…Nigerian authorities face dilemma as #ENDSARS protest continues to gain momentum across Nigeria
The call and protest to #EndSARS in the country began three years ago. It was championed on Twitter by a Nigerian realtor and human rights activist, Segun Awosanya, with the Twitter handle @segalink.
The aim of the #EndSARS agitation was to stop the brutality of the Nigeria Police and excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. And fortunately, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo called for the review of the SARS, which made President Muhammadu Buhari draft Awosanya as a member of the presidential panel to overhaul the police unit, now known as the FSARS.
However, despite whatever changes and functions that might have been added or removed, the FSARS continued to hound innocent Nigerians more than it has fought criminal activities. It was as if the ‘federal’ added to it from 2018 was a curse.
It could be categorically affirmed that the spate of the viciousness of the FSARS increased. There were series of harassment, seizing of phones and laptops from Nigerian youths, arresting young people with dreadlocks, extorting money from citizens, and the most unfortunate parts of their horrible atrocities were killing and maiming of people. Then, one would ask if they were wolves in sheep’s clothing. The question that would pop up in one’s mind was if they were to protect the citizens or brutalise them.
Just like most of the men at the helms of affairs conferred with power in this country, thereby misusing and abusing it, the men of the FSARS have overstepped their bounds, and hence, the reason for another second wave of the current #EndSARS protests. The haunted and victimised Nigerian youths have had enough of these gun-taunting demons in black uniforms and demanding #EndSARS.
So far so good, the peaceful protests had gained momentum, this time around with prominent celebrities leading the processions. The likes of the British-Nigerian actor, John Boyega, Nigerian music artistes such as Runtown, Small Doctor, Tiwa Savage and Falz have demonstrated that the FSARS personnel should be banned from operating. In the same manner, Nigerian footballers like Ahmed Musa, Leon Balogun, John Ogu and former goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme were among those protesting to make the federal government eradicate the FSARS.
While the protests were held in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Ughelli, Owerri and other cities, the boldness and unanimous voice of the Nigerian youth and stakeholders behind the demonstrations should be applauded. The show was another indication that Nigerians cannot continually tolerate the criminality of the security operatives against the people they are supposed to protect.
Even, on Saturday, the daughters of the President and the Vice President respectively, Zahra Buhari-Indimi and Kiki Osinbajo lent their voices to the struggle by posting on their Instagram pages the call to end the brutality of the police and its department, FSARS.
It was on this very day that the FSARS men allegedly shot at protesters at Ogbomoso, and one person was reported dead.
In the course of my meeting people to get the authenticity of the havoc these FSARS have wrecked, a young woman who pleaded anonymity spoke with me last week Tuesday. Narrating her ordeal, she said: “My neigbhour came home this evening. He said SARS arrested him at Iyana Ipaja, immediately he alighted out of the Uber. They searched him, but couldn’t see anything wrong to hold against him. At that moment, they told him to cooperate or else they would waste his life right there.”
“When he told them that he had no money on him, they led him to an ATM nearby to withdraw money for them. And they succeeded in collecting N20,000 from him before they could let him go,” the anonymous woman recounted.
This and many more mayhems have been perpetrated by the FSARS! Their horror is scary, taunting, grave and deadly. With all these havocs from them, the protest to #EndSARS is undebatable! Still, we need to ask sincerely, what happens if they are gone?
As a people, the question to ask at this critical moment was if the call was meant to bar or ban the FSARS? Are we asking the government to scrap the department of the police called the FSARS or asking it to clip its wings? Our decisive response as a nation is germane to what becomes of us, as we know that our protest is a sensitive one hinging on security of lives.
The Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Adamu, however, in his reactions to the demands of the people, on Sunday, October 4, 2020, withdrew the FSARS men from engaging in roadblocks, stop and search duties, as well as patrols on roads. The IGP went ahead to caution them from invading privacy of citizens, unauthorised search of phones and laptops. The police chief also commanded that no personnel of the FSARS should appear in mufti, rather must be in uniforms during patrols or strategic tasks.
In the same vein, on Friday, October 9, 2020, President Buhari said, “The IG already has my firm instructions to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians regarding the excesses and ensure erring personnel are brought to justice. I appeal for patience and calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known.”
As one thinks of all these moves by the President and the IGP in their bid to sanitise the FSARS and the police force generally as commendable efforts, we should also as Nigerians think twice if we want to continually chant for their eventual end. Both the memory and history cannot be erased of the carnages performed by these special department of the Nigeria Police, which justifies the annihilation of their existence and functions. Yet, one cannot underestimate their legal performances in tackling robberies and other crimes on Nigerian roads.
The legitimate duties of the officers of the FSARS were supposed to include combating armed robbery, car snatching, kidnapping, cattle rustling and crimes associated with firearms. If they are totally banned, how are we going to fare as a people against these aforementioned outrageous evils that have pervaded our country? It might be easy to say that they were overbearing in their line of duty, but their absence would pose another danger.
It is at this point that Nigerians should reason with the ex-IGP, Mr. Mike Okiro, who warned against a total ban of the FSARS operatives. Okiro advised that “the police management should go to the drawing board and retain personnel of the SARS as it will be counter-productive to disband them totally. You cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater, if they have deviated from what they were established for, they should be retained and refocused.”
The former police principal alerted that, “armed robbers will be happy that there is no more SARS in the country but are Nigerians ready for that?”
Nigeria, without mincing words, is still battling with insecurity – armed robbery, terrorism, herdsmen killings, kidnappings and all sorts of heinous activities – and with the presence of all our security outfits, those mountains seem unsurmountable. When a department of that security that is primarily focused on these menaces are then disbanded, what do we think will become the story?
We should also know that our government is not reliable to retrain or fortify the Nigeria police to assume the duties that the FSARS would vacate. Nigerians are victims of promise and fail in the hands of the governments at all levels. And, this calls for second thought whether we should hug the devil or dive into the blue sea.
The truth of the matter is that we cannot leave our house porous, as we call for the #EndSARS. It would be a suicidal thing to do. Not at this moment of our national life. While we ponder on this, are the Police capable of facing the insecurity and criminality if FSARS personnel is erased? What sort of arrangement would the government put in place to fill the vacuum if the FSARS is scrapped? There are many questions we should sincerely ask, as we are at the dilemma of choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.
May we have a safer, better and greater Nigeria we dream of.