It appears that finally Nigerian youths have found their voice and in a manner akin to a volcanic eruption are throwing down the gauntlet, challenging a monster that we had all allowed to fester for too long. Are we surprised? Years of policemen and women, intimidating, harassing, assaulting, violating, extorting and murdering of citizens, surely cannot continue unchecked. It was only a question of time for the proverbial day of reckoning to dawn on us all. Years of routine complaints, waiting, watching and putting their trust in their government to rein-in the excesses of law enforcement agents suddenly looked like attempting to wake a man pretending to be asleep.
As the years passed, the boldness, impunity and brutality became frighteningly alarming. And suddenly the simmering magma is here with us. Government’s early reaction to the protests did not show deep introspection as they offered to scrap SARS and replace it with SWAT. No consideration was given to bringing the culprits to book and neither was training considered a “MUST” for the officers to be deployed to the new unit code named SWAT. Such cosmetic change in nomenclature only showed government’s poor grasp of the issues at stake and a sad reminder of several promises in the past that never happened. The Youths are demanding responsiveness, transparency, accountability, a semblance of hope and seriousness in matters threatening their very lives. They want government to reform the entire Police Force, bring the rogue elements to justice, stop extra judicial killing, improve the welfare of the Force, as well as pay attention to their mental health.
The Knights of Saint Mulumba, KSM, working towards a high sense of order and discipline within the society, and for justice always and everywhere, is re-echoing and in total support of The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), who issued a statement on Saturday through its President, His Grace, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, supporting the youths and endorsing the #EndSARS Protests. We believe that ‘’the youths are asserting their constitutional rights by demanding for justice and peace for all from extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrests, profiling of youths as criminals, the invasion of youth privacy by searching phones and laptops without any warrant and the incarceration of many of the youths in the SARS custody without trial.’’ KSM notes that these events have been set against a context of rising unemployment, increasing insecurity, rising inflation and a nation offering no hope to its teeming number of young graduates.
Youth unemployment from the National Bureau of Statistics stands at 34.9%. University students have also been at home for months due to the seven months ASUU strike. Their parents are also facing harsh economic conditions with galloping inflation past 13%, after multiple devaluations, removal of fuel subsidy and the more than 100% increase in electricity tariff. Fully aware of the above scenario, and the possibility of the #endSARS Protest to degenerate and further widen the gap and increase mistrust between the government and the youths, The Knights of Saint Mulumba KSM, will advise that the various arms of government, particularly the executive, strategize and engage the youths as soon as possible.
Government must seek to enthrone transparency, prudence and equitable use of the resources available to tackle some of the intractable challenges, particularly those that can increase youth employment, as the idle mind becomes the devils workshop. After all, the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. The youths have indeed proven to be catalysts for change. They have re-written their hitherto unsavoury branding as lazy and lacking vision, as they have all woken us up from our comfortable inaction. We pray that our Mother Mary, the Patroness of Nigeria intercede for us • Sir Diamond Ovueraye, KSM, is the Supreme Knight, Knights of St. Mulumba, Nigeria.