#EndSARS protest: Buhari breaks silence on Lekki shooting, gives reason for keeping mum

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said he had all along avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts were established.

Buhari was silent on the shooting of peaceful young #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at Lekki Toll gate last Tuesday in his nationwide broadcast on Thursday night.

Soldiers had shot at protesters at the Lekki Toll gate last Tuesday night, igniting violent protest in Lagos and several cities, consequently leading to looting, vandalizing and razing of both public and private property.

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, the President said he avoided going into debate on the incident until all the facts were available.

He appealed to 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.

President Buhari also condemned the widespread attacks and the organised looting and plundering of public and private property in many states, saying they are inimical to public good.

The President, who decried the actions as witnessed so far as criminal, added that it could weaken and erode the confidence of the people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, in a statement issued Saturday said, the President therefore, warned that his government would not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.

Buhari stated: “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.”

The President stressed that these incidents do not reflect well on any society, adding that they are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of the society.

Buhari also expressed optimism that the judicial panel of inquiry would assist the nation to give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered and property owners whose assets were vandalized and looted.

The President was of the opinion that it was important that the police and other security agencies move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.

According to him, as the judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government, one of the more dozen states to do so, starts sitting on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his full support and optimism that it will assist the nation to give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered and property owners whose assets were vandalised and looted.

Buhari said while his administration was working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned against resort to widespread attacks and organized looting.

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