President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned eviction notices handed down to some ethnic and religious groups in some parts of the country owing to the destruction of public assets following the hijack of the peaceful protests by the youth demanding the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and police brutality.
He vowed to defend the constitutional right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country.
The President, in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, also described the ongoing looting and plundering of public and private assets across the country as inimical to public good.
He equally promised to ensure that those protesters and security officials who lost their lives or sustained injuries when soldiers allegedly opened fire on them at the Lekki Toll Gate last week get justice just as he lauded the Lagos State government for the take-off of its Judicial Panel of Inquiry today.
It would be recalled that a certain group had given today as an ultimatum for a certain tribe to leave Lagos after which terror would be unleashed on them.
But the Lagos State government has promised to provide adequate security to all Nigerians residing in the state, urging the people to go about their normal business without any fear.
He said: “President Buhari also condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups asking Nigerians to take pride in the fact that our diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages.
The right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country is a constitutional right and will be defended by the government.”
The President said he had, all along, avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts are established even as he appealed to the people all over the country to maintain peace and brotherhood as the machinery of the government and the wheel of justice turn against the perpetrators of murder, arson, stealing, rape, assault and malicious damage to public and private property.
According to him, the activation of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry today gave the hope that the nation would give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered and property owners whose assets were vandalized and looted.
Buhari advised that peace, brotherhood and inter communal harmony were central to the nation’s ethos and urged Nigerians “not to turn against one another in hate.”
He pointed out that it was important that the police and other security agencies move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.
The President said while his administration was working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of the unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned that resort to widespread attacks and the organized looting and plundering of public and private property in many states were inimical to public good and stand condemned.
“A government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.
“While the administration has, for its part, blocked so many means of looting public money in a war against corruption, it is the expectation that all civil authorities, community and religious leaders in the country must rise against the organized looting and plunder we are witnessing in parts of the country.
“Families must turn back children who bring home unaccounted goods, in the same way wives must ask their husbands to return looted items brought home. “What is more, is that criminal actions, as we have so far witnessed, can weaken and erode the confidence of our people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.
“Looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in our country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy. “These incidents do not reflect well on any society. They are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of the society,” Buhari added.
Sequel to these, the President commended the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protests to destroy and loot public and private property.
While alluding to two preceding statements he issued on #EndSARS protests, Buhari said his administration would not take the grievances of the people for granted.
“We have heard you loud and clear,” he said, just as he claimed that his government had shown a clear determination to take all necessary measures to address the complaints. “The violence must stop,” he warned.