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ENDSARS: Shall we blame the government or looters ?
THE RACE

ENDSARS: Shall we blame the government or looters ? 

 

By Salihu Ridwan Onimasa
ridwanonimasa@gmail.com

 

What critically baffles the mind in the present time is the insincerity of the government at all levels which is supposed to by all means ensure sanity and stability.

 

The devastating events which unfolded in Kwara State yesterday, where hundreds went on looting spree from the warehouse of the Cacovid palliatives, to Shoprite, Customs Office among others.

 

Trying to conscientiously properly situate would put the larger chunk of the blame on the Kwara State government who even after gotten intelligence report which it acknowledged via its early morning press release, failed to decisively preempt and prevent the looting of warehouse whose spiral effect  undoubtedly led to other sad and condemnable looting.

 

This is a case study of a typical cause of destruction by a government disguising under the circumstance of love, peace and welfare of its citizens. Who is to be blamed between the government that betrayed the people with lack of trust or the citizens that took advantage of such to vandalize all and even looted some individual businesses?

 

As much as I would have loved to dwell on this, the national EndSARS protest that has been begging for analysis would let me shift this RACE to next week. In all, our security must be guaranteed as we should all stay safe!

 

At every point in life, what matters most is life. It has been a usual agitation of the youths, right from 2017 against SARS brutality(Special Anti Robbery Squad), a unit under the Nigeria Police Force for that special purpose to curb and tackle criminal attacks in the society.

 

There have been series of confirmed reports of their excessiveness. The peak of this defiance started with some levels of focus on Yahoo boys, while there was an accolade for their efforts to eradicate such cyber crime, the corrupt tradition in the system became obvious when most of the SARS officers aligned with them and their criminal acts by asking for shares, and ensuring they are being settled by all cost. Then crime is set to be dealt with by corrupt compromise.

 

After experiencing a revitalisation in October 2020, mass demonstrations were occurring throughout Nigeria in major cities, and the hashtag had 28 million tweets on Twitter. Nigerians have shared both stories and video evidences of how members of SARS engaged in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, and extortion in Nigeria. SARS officers have been alleged to profile youths based on fashion choices, mount illegal road blocks and searches, conduct unwarranted temperature checks, arrest without warrant, rape women, and extort young Nigerians for driving exotic vehicles and using laptops and iPhones. Hence, the stereotype and labelling on the youths became rampant and unbearable.

 

Swinging into action during the heat of the protest, which primarily started as a decentralized social media movement against police brutality in Nigeria, basically the F-SARS units, the IGP announced the disbandment of the Unit, highlighted five major points about the dissolution of the SARS Unit of the police; That the Inspector General of Police has dissolved the SARS across all the 36 State Commands and the FCT with immediate effect.

 

That all officers and men serving in the Unit will be redeployed to other Police Commands, Formations and Units. That a new policing arrangement for tackling the offences of armed robbery and other violent crimes will be unveiled to the public soon. That a Citizens and Strategic Stakeholders Forum will be launched to provide an avenue for citizens to regularly interface and advise the police authority on issues touching on the general public.

 

Lastly, to deal with the report of crimes committed against citizens, an Investigative Team will be constituted which will include Civil Society Organisations and culprits will be punished.

 

As beautiful as the aforementioned points are, one would expect the protesters to retreat since their demand has been met by the NPF. Instead of that, the intensity of the protest kept growing holding to the facts that the Nigeria Police Force can no longer be trusted by words of mouth but with force of actions.

 

To buttress this, attentions were drawn back to several times the SARS had said to be disbanded by the same NPF without implementation. It happened in 2017, 2018, 2019 and the latest one of 2020 shouldn’t be a news of course. Seems deceit is not only peculiar to an average Nigeria policeman but also to their authority. The President or the VP was expected/demanded to take visible personal charge of the situation, give an executive order to this regard, since the IGP has clearly lost credibility in the eyes of the public.

 

As the event unfolds, the NPF five major points in their response was responded with 5for5 demands from the protesters; That requested immediate release of all arrested protesters. Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families. Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct.

 

Psychological evaluation and retraining(to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed. And lastly, increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens. These requests were made after the president acknowledged his commitment to the response of the NPF.

 

The strength of the protest was the peaceful and well organised demonstrations, which made it gain international recognition, when the international community started showing interest in the demand of the Youths for police reform, dissolution of SARS and putting stop to the entire police brutality.

 

These are well meaning requests, since the inadequacy of such had caused harm to the citizens that the Unit is meant to protect. They deviated from their primary purpose which left so much loopholes and vacuum of inefficiency of Nigeria’s security.

 

The aggression intensively continued as there was still brutality of the police during the protest against brutality, may the lives of Jimoh Isiak and other victims rest in peace. Indeed, the protest revealed the level of injustice, cruelty and the damages caused by members of the police force. What can be more painful than experiencing the height of injustice where justice and order is expected to be maintained and insecurity where security should be their primary objective.

 

At a point, I was of the opinion that the protesters should retreat and settle for dialogue to give the process a chance, avoid public disorder as I’ve foreseen the conspiracy that may lead to serious violence and basterdize the whole process; SARS has said to be dissolved. Mr President has confirmed it on video and promised extensive reforms. Many protesters have been released & government has confirmed that all errant officers will be prosecuted.

 

In no time, the protest started to be hijacked by hoodlums suspected to be an agent of destruction plotted by the government, how can a peaceful protest of the youths we have been experiencing, which even fenced out all political force suddenly turned destructive. Well, since it has gained strength to the extent of growing to the demand for good governance and restructuring.

 

The revolution predicted by some should not be given a chance, the leaders that could not meet the demand of change, swung into action immediately to intercept the protest as the UN already waiting for some days to intervene.

 

The rented hoodlums that started the looting, burning & damaging public & private property, and stoking ethnic tensions, are not helping the quest for a better society. They damaged the cause of the decent Nigerian youth that want better governance. There actions led to the curfew imposed in Edo and Lagos, which birthed the Lekki massacre.

 

There have been several disagreements on the occurrences of the protest, the recorded shootings by the Nigerian Army was denied too. Governor Sanwoolu said nobody died at Lekki, that was untrue. The Nigerian Army said it wasn’t involved. There’s plenty of evidences they were. We should be able to trust our leaders when they tell us something. That they’ve made us unable to is so unfortunate.

Most importantly, we should assess the nonchalance and lack of proactiveness of our the federal government, if the FG which is in charge of the Nation’s security had taken adequate steps up to the level of the Lagos state government, issues like this wouldn’t have degenerated to such extent.

 

Their negligence has caused us serious harms in recent times, as a serious government would never allow a clamour for a single change to occur twice, no matter how little.

 

The weakness and conspiracy theories exhibited in the process is heartbreaking and sardonic, I was a witness of the coordination of thugs hired to chase protesters away at Wuse2, Abuja by suspected members of DSS…

 

The much awaited presidential address on the unrest also didn’t meet the expectations. If you’re in defence of it, bring out where the victims are said to be compensated, the panel set up to check and eradicate the excessiveness of the police, order of punishment for the culprits and investigation on the Lekki massacre and so on! What has led to the emphasis on social investment programs in matters concerning police brutality?

 

Even before now, we all agreed the Nigeria Police need a serious reform. We are ashamed to be addressed with what even a blind man cannot be persuaded with.

 

In a nutshell, this and that buttress the facts surrounding the insensitivity and cluelessness of this administration. What a usual disappointment! Let’s agree Mr President is imbalance, it is amazing to know that the presidential aides including the writer has as well been in a state of disproportion. What more hope or confidence should be left for citizens seeing her leadership goofing on ordinary speech. The least a failed government should even have disguised with.

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