President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), yesterday sounded a note of warning to protesters saying his regime will deal decisively with “any act of hooliganism hiding behind peaceful protests.”
He said although his regime believed in the rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests, such must be done responsibly.
Buhari stated these while virtually declaring open the Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020 from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
At a time when there are reports of a possible repeat of the recent #EndSARS protests, Buhari regretted the violence that trailed the last protests.
He said, “Let me also mention the EndSARS protest which was recently hijacked by hoodlums which resulted in the loss of lives and property in many situations across the country.
“I want to reiterate our government’s commitment to the rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests.
“However, this must be done responsibly in accordance with the laws of the land.
“I also want to state that any act of hooliganism hiding behind the peaceful protests, will be highly dealt with decisively to ensure the peace and stability of our nation.
“On this note, I commend the Nigeria Army for their efforts to swiftly restore law and order in many states during the last scale of criminality that ensued in the wake of the EndSARS protests.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, later released a statement quoting Buhari as describing 2020 as a very challenging year.
He said the President cited the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on almost every aspect of national life.
”Despite this, I am pleased to note that the Army remained resolute in the discharge of its Constitutional roles and in keeping the wealth and welfare of our soldiers a priority.
”The Army’s support of civil authorities in the management of the COVID – 19 pandemic is a case in point.
”Also, the peaceful elections conducted in Edo and Ondo States would not have been achieved without the high level of professionalism displayed by all security agencies, including the Army,”
Buhari said at the conference themed, ‘Human Capacity Development in Sustaining Professionalism and Responsiveness of the Nigerian Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles.’
The President also commended the Army for what he called its unwavering commitment towards curtailing the activities of insurgents, armed bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and other violent criminals through ongoing exercises and operations in different parts of the country.
He said the Exercise SAHEL SANITY launched a few months ago in the North West states to rid the Katsina-Zamfara corridor of marauding bandits had recorded commendable progress.
Buhari added, “I have also been briefed about the tremendous successes that have been achieved by troops during the ongoing Operation FIREBALL in the North East.
”I charge you all to sustain these efforts until the full restoration of peace and security in the nation is achieved.”
Buhari also paid tribute to men and women in uniform who have paid the supreme sacrifice in the defence and security of the nation, commiserating with their families, comrades and friends.
”As we pray for the repose of their souls, we must strengthen our collective resolve to address those issues that will make every part of our country a safe and secure place to live and carry out our normal business,” he said.
He pledged that his regime will not relent in its efforts to take adequate care of families of fallen heroes who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the fight against insurgency and other forms of crimes across the country.
At the conference, the President launched the Housing scheme for Next of Kin of personnel of the Nigerian Army killed in action.
”It is in line with this that the Army as part of its welfare initiative and in line with the Federal Government’s housing programme is undertaking the Housing Scheme for families and next of kin of troops that were killed in action in the fight against insurgency and other criminalities in the country.
”I believe this initiative will act as a huge morale booster to the troops on the frontlines as well as project the Army in a good light.
”On our part, I assure you that this administration will continue to do all within available resources to provide for your operational and welfare needs,” he said.