By Harry Awurumibe, Editor ABUJA BUREAU
With the end of street protests by Nigerian youths under the umbrella of #EndSARS not in sight, Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare Monday visited the Presidential Villa Abuja on Monday to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the situation in the country.
Dare, who spoke to State House Correspondents after briefing President Buhari in the company of Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari said the President has been responsive to the demands of the younger generation to EndSARS but also the other demands to ensure the country has deep seated reforms in the Nigeria Police Force.
According to the Minister, “This afternoon (Monday) I met with Mr. President and with the Chief of Staff in attendance. I was afforded the opportunity to brief Mr. President of the younger generation which is the youth of this country. I was also afforded the opportunity to highlight some of their demands, expectations and desire for reform.
“I also thank Mr. President for being responsive to the demands of the younger generation to EndSARS but also the other demands to ensure we have deep seated reforms, making sure that an investigation is conducted to justice all those that have been responsible for the extra-judicial killings, extortions, human rights violations and torture.
“But more importantly, I was able to let Mr. President know that the youths of this country are law abiding, they are brilliant and smart, they are young ones that love peace and also want an environment to pursue their dreams and career. That they believe in this country and that they expect the reforms that have been promised will be followed through.
“Mr. President assured that the demands of the protesters are being met in a timely fashion, some have been met already. He said he accepts their demands and that government is already responding at various levels.
“Mr. President said the youths of this country have spoken and he has heard and he has since gone to work for the youth of country, not just as a president but also as a father of the younger generation.
“He said as a father to this generation of our youth, his desire is for them to be well protected and live in a country where they enjoy their freedom and do not suffer from any form of police brutality.
“The President promised that he will ensure that the reforms as promised are met, that the reforms are long lasting and that the reforms will deliver for our country a police force that we will be proud of.
“So, on the whole I got the assurances of Mr. President that the youth of our country are a great resource and not a problem. He appreciates the fact that they have brought the SARS issue to the fore through their peaceful protests. He recognizes that they have called upon the government to do what is necessary and that as a president and a father, he will make that the demands put forward are met and that he will work to ensure that we get the reform we want, ensure that our youth are no longer profiled but celebrated and supported for their vast potentials, skills and for the fact that the future of our country lie in the hands of our youth.”
On the nature of the engagement he thinks should be adopted, Dare said: “First, Mr. President said that as far as he is concerned, it is important to allow the younger generation to exercise the freedom to protest but he did say that such protest must be in a peaceful manner. Of course he is worried about some of the exceptions to the peaceful nature of the protest. And for him it is important that these protests are properly guided, he said part of the demands that were made was to ensure those protesting are protected and any police officer that has in one way or the other attacked any protester be brought to book.
“So, Mr. President thinks it’s a fundamental human right, so long as the protest is peaceful and focused. He said he has been responsive to demands put forward by the protesters. He believes the youth to a very large extent are law abiding, they are young people with dreams and expectations of the government and the society and that they have a right to demand for certain things, which is why he has a very attentive ear to their demands.
“On engagement, conversations with the Nigerian youth have since started, they were able to get their demands across to government. The President spoke directly on Monday, condemning the killings particularly the extra-judicial killings that have occurred before, police brutality and approving investigation and to bring the guilty to book. That is one level of conversation. Last week, we had a virtual town-hall meeting in which we had the police PRO and myself engaging with over 145 youth online, where they asked numerous questions we provided updates, clarity and the police was able to give further details on how the reforms were proceeding and will proceed, in some cases clear timelines on how the reforms will take place. The demands are already in the public and the government is already addressing those demands, that in itself is a demand and a conversation.”