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EndSARS: Ghost Of Agitations Past

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By Adewumi Adeyemi Irekandu

Over the years, there have been cries for the Federal Government of Nigeria to reform the country’s Police Force. The conversations have evolved from calls for state policing system to restructuring to renaming the police and sanitisation of the Force. Unfortunately, these pleas seemed to have been ineffective as several incidents culminated in the now-famous #ENDSARS protests, which the country is still reeling from.

These protests, largely organic, were not only against the illegal activities of rogue officers of the now-defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS. They led to the exposure of the rot that has infested the rank and file of the police as well as the deplorable conditions of service.

Sadly, in the latter parts of its existence, these protests, hitherto peaceful, were invaded by hoodlums who hid under its guise to perpetrate the already existing wicked thoughts resident in the crevices of their corrupt minds. The arson, looting, vandalism and unnecessary violence that occurred is condemnable and is antithetical to the very purpose of the protests.

Read Also: EndSARS : No Cultists, Thugs Were Contracted For Our Protection – Olawale Bakare

Nevertheless, governments at all levels must look at the bigger picture. These protests have led to an awakening amongst the youths and like never before, the people commonly referred to as “leaders of tomorrow” have come today, to claim their “tomorrow.”

The demands of these youths go beyond begging to stay alive and avoid being killed, brutalized and extorted by rogue police officers. They are calling for a total overhaul of the policing system and the implementation of the Police Force Bill 2020, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. They believe that there is need for a more efficient and transparent system and as demands go, this is a pretty much achievable list.

Amidst reports of highhandedness of policemen against protesters, it is amusing to observe that these policemen could not see that the protesters were fighting for them. It was also quite bemusing to see that some policemen had to be begged by the Police Service Commission to resume their civic duty.

Many see this as admission of guilt and a “we cannot work if we do not extort, brutalize and kill you” mentality. Even though I do not want to believe this, some high ranking officers have been caught saying that this was done to punish the public for supporting the protests. Again, I believe these men do not speak for the force. Also, I strongly condemn the attacks on policemen.

Read Also: EndSARS : Osun Panel Of Inquiry Commences Hearing, Urges Petitioners To Be Truthful

The government has its work cut out for it. It now has to work towards rebuilding and regaining the trust of the youths in it and its systems. Several state governments have inaugurated judicial panels of inquiry into the issues raised by the protesters and this is commendable. However, governments must be sincere in their dealings with these youths.

It was with dismay that I read stories of government seizing passports and freezing bank accounts of individuals linked to the #ENDSARS protests. This appears to be an aberration considering the fact that the State has not filed any legal case against these youths and interestingly, some of these youths are members of the judicial panels of inquiry, notably in Lagos State.

It is even more puzzling that the suit to freeze these accounts was filed on October 20th, 2020, the same the Lekki Tollgate Shooting occurred. Naturally, one would be tempted to draw lines to connect all of these happenings but that would rather be unnecessary. As a nation, we have gone beyond the point of buck passing. Now is the time to act and by “act”, I do not mean repression of legitimate protesters or witch-hunting dissenting voices in a bid to “teach them a lesson.”

The government is partly culpable in these protests. By turning deaf ears and blind eyes to age-long call for police reforms and restructuring, the government opened the door for a misdemeanour by rogue officers with little or punitive measures for such actions. This sore which was left unattended for years has festered and is now a cancerous gangrene threatening to lead to the amputation of Nigeria’s limbs.

Where the government failed to apply a stitch, it now requires more than nine. Now that the demands of the protesters are itemized and in the open for all to see, the government must act to prevent future nightmares and collective insomnia. The country is currently being haunted by ghosts of agitation past and it would be disastrous if steps are not taken to forestall a future occurrence.

Nigeria will become better. We all have a role to play. The youths have played their part by bringing to life the ghost of past agitations. The government must now permanently bury these ghosts. A temporary placation will result in even more vicious haunting by these ghosts. Nigeria is a party to several regional and international legal frameworks on the right of peaceful assembly and it is hoped that she will continue to respect these provisions. The world is watching. We must do right by our citizens.

Long Live Nigeria.
Known as IREKANDU, Honourable Adewumi Adeyemi is the member representing Obokun State Constituency at the Osun State House of Assembly.

He writes from Osogbo, the Osun State capital.

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Hammed Tajudeen is the editor in-chief of Blaze News, holds Higher National Diploma(HND) in Mass Communication, graduated from Osun State Polytechnic, Iree.

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