The most implausible and almost unbelievable reaction amidst the growing #ENDSARS protest across the country is how Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected to take charge of the security of the citizens has managed to maintain a loud, unbothered and undisturbed silence through it all.
Asides from the fact that the constitution is clear that the security and welfare of the citizens shall be the fundamental priority of every government, #ENDSARS is a protest against the pattern of abuse, impunity and clear disregard for human lives by the SARS operatives that citizens have had to endure for many years.
In a typical George Floyd manner, the Nigeria Police particularly members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad popularly known as SARS have had their feet on our necks far too long as citizens, so much that we can longer breathe! I reckon with senior journalist and author Olusegun Adeniyi when he described these elements as assassins in police uniform, they do not only maim, they kill and destroy!
It is incomprehensible that the same people who have been commissioned to protect and preserve the people, are the ones who now kill, kidnap, extort and dehumanize citizens for fun in clear disregard for human rights and other standard operating procedures.
Almost everywhere you turn, young Nigerian have one unsavoury or almost near-death experience of police brutality, harassment and violation of their rights as citizens. Since it is only those who make it alive including this writer, who can recount their experience, but what about the hundreds of people who have been killed and the families who have been thrown into mourning and eternal loss.
Here I am reminded of the gruesome death of Tiamiyu Kazeem a footballer with Remo Stars who was killed in February 2020 and many others who have been either reported and even unreported. The deaths have become one too many, that we now ask ourselves who is next? A situation that underscores a clear failure of leadership that is inexcusable.
Here, I am asking how a tactical squad within the police institution got to a level where they have become the menace, they were set up to curb and address. I think that speaks more about the culture of impunity and lack of consequence for action which has become the hallmark of our police institution. Rogues Police elements often get away with even the most egregious abuse and violation
What is most condemnable is the stereotyping and profiling of Nigerian youths by these rogue officers, so much that you are unlikely to escape their sting once you are seen with an I-phone, wearing dreadlocks or even using an exotic car. They also indiscriminately search phones, Laptops and other gadgets of young Nigerians who are going about their lives lawfully without recourse to any known law. But just to be clear, the obsession of SARS operatives with cyber crime is the purview of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission!
I am inspired by the resilience of Nigerian youths, particularly everyone who has joined one protest or the other to occupy the streets to call for an end to this notorious unit within the police, just like I have said in previous writings, Nigerian youths can be the pushback generation that says Enough is Enough. With the #ENDSARS we have done that resoundingly!
We must be weary not to lose sight or be carried away by fake promises, like the one in the terse press releases we have seen earlier in the week like the ones before this one, until we see concrete action, our agitation and demands will endure for an end to SARS which is by extension an end to police brutality and all forms of extra judicial killings.
I am however disturbed by the attack on innocent young Nigerians who are protesting for an end to the extra judicial killings by SARS , we have heard of such attacks in Abuja, Delta, Lagos among other places, again the attack on innocent Nigerians by the police underscores the demand for radical change in our policing system.
This is long overdue, our policing system has a questionable foundation, there is an urgent need to overhaul the system to be civil in its processes and inspire the confidence of our people. Never again must any Nigerian be violated, harassed, intimidated or killed!
The message is clear, we demand an end to SARS now, our lives matter!