonathan.