OBINNA EZUGWU

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has pleaded for peace, assuring the victims of violence that followed EndSARS protest across the country would get justice.

The EndSARS protests had turned violent following the shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State by soldiers. Throughout last week, hoodlums who hijacked the protests continued looting both private and public properties in various states of the federation.

Buhari, had while briefing the Council of State, comprising his predecessors on Friday, said that at least 69 people have been killed in the protests raging across the country.

He gave the breakdown of the death toll as 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers.

The president, in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Malam Shehu Garba, pleaded with Nigerians to maintain peace and brotherhood, saying the incidence of last week did not speak well of the country.

The president explained that he had avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Tollgate incident until all the facts are established, but assured Nigerians that the victims of the protests would get justice.

Buhari commended the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested for allegedly using the protests to destroy and loot public and private property.

He condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups asking Nigerians to take pride in the fact that the country’s diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages.

He came down very hard on the 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 described the actions as criminal, added that it could weaken and erode the confidence of the people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.

He warned that his government will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into a free-for-all vandalism and looting.

“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,” Buhari said.

“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 organised 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.”

The president warned that looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in the country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy.

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 vandalised and looted.

The president stated that it is important that the police and other security agencies move in to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.