The #EndSars campaign that erupted in violence last October was as much a struggle to end police highhandedness as to grab greater news headlines and the attention of influential leaders across the globe. The strategy involved blood spilling on the streets and fake news on social media platforms. To a large extent, the campaigners got what they wanted. They made the outside world to believe that Nigerian streets were flowing with the blood of innocent protesters, ‘massacred’ by security forces. The truth, however, is that the killings that occurred were perpetrated by persons whom the campaigners allowed to hijack what initially seemed a just cause to kill, maim and destroy.
The biggest loser in this misadventure, as it has turned out, was the Nigeria Police Force. It is still counting its losses in terms of personnel and infrastructure. On October 30, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, revealed the total death toll during a virtual meeting with commissioners of police in the 36 states and FCT, Abuja. Of the 73 dead, 22 were policemen. He also disclosed that 71 public warehouses and 248 private stores were looted in the course of the protests in 13 states and the FCT. According to him, 205 “critical national security assets”, corporate facilities and private property were attacked, burnt or vandalized.
”So far, a total of 10 firearms including eight AK 47 rifles stolen during the attack on police stations and a locally made pistol have been recovered from elements posing in the guise of the #EndSARS protesters,” Adamu said. “In addition, 1,596 suspects were arrested in connection with the violence and widespread looting by hoodlums, who hijacked the protests across the country.”
Meanwhile, a 9-man committee to carry out an assessment of losses suffered by the NPF across the country during the #EndSARS protests is on tour of police commands in the states. Adamu explained that the loss assessment was for “the purpose of strategic planning, re-construction and re-equipment as well as for future reference.” Headed by Commissioner of Police Abutu Yaro, the committee has been asked to “pay physical visits to the scenes of incidents, capture the pictorials of all damages done to police infrastructure and personnel; verify the fatalities suffered by the police; establish weapons holdings that were lost.” It will also visit families of officers killed and injured in the riots to condole with them.
IG Adamu believed the attack s on his officers and police infrastructure was to demoralize them. Indeed, many officers abandoned their beats to save their lives. But Adamu urged them to return. He asked them to protect themselves in the face of physical danger. “In as much as we are aware that the government is behind us, we would encourage you to keep performing your duties. We would encourage you to be professional, to be civil, but if anybody touches you, if anybody comes to assault you, you can protect yourself… When we talk of human rights, the police are human; so, the rights of police officers would also be protected. We are sending the message that legally, we have the right to protect ourselves.”
We totally condemn the killing of police officers who were out on lawful duty. It was criminal, senseless and madness. We condole with the bereaving families. We are encouraged by words coming from the IG who has promised compensation for the fallen officers. The protesters demanded compensation for persons “killed” by the defunct SARS, but conveniently avoided asking for same for police officers they burned and bludgeoned to death.
That said, we appeal to men and women of the NPF to “be alert, stand firm” in their faith in the country, “be strong”, knowing that the majority of law abiding Nigerians and their government are behind them. To be demoralized by hoodlums is to give into criminality. It should and must not happen.