Before I proceed, I seize this opportunity to sympathise with the #ENDSARS Protesters who were injured in the attack unleashed by ‘unknown soldiers’ (in the words of late FelaAnikulapo-Kuti) at the Lekki Tollgate, and thank God for sparing their lives. The issue of those who may have lost their lives there, remains unclear; but, however, even if it was only one life that was lost, it is a life too many and I express my heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s family (I stand to be corrected). To those who were maimed or killed, including Police men and Soldiers during the Blacks Days, I also pray for the repose of their souls, and express my sympathies to their families. And to those whose properties, belongings and sources of livelihood were destroyed by the hoodlums/miscreants, I pray that God will compensate, restore and replenish you all. Amen.
Whether fake or real bullets, whether shooting into the sky, onto the ground or directly at the #ENDSARS Protesters, the Army had no business being at the Lekki Tollgate or opening fire there (see the various UN and African Charters and Protocols). That Government has failed us, is stating the obvious. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the primary purpose of Government is the security and welfare of the people – Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (the Constitution). Unfortunately, Government is oblivious and unaware of its protective role, and seems to have connived and plotted against the citizens, instead.
I say this with all sense of responsibility and sincerity, as a result of my observations of the terrible events which transpired during the Black Days (as I am not given to unproven conspiracy theories). Therefore, while I shall refrain from laying blame on specific individuals for now until we have more information, I cannot but hold the Government as a whole, responsible for the attack on our Youths on Black Tuesday, and the theft, destruction and mayhem that followed, and the looting on wednesday (and continued in other parts of the country well into the weekend). After all, for the one week of the #ENDSARS protest, there was no incidence of violence, until the unknown soldiers showed up to disperse the Protesters on that fateful day
Genesis of SARS/Police Problems
The issue of the Nigeria Police Force, in my opinion, is simply a vicious cycle – the beginning, the circumstances and the outcome, are all contributors to what we are seeing today. Section 17(3)(b) & (c) of the Constitution provides that conditions of work for employees must be just and humane, and the health, safety, and welfare of all persons in employment (including members of the Police), are safeguarded and not endangered or abused – the Police have not been given this. I believe that the qualifications to get into the Police at entry level, is School Certificate or HND. In Nigeria of today, this is no big deal as you need lesser qualifications, that is, only education up to School Certificate level (not actually doing the examination or passing it) to qualify for the highest political positions in the country, except for the Attorney-General who must be a legal practitioner of at least 10 years standing. One of the major problems which Nigeria faces today, is the bevy of people who have low educational qualifications, placed in jobs which they are simply not equipped to do. This is not exclusive to SARS or the Police, alone; it is time to raise the bar in Nigeria, across board. A few years ago, there was an exposé on the Police College in lkeja – it was in such a disgusting and deplorable condition, that people wondered how human beings could live and be trained there. Some went as far as saying that, even animals would find life in the Police College unpalatable. What then, would you expect products who emerge from such a nasty sub-human, sub-standard environment to be like? Reasonable gentlemen and women? I think not. Again, with that kind of inhumane #ENDSARS: Beyond The Protest atmosphere, it is unlikely that recruits are put through any proper psychological assessment, if any, before they are unleashed on the public. I watched a television interview in which a retired senior Police Officer was asked why some SARSPolicemen were often seen wearing cut-off tee shirts, shorts, and bathroom slippers (flip flops), bearing weapons? That it was difficult to distinguish them from armed robbers. The Officer replied that, since the Police is grossly underfunded, all Police personnel have to buy their own uniforms themselves, and a full set of uniform is about N15,000. He went on to say that, on a salary of about N43,000 per month or so, the rank and file officer who has to feed his family, pay his/her children’s school fees, pay transportation fare to get to and from work, can barely survive, let alone buy uniforms! Indeed, the Police is grossly underfunded. The Barracks in which the rank and file reside in, is an eyesore. My point? Because, successive Governments (present company included) have failed Nigerians, and are only concerned about paying those at the highest levels of the Government employment pyramid undeserved exorbitant salaries and prerequisites, fantabulous severance and pension packages for Governors and their Deputies etc, because the rate of unemployment is high and people simply get the jobs they are able to secure as a means of survival; when you then put weapons in the hands of badly trained, poorly educated people whom the system has shown nothing but contempt for, in the manner in which they have been treated from the get go, pay them the poorest remuneration possible, and make them work and risk their lives in the harshest of conditions, with little or no provision for their families if anything happens to them in the line of duty, it follows that many of them will use those weapons against the same society they are recruited to protect, as their own means of livelihood, and to secure their future and that of their families!
Listening to many of the Youths who have been interviewed on television during the protest, many recounted encounters with SARS Operatives who forcibly extorted money from them by threatening to kill or maim them, taking them to the ATM to withdraw money for them at gunpoint – do we call this legalised armed robbery? The Collins Dictionary defines armed robbery as “a robbery that is carried out by people carrying guns”; the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act in Section I(2 (a) & (b) provides for “death by hanging by the neck or by firing squad for an offender who commits robbery armed with any firearms or any offensive weapon or is in company with anyone so armed” – it is obvious that this is what our Police/ SARS, have been reduced to – armed robbery!
Agenda When one examines the five, seven or eleven-point agenda of the #ENDSARS protest, the demands are nothing more than compelling Government to properly implement Chapter 2 of the Constitution, that is, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy – Good governance in all its ramifications. The five-point demands of #ENDSARS are reasonable enough, and Government should accede to them forthwith – the immediate release of all Protesters, justice for all deceased victims of Police brutality (like the Apo-6 and Kolade Johnson), and appropriate compensation for their families (though no amount of money can be compensation for a life that has been taken unlawfully); setting up an independent body to investigate and prosecute all reports of Police misconduct (I believe that Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, in 2018 as acting President, set up such bodies for the Police and Army – where are their Reports?); psychological evaluation and re-training of all disbanded SARS personnel before they can be redeployed; increase in the salary of the Police, so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of Nigerians. To be continued