PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has used the occasion of the African Youth Day to concede that his government has failed young Nigerians and appealed to them to end street protests and participate in meaningful discussions with the government.
Over the last months, Nigerian youths have been involved in nationwide protests demanding the dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit, notorious for extortion, human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings. Over the last two weeks, the protests got violent after the Nigerian Army opened fire on unarmed protesters in Lagos.
It appears that President Buhari has finally conceded that his government is to blame after he stated that he will introduce measure aimed at comprehensive reforms to end all forms of police brutality against Nigerians. He made the appeal in his message to the maiden National Youth Day celebration, where he was represented by the Federal Capital Territory minister Muhammad Bello.
In his message, President Buhari, told the gathering that the pleas of Nigerian youths have been heard by his administration. He added that the federal government now wants to hear concrete and practical ideas from the youths, while acknowledging their constitutional right to peaceful protests.
President Buhari said: ”You must realise that protests cannot last indefinitely. My government will not lift a hand to stop or suppress you.
”However, the fact of the matter is that other forces and actors will seek to take over your protests that they may redirect them in ways you did not intend and perhaps do not agree with. Every successful protest movement the world over has understood that there comes a time when activity must move from the street to the negotiation table.
“That time for you has come, do not be afraid of this reality and you should welcome it. As youth, you have a nation and a future to build. My government will always be your faithful partner in this essential and patriotic endeavour.”
He also used the occasion to express his strong opposition to the wrongful use and imposition of violent force against any innocent, law-abiding persons, particularly young people. Restating his call for national unity, President Buhari said Nigerian youths are better positioned to drive the indivisibility of Nigeria and collectively overcome whatever challenges bedevilling the nation.