By Williams Anuku, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed moves by the Lagos State Government to begin the prosecution of 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protest to destroy and loot public and private property.
The prosecution of the suspects by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice will begin Monday, October 26, a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu indicated.
Buhari is believed to be optimistic that the panel will assist the nation to give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered, and property owners whose assets were vandalized and looted.
The President, through the statement, said he had all along avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts are established.
He appealed to the people all over the country to maintain peace and brotherhood as the machinery of the government and the wheel of justice turn against the perpetrators of murder, arson, stealing, rape, assault and malicious damage to public and private property.
The President also advised that peace, brotherhood, and inter-communal harmony are central to our ethos and urged Nigerians “not to turn against one another in hate.”
He said it is important that the police and other security agencies move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.
Buhari said while his administration is working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of our unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned that resort to widespread attacks and the organized looting and plundering of public and private property in many states are inimical to public good and stand condemned.
According to him, a government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.
The statement added, “While the administration has, for its part, blocked so many means of looting public money in a war against corruption, it is the expectation that all civil authorities, community and religious leaders in the country must rise against the organized looting and plunder we are witnessing in parts of the country.
“Families must turn back children who bring home unaccounted goods, in the same way wives must ask their husbands to return looted items brought home.
“What is more, is that criminal actions as we have so far witnessed can weaken and erode the confidence of our people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.
“Looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in our country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy.
“These incidents do not reflect well on any society. They are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of society.
“In line with this, I commend the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protest to destroy and loot public and private property”.
Shehu also noted that as mentioned in two successive statements on the issues, the President and his administration have taken note of the grievances of the people. “We have heard you loud and clear,” he said, and has shown a clear determination to take all necessary measures to address the complaints. The violence must stop.
Buhari also condemned hate messages and eviction notices to ethnic and religious groups asking Nigerians to take pride in the fact that our diverse people have been living with one another in harmony for ages. The right of all citizens to live and work in any part of the country is a constitutional right and will be defended by the government.