President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said his Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, would be leading senior government officials to various parts of the country for engagements as parts of the efforts to address the concerns raised by #EndSARS protesters.
He also urged traditional rulers across the country to assist his regime in pacifying the protesting youths, saying he had heard their cries and was attending to their concerns.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President spoke while receiving a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The statement was titled, “President Buhari calls for support of traditional rulers in addressing demands of Nigerian youths.”
Mr Adesina quoted the President as emphasising the imperative of support of traditional rulers in his regime’s determination to address the demands of the youth.
“We have heard the loud cries of our youths and children, and we are attending to their concerns.
“To succeed in all of this, we would require your support and voice to help amplify the message.
“Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful,” the presidential spokesman quoted Buhari as telling the monarchs.
Describing their “role as guardians of our traditional values and culture” as most critical, the President urged them not to compromise their neutrality “because this is what significantly confers on you, your moral authority and legitimacy.”
He said Mr Gambari would lead senior government officials to various parts of the country “and directly engage with you as part of this process. He will be reporting back to me on your various perspectives.
“I want to once again thank you for the role you all have played to calm down our youth with wisdom and authority. By instilling hope and keeping the peace, you have rendered the country great service.”
While warning that “we cannot allow anybody or group to threaten the peace or sabotage these efforts,” the President restated that “strong, transparent efforts are underway to address those rogue elements of the Nigerian Police Force.
“Simultaneously, the Nigerian Police Force will also undergo much needed reform that covers welfare, working conditions, and code of conduct. That will usher in a more professional workforce.”
Recognising the primary and important role of the monarchs in helping maintain peace and security in the country, the President expressed delight at their visit “given all that has happened recently in our country.”
While receiving the recommendations of the traditional rulers, he promised to study them and take appropriate action.
Mr Adesina said Mr Buhari had earlier drawn the attention of the monarchs to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic on the world.
“We find ourselves in very turbulent times, with a global health pandemic that has been incredibly challenging.
“Economies have been crippled as the response to the pandemic has forced businesses to shut down or devise new means of transacting. For a country like ours, with a large informal economy, our citizens have been particularly hit,” the President said
He noted, however, that his regime has “designed various schemes and taken many measures to soften the impact, despite our own revenue struggles as government,” while recognising that “more needs to be done to cater to our fellow citizens, not just those in the urban areas but also those in rural areas.”
According to President Buhari, “I am also fully aware that our strong farming belts have been impacted by floods. While we have seen record levels of farm outputs and increased level of fertilizer utilisation, government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its agencies is working on how to help bring these farmers some relief.”
Admitting the enormity of these challenges and “our growing youth population,” the President declared:
“There is no hiding place regarding how we should address insecurity concerns, youth unemployment, job creation, boosting industrialization and preparing for a transition into a digital economy.”
Remarks were said to have been made by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, while two foremost traditional rulers representing each geo-political zone also attended the meeting.