President Muhammadu Buhari said Monday that Nigerians are free to speak openly in a democracy, but no acts of hooliganism would be tolerated by the government.
He said that hooligans hiding behind lawful and peaceful protests would be decisively dealt with to ensure the country’s peace and stability.
The warning came in the midst of reports that youths in the country were reportedly organizing a second wave of the #EndSARS protest.
The protest against police violence and the excesses of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were staged across major cities in the nation in October, a development that led to the loss of lives and the destruction of property by hoodlums that hijacked the protest.
Declaring open the 2020 Annual Conference of the Chief of Army Staff, President Buhari, who spoke in a virtual arrangement, commended the Nigerian Armed Forces during what he described as “the large-scale criminality” that ensued in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protests, for their efforts to quickly restore law and order in different states.
Reiterating the government’s commitment to citizens’ rights to embark on peaceful protests responsibly in compliance with land rules, the President recounted that in many cities across the world, the #ENDSARS protests were unfortunately hijacked by hooligans to inflict gratuitous harm to lives and property.
Citing the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effects on almost every aspect of national life, the President described the year 2020 as a very difficult one.
Nevertheless, I am pleased to note that the Army has remained committed to perform its constitutional duties and to keep the wealth and health of our soldiers a priority.
A case in point is the Army’s assistance of the Civil Authorities in handling the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Also without the high level of professionalism shown by all security agencies, including the Army, the peaceful elections conducted in Edo and Ondo States would not have been achieved,” he said at the conference on Human Capacity Development in Sustaining the Professionalism and Responsiveness of the Nigerian Army in Discharge of its Constitutional Roles.”
The President commended the Nigerian Army for its unwavering commitment through ongoing exercises and operations in various parts of the country to curb the activities of militants, armed robbers, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, and other violent criminals.
Notably, he said commendable progress had been made by the SAHEL SANITY exercise launched a few months ago in the North West States to rid the Katsina-Zamfara corridor of marauding bandits.
“I have also been briefed on the tremendous successes achieved by the troops during the ongoing North East Operation FIREBALL,” Buhari said.
“I urge all of you to continue these efforts until the complete restoration of peace and stability in the nation is accomplished,” the President told representatives of the armed forces at the meeting, which offers an opportunity for the military leadership to re-evaluate its preparedness and operational readiness to fulfill its constitutional functions.”
Buhari also used the opportunity to pay tribute to men and women in uniform who, commiserating with their families, comrades, and friends, have made the highest sacrifice in the defense and security of the country.
“Buhari said As we pray for the rest of their souls, we must reinforce our collective determination to tackle those problems that will make every part of our nation a safe and prosperous place to live and carry out our daily business.
He vowed that his administration would not give in to its attempts to take proper care of the families of fallen heroes who had made supreme sacrifices throughout the country in the war against insurgency and other forms of crime.