By Musa Ilallah Emeka
Nigeria, in the last few days, witnessed un precedented massive street protests denouncing the activities of the Federally owned Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS.
The first step taken by Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu by disbanding SARS and ordering all its personnel to report at the Police headquarters for psychological re evaluation and deployment to other units is a welcome development.
The action of the IGP which has the blessing of the President as a magnanimous and listening leader, is a direct response to the genuine agitations of Nigerians across the divides calling for an end to the brutality, extra judicial killings and extortion of members of the public among others by members of SARS in the country over the years.
The streets of Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other cities were flooded with protesters while posts in Twitter and Watsapp were also dominated by protesters demanding for a stop to police brutality by SARS operatives.
Twitter was visibly flooded with hashtags like #endsars, #endsarsnow, #endpolicebrutality,
#EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria among others.
Regretably however, the genuine protests against SARS has as at today been taken over by hoodlums and discredited politicians who have lost power and are now shamelessly introducing some other issues into the #endsars protest agenda.
Ordinarily the protesters should have left the streets and close shop after the IGP announcement, but with media reports coming in from Abuja and Lagos, there is a de railment in the original plan.The protest is taking a very serious and unhealthy dimension which if allowed to continue, will result in unpleasant and unpalatable consequences for the country.
President Buhari has described the disbandment of SARS as a first step in his government’s Police Reform measures that will go a long way in giving Nigerians a friendly Nigeria Police service that is firm but humane in its service to the citizens.
While the protests in the last few days calling for the end of SARS were genuine and right, however most recent protests have some political undertones which only time will unravel.
For instance, some Young Nigerian protesters have floated their own political party. The young people have now formed a party on Twitter with the name ‘Young Democratic Party’. The question one would naturally ask is ‘are political parties in Nigeria formed in the pages of Twitter?’
To further implement the resolve of President Buhari to completely reform the Nigeria Police, IGP Adamu also met with stakeholders and proclaimed the setting up of SWAT to replace SARS with a mandate to deal with issues of armed robbery and violence in the country.
However, in the last few days since SARS has been disbanded cases have been reported of armed robbery operations freely taking place in some states.
It is therefore not out of place to conclude that anyone calling for the end of SWAT is a thug and simply wants the country to burn in anarchy which i am sure would not be allowed by the Nigerian Government
This second wave of protest has become a big nuisance in Abuja and Lagos. They have suddendly changed the tone after government has listened to public outcry on the activities of SARS and its men in all parts of the country.
Government has assured that the new SWAT is starting afresh with new team members and policy direction.
Several prominent Nigerians have denounced the needless continuation of the protests since government has ended SARS and pledged committment to reform the Police.
Prominent among them is Professor Itse Sagay a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC.
According to him, continuing the protests after all that has been done by the government may be a ploy by the youths to destabiliise the country using #EndSARS as a smokescreen.
The Buhari Media Organisation, BMO in its response to the current wave of protests noted that the Police have also followed up by ordering all SARS operatives to report to the Force Headquarters in Abuja for their medical and psychological evaluation.
According to the BMO in a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Niyi Akinsiju and Cassidy Maduwekwe respectively, BMO noted: “The protests have outlived their usefulness and we urge young people on the streets to sit back and see how their cries for reform would be implemented”.
Meanwhile, The Nigeria Police in its response so far to insinuations about SWAT, Police spokesman, Frank Mba, said in a series of tweets that “the Mandate of the new tactical team is strictly restricted to response to robbery attacks, scenes of weapon-related crimes, Rescue operations and Special operations involving high profile criminals.”
He further stated that “No personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new tactical team”, adding that “Operations of the new tactical team will be strictly intelligence-driven assuring that members of the new tactical team will by no means embark on routine patrols as was the case with SARS.
The protesters must reciprocate PMB’s gesture of approving whole sale the request of their 5 point agenda through the presidential committee on police reforms.
Only a ‘Quintessential statesman and continental leader’ like President Buhari will within the blink of an eye consider such a demand from protesters.
In its reaction to the current stand off of the protesters , Colonel Sagir Musa, Acting Director Army Public Relations warned all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts as it remains highly committed to defend the country and her democracy at all costs adding “the Nigerian Army is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively. All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti democratic forces and agents of disunity”.
Rising from its monthly meeting in Abuja, the National Economic Council, NEC has directed the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extra judicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other Police units.
On its part, the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF after its 19th teleconference meeting noted that though the effort in disbanding SARS and creating SWAT might be necessary and in good faith, the timing is inauspicious. The Governors were however unanimous in their support for the IGP in carrying out far reaching reforms towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency.
The Council specifically resolved that State Governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.
Presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and attended by State Governors, the Panels would be set up in all the States and would include representatives of Youths, Students, Civil Society Organizations to be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge.
By Musa Ilallah Emeka Anyaoku Street Abuja