President Muhammadu Buhari, while addressing the nation on Thursday evening, said the promptness with which the government responded to the #EndSARS protests has been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interest.
This according to the president resulted in loss of lives and properties, acts of sexual violence, vandalisation, and destruction of public infrastructure amongst others.
The president, in his first broadcast on the #EndSARS protest and the violence that has resulted from it, said he was “deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost.”
He said his government was working to meet the demands of the protesters.
“I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding,” the president said.
The nationwide broadcast is coming two days after the Lekki toll gate shooting occurred.
The president also urged Nigerians to go about their daily activities, enjoining “security agencies to protect lives and property of law abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect.”
The #EndSARS agitation, which began years ago as an online agitation, morphed into street protests that have quickly swept across Nigeria in the past two weeks.
Protesters are demanding that the government scrap the unit and bring to book killer cops.
As the agitations spread into more states in the country, the federal government bowed to the pressure by disbanding the notorious police unit and replacing it with a new unit, the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team.
Protesters later came up with a 5for5 demand: to release all detained protesters; compensate families of victims, increment of police salary, psychological evaluation of officers of the disbanded SARS, setting up independent bodies to investigate cases of police misconduct.
A panel had also been set up to investigate reports of human rights violations by operatives of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
This panel recommended the prosecution of 33 officers and monetary compensation of N 265,754,730 to victims of human rights violations.
The police also said it has either demoted, dismissed or reprimanded 37 former SARS officers, including Abayomi Shogunle, a former Lagos command publicist who once called #EndSARS a scam, and Dolapo Badmus. The force also said 24 other ex-SARS operatives will be prosecuted for various acts of misconduct.
The Edo, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun, and Osun state governments, at the last count, have also set up judicial panels to help fulfil part of the demands by the protesters seeking justice for victims of police brutality, just as other governors have promised to follow suit.
But that didn’t deter the protesters as they continued to call for a complete overhaul of the policing architecture of the country.