President Muhammadu Buhari Sunday in Abuja appealed to Nigerian youths to end street protests and participate in meaningful discussions with government aimed at comprehensive reforms to end all forms of police brutality against Nigerians.
The President made the appeal his message to the maiden National Youth Day celebration, which was observed today.
He was represented by FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello.
The event coincided with the African Youth Day celebration.
Against the backdrop of the recent protests against police brutality in the country, leading to the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), 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.
” 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. You should welcome it.
”It is important that we all strive to use this moment constructively. Too many people have already sacrificed too dearly. It is our duty to use this fateful situation to move ourselves to a more just and caring society.
”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 said.
President Buhari 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.
”No one who is obeying the law, whether they are in line waiting for a taxi or in a peaceful protest line, should be harassed or brutalized by law enforcement agencies.
”It is because of my abiding belief in the people’s constitutional rights that we moved with dispatch to abolish SARS and to consider other reforms that will enhance the quality of law enforcement and improve the relationship between the police and public which is a pre-requisite in a just society.
”To allow protests is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and belief in democracy, and faith in the innate goodness of our people.
”This also shows confidence in the ability of our government to work with the people toward a reasonable and practical resolution to any challenge,” he said.
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.
”On this special occasion, we affirm our faith and confidence in the indivisible entity called Nigeria and in its future.
”We face many challenges but, in you, this nation has the collective ability and drive to overcome that which confronts us,’’ he said.
At the event with the theme: ”Invest in the Youth, Secure Our Future”, the winners of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development organised 60-day App Challenge and Youth Innovators were recognised and received cash rewards.