By Eric Elezuo
For 12 days running, the Nigerian youths have weaponised their voices, and taken to the streets in protests of incessant harassments, torture and killings being perpetrated by the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and the Police Force in general.
The protests, which started as a mild joke on Twitter, has practically spread throughout the length and breath of the country, sending jitters down the spine of those in authority. In the short space of time the protests have lasted, the government have taken far reaching decisions including scrapping of SARS, agreeing to pay the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) earned allowance to the tune of N40 billion and reopening of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps. Many stakeholders and observers have held opinions that a revolution is coming or the revolution is here.
But almost a week since the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the scrapping of the unpopular police outfit, following the killing off a youth in delta state, the Nigerian youths are still out there on the streets protesting. They had initially made a five points demand including:
- Immediate release of all arrested protesters
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families.
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days
- Carrying out psychological evaluation and retaining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can deployed (this should be verified by an independent body).
- The government should increase police salary and they should adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of the citizens
“Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry,” the Vice President wrote.
Reiterating the scrapping of SARS, Osinbajo followed it with the making of excuses, and seeking the sentiments of the young people on a ‘righteous rampage’
“I fully understand how many young people feel. Many feel that we have been too silent and have simply not done enough.These feelings of frustration are justified. There are far too many people who have been brutalised at the hands of the police and this is unacceptable. We must take responsibility for protecting young people, even sometimes from those who are paid to protect them,” he said.
He noted that several meetings have been held between President Muhammadu Buhari, top officials of the National Assembly, police authorities and the human rights commission in order to salvage the situation.
“Over the past week, we have been following the protests, and I have had a number of discussions with key people in the administration that you deserve to be informed about. Transparency, after all, is a key tenet of government.
“We understand that you want to see action from us and I’m here to tell you that work is ongoing. I chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT (NEC), where we resolved to set up judicial panels of inquiry so we can see justice served, and fast.”
He noted that the reason for the meeting with the governors is because they are the only ones who can set up judicial inquiries in their states according to the law.
It would be recalled that during the week, the Federal Government reacted by directing the immediate establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extrajudicial killings.
The PA to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, disclosed this on Thursday evening via his Twitter handle as follows:
“The National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by VP Osinbajo, has directed the immediate establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extrajudicial killings, the assignment to be concluded within 6 months (max.).”
The protests, supervised by the youths without what one would call authentic leadership, has gained global recognition even before the Police took it upon itself to scrap the outfit. It received a fuller force after the Police in a broadcast by its Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, announced a replacement, called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The announcement of the SWAT replacement ilk the youths, and was like the fire that reprogrammed the agitation. The protesters alleged that they had been taken for granted. That instead of acceding to the demands of ending the existence of the outfit, the authorities embarked on name change.
Ever since, they have remained on the street, disrupting economic activities and restricting vehicular movements around the metropolis. However, the protests has remained relatively peaceful, except for skirmishes brought about by ‘hired’ hoodlums, who attempted to violently disrupt the gathering in Abuja and Lagos. Whoever sponsored the attacks of the hooligans is yet to be discovered till date. There were accusations pointed at the direction of a supposedly Lagos thug, MC Oluomo, but he has denied involvement, lending his support to the movement.
While the disbandment of the police unit has been achieved, including late Friday night sacking of about 37 former SARS officers and demoting another 29, some other demands of the protesters have not been fully met.
These include the prosecution of killer cops, the release of all protesters in detention and the total overhaul of the police.
The call for the reformation of the bringing an end to brutality of any form have gained traction and following Anambra to Ogbomosho in Oyo, where Jimoh Isiaq was killed on the fourth day of the protest to Surulere in Lagos, where a driver was killed, and in reprisal, a police station set ablaze with one dead officer and two injured, to the nation’s capital and parts of many other states.
In its 12 days of existence, the #EndSARS, #EndSWAT, #Endpolicebrutality among others related to it have been among the top trends on social media.
They vowed not to leave the streets until all other demands are met.
During the week however, Buhari’s media aide, Femi Adesina, announced that presidential panel on on the reform of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) had accepted the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters. But implementation has remained an issue.
Nairametrics reported that some protesters in Abuja disclosed their reasons for continuing the protest even after the announcement of the dissolution to include general reforms; and mistrust of the FG’s plans post-SARS.
“We are protesting for them to put an end to police brutality, it’s way beyond just ending SARS. Even after they have announced it, there are several other things we are talking about.
“There are things that worry Nigerian youths, that need to be addressed. It’s also about changing the country’s structure, we have gone through a lot; yet, we still complain about light. We are calling for an increase in the salaries of the policemen. Help us fix this nation, we have been through a lot”
“We are Creatives, not thieves. I have dreads, I am a Creative…we go through a lot for having dreads, the Surulere shootings feels like a war that has been declared against the Nigerian youths. We deserve better!” — Franklin
“I feel it’s not true, because there was still violence yesterday. So, if there is still violence, what we are agitating for has not ended,” she said.
“We are not just saying #EndSARS, we are saying stop the arrest, maiming, and killings! Stop harassing us! So, if you say SARS has ended and people are still dying during a peaceful protest, then it’s not over” – Jemine
“Actually #EndSARS is not over. They said SARS is over; but in Lagos, they killed somebody and still brutalize people. As it stands now, our demands have not been met, we also want the total reform of the Police Force” –Alex
“Where is the proof? I was there from Friday to Sunday, we got teargased. Till we can confirm it, I personally feel they need to replace the Inspector General and the Minister of Police, maybe then we would stop.” Bobby
To further assuage the temperament of the youths, the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who had identified with the yearnings of the protesters, disclosed via his verified Twitter handle that the policemen involved in the brutality of Surulere protesters have been arrested, and would soon face prosecution.
“The officers are Inspector Bagou Michael, Inspector Ekpoudom Etop, Sgt Nnamdi Majura, and Sgt. Akinyemi Benson. They are facing orderly room trials immediately and be rest assured that we will follow up on these trials.”
It is worthy of note that most governors have lent their voices to the demands of the youths, and appearing in person to join the mass movement. Some of them are Kwara State governor, Abdulraman Abdullahi, Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, who initially banned the protest in the state, but recanted after coming under heavy backlash.
But a former senator representing Kaduna central, Shehu Sani, has said that the protest against police harassment and brutality is a message to those in power that a revolution is imminent.
“The nationwide protests is a message to those in power and authority that a revolution is impending in an atmosphere of social, economic and political inequities and infamy,” the former senator said.
“Even though the trigger of the protest was police brutality, police reforms are not enough to address the underling and provocative factors that compelled the mass of the youths to the streets.
“The political class have for long toyed with the lives and future of our youths who were left with no option but to revolt,” he said in part.
The protests can boasts of notable Nigerian young celebrities including Davido, Wizkid, Favour Phyno, Beverly Osu, Falz and many others.
The RevolutionNow exponent, Omoyele Sowore and BBOG co-founder, Aisha Yesufu, have stood solidly behind the protests from the very first day.
Is the Revolution here or is it coming?