Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari Thursday night finally addressed the nation without even a passing mention of the Lekki Toll Gate killing by the military or reference to the shootings that aggravated the protests but paid glowing tributes to police officers who lost their lives.
Instead Buhari in his 10 minutes broadcast and 27 paragraphs said the “so called protesters” caused damages which diplomatic sources had described as reactions to provocations by Nigeria’s security forces.
He did not make reference to the army using live bullets and denying being ever present at Lekki Toll gate of which Governor Sanwoolu has said expressly that they were not only there but they also shot at the protesters.
Diplomatic comments had referred mostly to the shootings and demanded that Nigeria bring the security officers to book.
His Minister of Defence, Ali Monguno had earlier said he has directed the military not again use kinetic force on protesters for which kinetic in military terms mean live bullets which was deemed as an acceptance of guilt by observers.
President Buhari said, “To our neighbors in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements”.
“The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behavior”.
He catalogued the sins of the youths as “human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalized; the sanctity of the Palace of a Peace Maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors”.
The president listed the economic programes his administration had presented to alleviate the sufferings of the youth and boasted that “No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done”.
Buhari said the youths have spoken and has been heard but warned those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well - intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country.
“We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement. We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected”.
“I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country”
He said his government will attend to the five point demand of the youths adding that “I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms”.
Buhari appealed to resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy as this will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.
He called on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions.