President Muhammadu Buhari has warned the youth calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and end to police brutality not to allow hoodlums to hijack their peaceful protests.
This warning came yesterday after reports emerged that some miscreants infiltrated the ranks of the protesters, attacked a Correctional Facility and released its inmates in Benin City, Edo State. Briefing newsmen after a meeting with the President alongside his Chief of Staff (CoS), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said Buhari told him that he would always provide protection to the youth and ensure that they live a free life devoid of police brutality. He equally promised to deliver on the #EndSARS protesters’ request for the reform of the police as well as other demands raised in their five-point document presented to him.
According to him, the President, who described the youth as the asset of the country, also recognised their rights to protest, but urged them to do that in a peaceful, civil manner. Dare said: “Mr. President assured that the demands of the protesters are being met in a timely fashion, some have been met already.
He said he accepts their demands and that government is already responding at various levels. “Mr. President said the youth of this country have spoken and he has heard and he has since gone to work for the youth of country, not just as a president, but also as a father of the younger generation.
“He said as a father to this generation of our youths, his desire is for them to be well protected and live in a country where they enjoy their freedom and do not suffer from any form of police brutality.
“The President promised that he will ensure that the reforms as promised are met, that the reforms are long lasting and that the reforms will deliver for our country a police force that we will be proud of. “So, on the whole, I got the assurances of Mr. President that the youth of our country are a great resource and not a problem. He appreciates the fact that they have brought the SARS issue to the fore through their peaceful protests.
“He recognizes that they have called upon the government to do what is necessary and that as a president and a father, he will make sure that the demands put forward are met and that he will work to ensure that we get the reform we want, ensure that our youths are no longer profiled, but celebrated and supported for their vast potentials, skills and for the fact that the future of our country lie in the hands of our youths.” Asked to speak on plans on engagement, Dare said: “First, Mr. President said that as far as he is concerned, it is important to allow the younger generation to exercise the freedom to protest, but he did say that such protest must be in a peaceful manner.
“Of course, he is worried about some of the exceptions to the peaceful nature of the protest. And for him, it is important that these protests are properly guided. He said part of the demands that were made was to ensure those protesting are protected and any police officer that has, in one way or the other, attacked any protester be brought to book.” The minister said the President told him that he had no problem with the protests, as long as they are peaceful and focused, and that his government was prepared to address all their demands.
Asked what the government had done to engage the protesters, he said the President had condemned the extra-judicial killings in the past and approved investigations to bring the guilty to justice.
The minister stressed that some of the demands made by the protesters would take time because they may require administrative responses while others would need legislation. “We live in a constitutional democracy, these processes cannot be usurped or bypassed, it must take time. But I think that the youth of this country have been heard, the agenda is clear and the government has taken note, government has gone to work,” he assured.