Nigerians have recently been gripped with protests over the evils of the now disbanded Special AntiRobbery Squad (SARS). In recognition of #EndSars protesters’ determination never to rest on their oars for the scrapping of SARS, the police top echelon reacted swiftly by disbanding the once odious and terrifying team. Just when the storm over the matter was about settling down, the replacement of SARS with another group known as the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) by the police relighted yet another anger amongst Nigerian youths who declared their opposition to SWAT, insisting that the actual acronym of the new group is: SARS With Another Title (SWAT). To reiterate their stance against the new group, the #EndSars demonstrators continued with their protests and vowed to continue until SWAT was banned before becoming operational. Much as the recent protests against the dreaded but now scrapped SARS continued, its replacement with SWAT has been taken in bad faith by the protesters. It is not in doubt that SARS was famous
for its cruelty and griping injustice. Not only did some of their members operate completely outside their mandates, some of them turned themselves into tools for use by anyone willing to hire their services. It was not in dispute that some corrupt SARS members were used to settle personal scores, with many engaged to force erring tenants to cough out delayed rents on property. There were stories of jilted lovers resorting to SARS to coerce unwilling lovers into forced reunions. Some of these corrupt SARS men were found setting new rules and constantly shifting the goal post as long as their coerced victims were forced to grovel through the fat payments from their aggressors. Most of SARS victims were young men who were perceived to be riding on the highway of unexplainable prosperity, including internet fraudsters, among others.
Some members of this scrapped police team made mincemeat of youths, while allowing armed robbers and kidnappers, among other criminals, to operate unhindered. Little wonder that when various groups poured into the streets to demonstrate against their excesses, it became an opportunity for victims, relations of victims and human rights activists to join the throng against the immoderations of SARS. Beyond the protests against the scrapped police team, men and women of the Nigeria Police are famed for their lawlessness. While it is the opinion held by an average policeman in Nigeria to use his uniforms to extort citizens at the slightest opportunity, the existence of road blocks and persistent resort to all forms of illegalities are parts of the survival game in the force. Just like every other organisation in the country, the Nigeria Police have not been devoid of its share of problems. What has become the major challenge for the force, just like in other public organisations, is the absence of rules or refusal by the authorities to checkmate insider abuses. In a society where the worship of money has been enthroned as the ultimate goal, expecting arms bearers to play by the rules all the time and not make some money is not feasible. A police system that allows personnel to make an ‘oil bloc’ of where they find themselves will always be found wanting at the expense of public trust. The #EndSars protests have clearly revealed that the power of the people in a democracy cannot be undervalued. While some members of SARS killed scores of innocent Nigerians and held many hostage, they acted like bandits and sometimes armed robbers they were employed to fight against, while ensuring their helpless victims were left with no option than to succumb to their despicable extortions. Far beyond these protests that have
astounded Nigerians, there is a new thinking that these demonstrations are more to it than meets the eye. Some have alleged that these protests are being sponsored by politicians who are plotting to get from the back door what they failed to achieve at the polls. Others are quick to speculate that, considering the quantum of funds expended on the #EndSars protests and the alleged daily payment of N3,000 to each protester, some foreign powers may be bankrolling these rallies with the ultimate aim of ensuring the country caves into the pit of disintegration. Lest we give more credit to the devil than he deserves, no powers on earth can push for the destruction of a nation without the cooperation of citizens. That the #EndSars protests are now the country’s sword of Damocles reflects the many iniquities of our nationhood. Many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, are persuaded that the unrelenting storms of injustice and political uncertainties that have trailed our 60th political freedom have finally pricked the conscience of citizens on the imperatives of restructuring and the need to review the terms of our corporate unity.
The #EndSars protests remain the smokescreens of a national malaise and a forerunner to the threatening clouds hovering over our nation. It is a wake-up alarm on the national leadership to look into the many ailments ailing Nigerians, especially our youths. I have had cause to interact with some cops occupying the top echelon of Nigeria Police. I testify that there are good men and officers who, however, are being surrounded by bad eggs. Even though a few of them cannot be reformed, most of them can be retrained to get the best for the force. Apart from suffering from poor working conditions, men and women of the force are victims of a corrupt system that is not strange to other public organisations. That is why billions of Naira paid by banks, oil companies and private individuals for police protection are unaccounted for on a yearly basis. More worrisome, billions of Naira budgeted for police logistics and renovation of barracks, among others, annually disappear into the bottomless pockets of some top police officers without any qualms. No one complains and nobody gives a hoot; and that’s the way we roll. The youth’s resolve in opposing the brutalities of our black-uniformed law officers serves as a prologue on the imperatives for a new dawn.
These youths and other human rights activists are disturbed by the grievous human rights records of the police as the protesters are troubled at the incapacity of the state to secure the lives of citizens and their property. No doubt, these protests are signs of a nation undergoing distressing times. As long as our national leadership refuses to succumb to demands for a new dawn for citizens, especially our youths, in broadening prospects of opportunity to realise their potentials, so long will our march to the precipice remain irreversible.