It is true that when one’s house is on fire, everybody gets to feel the impact. We can no longer remain at ease, when our house is ablaze.
For some weeks, there has been a rise in public outcry over SARS, a group created to fight against robbery, and which initially lived to its expectations. However, in recent times, it seems some members of the group have resorted to using force, and going extreme in the way they handle suspected individuals. Only a few who survive in the hands of these ones live to tell their stories, as some of these officers usually resort to cruel methods which often result in death. Thus, the emergence of different viral videos on this has led to the demand by youths to have this group disbanded. One of the scenarios that led to increase in the protest to end SARS was the killing of a young man in Delta State (one of the Nigerian states) by suspected officials of the SARS group, who left with the man’s Lexus vehicle.
It is so unfortunate indeed. Over the years, there has been a lot of outcry against brutality by security operatives in Nigeria. It seems once the operators are given guns, some of them see it as an opportunity to intimidate others, sometimes resulting in the death of the victims. Travelling by road to other states sometimes leads to fear because some of these operatives on the highways, sometimes harass those who fail to give them some money for protecting the road. Some even have their lives threatened coupled with the fact that most of the security checkpoints, especially of the Nigerian police, would demand for some form of monetary compensation or tips. Failing to comply would show that you are not grateful, and you may not want to be seen that way.
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The SARS group is one of the most dreaded units in the Nigerian Police Force. There has been so many cases of harassment by officials of this group, as once you are seen with some dreadlocks, laptop, an iphone, or more than one expensive phone, you would become a potential suspect. It is worse as in some of the cases, these officials carry sophisticated guns in public, without wearing the SARS uniform, and also shoot at will, thus raising questions on whether they passed through the Police training or are thugs with government recognition.
The shooting of peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 has been widely condemned by many, both within the country and in the international scene. Witnesses said that the men who dressed as Nigerian Soldiers began shooting at protesters immediately the power supply in the arena went off. Some also claimed that some of those shot down were carried away by the soldiers, and essential services such as ambulance services providers prevented from accessing the victims. Although the protesters had defied the curfew placed by the Lagos State government, the unarmed protesters were still shut despite singing the national anthem, and holding the Nigerian flag, thus having the flag stained by blood.
The Army headquarters had denied having soldiers at the scene of the protests, even as the Lagos State Governor stated that the powers were beyond his direct control. This therefore raises questions as to the true personalities or cabals holding the country hostage. Before now, there has been some petition by different persons and groups such as IPOB, IMN, and others, on the brutality meted out on their members by security operatives.
The Leadership in Nigeria has so many fault lines. Some of those who are meant to fight corruption have been portrayed in recent times as the law breakers. Election in public offices is almost a do or die affair by some politicians, as they hire thugs to disrupt voters. These thugs are enticed with money to unleash mayhem on citizens. With the Boko Haram terrorists fighting ruthlessly in the North Eastern part of the country for almost a decade despite all the funding and officials deployed against the insurgency, there is also Banditry violence and attacks at the North Western part of the country.
The North Central part of the country is not entirely peaceful as in recent times, it has become the center for an increase in violence arising from armed herdsmen (whom the Nigerian government had claimed were foreigners) and farmers. The South Eastern part of the country has seen renewed demonstrations for a referendum and a separatist state, even as the region has claimed a lot of favouritism for other regions over the region by the Nigerian government since the end of the Nigerian – Biafran civil war (in which millions of Biafran children and adults died due to starvation). This favouritism includes admission into public institutions, budgetary allocation for roads and other infrastructure, as well as in the appointment of key officers into strategic areas of government (such as the Military, etc).
The South Southern part of the country has remained relatively peaceful since the commencement of the amnesty program for the Niger Delta militants. And now, with the recent protests in majorly the South Western part of the country, the country may not be able to handle the complex issues it faces. More so, the disregard for human rights in the country could increase the rate of violence in the country (as seen from widespread killings in places such as Kaduna, Jos, Benue, Kogi, and others) and could make the Nigerian project unworkable in the nearest future if this persists. In recent years, the calls for structural reforms through restructuring and decentralization of power in the Nigerian state do not appear to have progressed especially due to the opinion divides among different elected representatives in the National Assembly.
The fault lines in the Nigerian leadership structure not only consist of endemic corruption in almost all the country’s institutions, but also includes varied opinions from different zones which have led to delays in implementing budgets and projects. The issue of human rights abuse is not to be overlooked as well, as people are kept in prisons for so long without being on trial, as the government even fails to comply with courts’ directives to free some of those in custody. There are also cases of the government negotiating with internationally certified terrorist groups like the Boko Haram, while IPOB – which is seen as a peaceful group is labelled as a Terrorist group by only the Nigerian government, and some of its members still in prison, while the members of Boko Haram are freed and rehabilitated.
This has raised questions as to the sincerity of the Nigerian government. The Nigerian situation is quite peculiar as leaders sometimes deny some reports and only admit to a part of them when there are videos and concrete evidence that proves them otherwise. Sometimes, it is their words against those of the citizens, and vice versa. Another faultline in the Nigerian leadership is the inability of leaders to understand those they lead, and their failure to listen to them. There are also cabals or godfathers who lead at the background, telling some of these leaders what to do. These cabals do the devil’s bidding in secret, and have some of these leaders execute them in the open. Failure to listen to some of these cabals would be seen as rebellion, thus leading to a serious opposition against the leader which may eventually lead to the ousting of the leader or the political decline of the leader in question after that tenure.
As the giant of Africa, it seems its so-called lazy youths (as stated by their number one citizen) have risen to awaken the giant. The protest is a clamour by Nigerian youths to awaken the conscience of the leaders who value material gains over human lives. It is the country where its citizens earn among the least in the world, while its Senators earn among the highest in the world, even more than the most developed countries of the world. The leaders discourage medical tourism and academic tourism overseas, but are the ones who patronise foreign countries more than the Nigerian citizens (as their children and families reside in estates overseas while the hospitals and schools in their home towns are in a dilapidated state).