President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday enlisted the support of traditional rulers to forge a national approach towards tackling the grievances the youths presented to the federal government during the #EndSARS protests.
He also mandated his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to lead senior government officials to various parts of the country to engage stakeholders as part of the efforts to address the concerns raised by #EndSARS protesters.
Besides, the 36 states’ governors have agreed to engage traditional rulers, religious leaders and civil society organisations to support security personnel, promising to adopt the guidelines to be developed by the National Economic Council (NEC) sub-committee to reduce youth restiveness.
Buhari urged traditional rulers nationwide to assist his administration in pacifying the protesting youths, saying he has heard their cries and is attending to their concerns.
The president requested the support of the traditional rulers yesterday when he received a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the State House in Abuja.
Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told the royal fathers: “We have heard the loud cries of our youth and children and we are attending to their concerns.”
He, however, stressed: “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 president described the roles of the traditional rulers “as guardians of our traditional values and culture” and urged them not to compromise their neutrality “because this is what significantly confers on you your moral authority and legitimacy.”
According to him, Gambari will 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 said “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,” he added.
Buhari acknowledged the important role of the monarchs in maintaining peace and security in the country, and 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.
Buhari had earlier drawn the attention of the delegation to the challenges of the 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,” he stated.
He, however, added that his administration 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 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 fertiliser utilisation, government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its agencies, is working on how to help bring these farmers some relief.”
The president also admitted the enormity of the challenges, saying that “there is no hiding place regarding how we should address insecurity concerns, youth unemployment, job creation, boosting industrialisation and preparing for a transition into a digital economy.”
Remarks were made by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, while two foremost traditional rulers representing each geo-political zone also attended the meeting.