Poised to restore law and order in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday the government will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals to have free rein in the country.
He said at all cost hooliganism and brigandage must be stopped and would not be allowed to over run the country.
Buhari spoke at a virtual meeting with former Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria he presided over from the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Persecondnews had reported that the meeting was attended by retired Gen. Yakubu Gowon, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, retired Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Head of the defunct Interim National Government (1993), retired Gen. Abulsalami Abubakar, and immediate past President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari described as unfortunate that the initial genuine and well-intended protest of youths in parts of the country against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was hijacked and misdirected by hoodlums.
Recounting the initial concessions made by his administration on the demands of the youths protesting against the excesses of SARS, the President restated the youths had demanded that the squad be disbanded and further articulated additional demands.
“The additional demands include 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,’’ Buhari said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, and obtained by Persecondnews.
He recalled: “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.”
Buhari expressed concern that in the mayhem that ensued, many lives had been lost, a number of public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalized.
“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.”
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.”
The former leaders commended President 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.
Obasanjo said: “I commend the speech of last night. The nation had been waiting. You made points that I believe need to be commended. Peaceful demonstration is part of democratic practice. The demands of the genuine protesters were accepted, and you are working on implementation. We commend you.”
The leaders were unanimous in their view that employment generation and growing the economy including through direct foreign investments into the country were critical to addressing youth restiveness.
They also expressed their condolences to the families of civilians, policemen and soldiers killed as a result of the violent protests, and reaffirmed the commitment to respect the fundamental rights of citizens, including for peaceful protest as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The former Heads of State also condemned the divisive and inciting pronouncements of separatists, and were of the opinion that such acts should be stopped.
In addition, the leaders commended the actions taken by governors to address the demands of the ENDSARS protesters and their efforts to check the excesses of those who perpetrated violence.
They called on youths to pursue peaceful means in seeking redress through engagement with government and encouraged further conversation with the youths and other stakeholders in the country.