The suspended nationwide protests calling for police reforms resumed Sunday with Abuja protesters returning to the streets of the nation’s capital.
This is coming over a week after the peaceful protests which escalated into violence was halted with curfews imposed by authorities.
Some demonstrators, although not much in numbers, were sighted demonstrating and inscribing ‘ENDSARS’ on the road leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Sunday afternoon.
They continued the protest at the force headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) reprinting the inscription with former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, accompanying them.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the demonstrators to halt their actions and dialogue with the federal government.
He made the demand in his remark during the occasion of the national youth day celebration held in Abuja today.
The transcript of his speech is reproduced below.
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, ON THE OCCASION OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTH DAY CELEBRATION, HELD IN ABUJA, SUNDAY, 1ST NOVEMBER, 2020
I welcome you to the first edition of our National Youth Day which coincides with the African Youth Day celebrations across the continent. I see this event as symbolizing the importance we attach and the priority we seek to give our young population.
2. This maiden National Youth Day that was recently approved in August 2020 is the reaffirmation of this government’s belief that the Nigerian Youth deserves recognition, validation and attention. The pivotal role played by Nigerian Youth as agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development led this Administration to declare every 1st November henceforth as National Youth Day. This gathering presents an important opportunity to speak to young people in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
3. Today, I cannot stand before you and discuss Nigerian youth without talking about the current situation in the country. This administration is more than mindful of the recent protests and grievances against police brutality.
4. Like every good Nigerian, I oppose the wrongful use and imposition of violent force against any innocent, law-abiding persons, particularly our youth. No one who is obeying the law, whether they are in line waiting for a taxi or in a peaceful protest line, should be harassed or brutalized by law enforcement agencies.
5. It is because of my abiding belief in the people’s constitutional rights that we moved with dispatch to abolish SARS and to consider other reforms that will enhance the quality of law enforcement and improve the relationship between the police and public which is a pre-requisite in a just society.
6. To allow protests is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and belief in democracy, and faith in the innate goodness of our people. This also shows confidence in the ability of our government to work with the people toward a reasonable and practical resolution to any challenge.
7. Let me add a word of advice to the protesters and I hope that they accept it in the spirit with which it is offered. This government extends a hand to you to come join in meaningful dialogue so that we may chart a way forward that will include necessary reforms needed for our police and other security services.
8. Your pleas have been heard. Now we want to hear your concrete and practical ideas.
9. You must realize that protests cannot last indefinitely. Our 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.
10. 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. Welcome the chance to talk to government.
11. It is important that we all strive to use this moment constructively. Too many people have already been lost. It is our duty to use this fateful situation to move ourselves to a more just and caring society. You have a future to build. This government will always be your faithful partner in this essential and patriotic endeavor.
12. Nigerian Youth, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this gathering presents an important opportunity to speak to young people in Nigeria and in the diaspora. The pivotal role played by Nigerian Youth as agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development led this Administration to declare every November 1st henceforth as National Youth Day.
13. On this special occasion, we affirm our faith and confidence in the indivisible entity called Nigeria and in its future. We face many challenges but, in you, this nation has the collective ability and drive to overcome that which confronts us. To succeed you must believe in a better and more progressive Nigeria.
14. To build this better and finer nation, we must first give youth the skills and tools to become the active architects, engineers, carpenters and masons to drive this society.
15. You owe it to yourselves to imbibe the attitude of national progress and personal success. As far back as 1938, the Nigerian Youth Movement was at the forefront of the emancipation of our nation. They rallied the masses and spoke eloquently of their vision for Nigeria.
16. While the dynamics of our society keeps changing, a constant theme for democracy to flourish is that the youth must be encouraged and groomed to take key roles in politics, business and other spheres of public life.
17. In line with this philosophy, this administration has designed about 25 youth focused programs and done much to position youth in this regard across various MDAS. The following readily comes to mind:
a. The birth of the Nigerian Youth policy in 2019
b. The Establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund in July 2020
c. Young Farmers Initiative,
d. “DEEL” programme, encompassing Digital Skills,
f. Employability and Leadership/Mentoring,
g. Nigerian Online Youth Assembly initiative. Government recently approved about N4 billion naira for the implementation of DEEL.
h. The Not Too Young to Run Act,
i. The Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan, NYEAP,
j. The Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) ,
k. The N-Power, N-Tech, N-Agro
l. SI and Disaster Management,
m. The Youth Entrepreneurship Support Program (YES) Programme,
n. Graduate Internship Scheme and Youth Enterprise with Innovation In Nigeria,
o. Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme, YEDP,
p. The $20 million Technology Fund for Young Innovators.
18. These are but some of the major initiatives empowering youth across the country. The foregoing clearly indicate government’s commitment toward our youth. This Administration in the past five years has established many initiatives to place youth on the path of career development, entrepreneurship, skills development, and direct employment.
19. Today we will unveil the official logo of the N75, 000,000,000.00 (seventy-five billion naira) Nigeria Youth Investment Fund for the period of 2020 – 2023. This novel fund is dedicated to investing in the innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian Youth and to provide our youth with a special window to access much needed financing, business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprise.
20. Over a million applications have already been received since the Youth Investment Fund Portal went live on 12th of October 2020.
21. Training has already begun for the first batch of beneficiaries. We are wasting no time in this effort as there is no time to waste in the important mission of training you to face the challenges and to assume the leadership of tomorrow. I urge you all to waste no time in taking full advantage of these opportunities.
22. This event is therefore an opportunity to identify and begin how to plan to hone your talent, skills and entrepreneurship. You should avail yourselves of the opportunities created by this government to secure your future as self-starters today for a prosperous and assured future.
23. It is the objective of this government to set the foundation for durable progress and growth in Nigeria. We strive to tackle longstanding problems so that you will not have to do so.
24. We do this so that you will not encounter innumerable problems because of the flaws of yesterday. We are doing this so that you may progress and prosper because you have the requisite skills that allow you to hold the key to a better future in your very hands.
Thank you and God bless the Youth and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.