President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday told youths who have been embarking on #EndSARS protests across the country that the time has come for them to leave the streets and approach negotiation table.
He said it was important for the protesting youths to realise that protests cannot last indefinitely.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President, represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello, spoke at the maiden National Youth Day programme with the theme “Invest in the youth, secure our future” held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The statement was titled “President Buhari to Nigeria youths: End street protests, dialogue with government on police reforms.”
The President was quoted as saying that after the protests, what the Federal Government wants to hear now are “concrete and practical ideas” from the youths.
Although Buhari acknowledged the constitutional right of the youth to peaceful protests, he said they needed to stop the protests before “forces and actors” will take over the protests in order to redirect them in ways the youth did not intend and perhaps do not agree with.
The President 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. 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 youths, you have a nation and a future to build. My government will always be your faithful partner in this essential and patriotic endeavour.”
Buhari reiterated his position that it is wrong to use violence to disperse peaceful protesters.
He warned against using security agents to brutalise such peaceful protesters.
The President argued that to allow protests is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and belief in democracy.