President Muhammadu Buhari has broken his silence on the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country. In his less-than 15-minute long address on Thursday, the President assured the protesters that their voices have been heard ‘loud and clear’ and urged them to discontinue their demonstrations, saying ‘we are responding’.
The President, however, kept mum on the shootings by soldiers in the Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos State, an issue many had expected him to address. He spoke on everything else from the dissolution of the controversial (SARS) unit at the centre of the protests, to some steps being taken to meet the five-point demands of protesters, police reforms, the involvement of the international community and poverty alleviation initiatives targeted at the youth and other vulnerable groups in society.
“No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done,” the President said. Over the past few days, the world has watched what started off as peaceful demonstrations, degenerate into violence that has seen properties destroyed, businesses grounded and several persons killed. “All these executed in the name of the #EndSARS protests,” the President said, adding, “I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost”.
The nearly three-week-long unrest in the country has also drawn the attention of the international community, with many such as the UN, ECOWAS and Amnesty International, calling for investigations into the brutality. While the president acknowledged their concerns, he urged them to get all their facts right before making any “hasty pronouncements”. He also reiterated his administration’s commitment to securing lives and property and enjoined security agencies to do so without harming those they are meant to protect.