President Muhammadu Buhari has broken his silence on the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, a few days after he addressed the nation on the widespread violence and unrest that marred the protests.
While avoiding to get into any debate until all facts were established, the president vowed to ensure justice for the peaceful protesters who lost their lives.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who issued the statement on Sunday on behalf of the president, explained that he decided not to speak on the shooting incident until he had access to all the facts.
He also promised that property and business owners affected by the arson across the country would get justice.
The president appealed to people all over the country to maintain peace and brotherhood as the machinery of the government and the wheel of justice turned against the perpetrators of murder, arson, stealing, rape, assault and malicious damage to public and private property.
He has also asked parents and guardians not to encourage their children and wards to partake in the ongoing nationwide looting, and destruction of property.
The president, in the statement, said, “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.’’
He advised that peace, brotherhood and inter-communal harmony are central to Nigeria’s ethos, and urged everyone not to turn against one another in hate.
He said it was important that the police and other security agencies moved everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.
Buhari said his administration was working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives had been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president said, “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.
“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 society.”
According to the statement, President Buhari commended the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protest to destroy and loot public and private property.
The President pointed out that his administration had taken note of the grievances of the people. He said, “We have heard you loud and clear,” while stressing that “the violence must stop.”
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.
He said the right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country is a constitutional right, which will be defended by the government.