- Senate President, House Speaker worries over economy, wants protests to halt, resume in two weeks if FG doesn’t act
President Muhammadu on Sunday met with Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to review the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country and to find the fastest way to implement the protesters five-point demand.
But at the end of the meeting, neither the Senate President nor the House Speaker came up with any new measures towards halting the 12-day protests by Nigerian youths across the country over the extra-judicial killings, extortion and intimidation of the citizens.
Dr Lawan, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, while admitting that this was a trying moment for the federal government, thanked the President for exhibiting great democratic credentials.
He also said that the meeting was to decide on an expeditious manner to implement the demands of youths, noting that the protesters have made their legitimate demands and the government has listened.
Dr Lawan therefore called for a halt to the protests to enable government have sufficient time to meet their demands, saying “government needs to have sufficient time and conducive environment to implement the demands of the protesters.”
According to the Senate President, this is certainly a trying moment for our country and the leadership of this country. As the National Assembly, we believe we have critical and crucial roles in ensuring that the current situation of protests across the country is brought to an end. I want to thank Mr President for exhibiting his very deep democratic credentials. The protests have gone on for over 10 days, probably today is the 11th day across many states of the country.
“I think the protesters have expressed their legitimate rights, the government has listened and the essence of coming to meet Mr President is to review the situation and see the roles the two arms of government should play in ensuring that the five-point demands of the protesters are properly addressed.
“Where legislative intervention will be required, we are ready to move in and deal with such expeditiously to ensure that we do not waste any time, so that we address the concerns of our youths. Where the executive role is expected, we are sure that the executive will also expedite action and we will be watching to ensure that such demands are properly met.
“It is also very critical at this point to mention this. Since the protests have taken place and the issues have been accepted, the time has come for the protests to stop because government needs to have sufficient time and conducive environment to implement the demands of the protesters.”
Pointing to the adverse effects of the ongoing protests, the Senate President stated that “we also need to have our economy to continue to go on. When you try to stop people from engaging in their lawful activities, closing roads to markets and other economy places, such will distract the country’s economy and that is not the best way to go. If the issues have not been accepted, then there would have been genuine reasons to continue with the protests but since the issues have been accepted, we should give government time to implement the issues.
“Therefore, I am seizing this opportunity to appeal to our youths who are protesting that the protests have already yielded the desired results. First of all, they said ‘end SARS.’ That was the beginning and SARS was scrapped, not by the IGP. SARS was scrapped by the President himself. The President made a presidential statement. And that was the first time a President will say end SARS and SARS has ended.
“The other issues followed. They are being addressed, and that is why we are here. I believe that the time has come for these protests to come to an end and allow government to address the issues in a very short time. I also believe that Nigerians have legitimate rights to go about their lawful businesses without let or hindrance. We cannot have that when the roads are blocked.
“We do not want a situation that will lead to a degeneration of law and order because if somebody is blocked and he feels he must have his way. So, we will that withdrawing from these protests at this time is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, give us the opportunity to deal with matters that we have agreed as a government to handle.”
The Speaker, Gbajabiamila, on his part, said: “I can assure you that there is no bigger democrat than Mr President. He gave us a listening ear, the same that he always gives Nigerians. He accepted absolutely everything that Nigerians asked for. I have heard the stories that we have heard end SARS like four times before. That is what people are saying.
“Like I said, you have never heard it from Mr President, but now, he has said so. So, let us tarry a little while. Let us sit back. We have got what we want, let us sit back and see what happens. If you like, you begin your protests again if nothing happens in two weeks. But let us not continue this thing and lose the plot. That is what I don’t want. I don’t want our youths to lose the plot. They have done so well in terms of expressing their grievances and it is important we don’t get side-tracked.
“Of course, there are tangential issues that they have discussed after the EndSARS. We have spoken with Mr President and he is looking at everything. Some of these things are policy matters that are not going to happen overnight. You are not going to have electricity overnight; it is not going to happen tomorrow. Free road is not going to happen tomorrow.
“It is a process and the important thing is that the government has heard you loud and clear. It is a continuous engagement. We will be engaging our youths in matters of policy and communicate with Mr President as well on what needs to be done. So, again, let us not lose the plot, let us remain focused. Points have been made like never before in the history of Nigeria and that is kudos to the young men and women out there.”