In my latest book titled: “LEADERSHIP NUGGETS OF WISDOM FOR NIGERIA” I said: “Any extrajudicial killing that is left untreated and the killer(s) left unpunished contrary to the law, diminishes the Sovereignty of the nation State”. The father of literature in Africa Professor Chinua Achebe had prophetically affirmed in his book titled ‘There was a Country”, that official impunity over the past many decades have constituted grave threats to the enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of the citizens. He had faulted the failure of the political class to show exemplary leadership by enforcing the laws without let or hindrance. Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature had at a time described the kind of government running the Country as gang of killers. Soyinka has consistently preached against lack of police accountability.
The above summarize the cumulative acts of official impunity over the past many years in Nigeria especially since the last five years that gave birth to the rising social disenchantment that culminated in the nation-wide protests by youths against police brutality and the violent killings of Nigerian Citizens by the now defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force.
For three weeks running, the youths have peacefully and peaceably protested and called on the Federal government to deal with the issues of police extralegal execution of the citizens but from the look of things, It would seem that governments have not really adopted the best approaches to resolve these internal contradictions tearing down the fabrics of unity of Nigeria but the central government headed by Major General Muhammadu Buhari who is from Katsina in the North West has allowed those I could call SABOTEURS within his administration to go for Ethnic and religious sentiments as the way to divide and rule the youthful participants of the National movements against police excessive deployment of force and the deployment of extrajudicial killings as the policing tactics. These central government supporters and official have clearly hired goons and street touts from the North West of Nigeria to unleash bloody violence targeting mostly young Nigerians protesting against the high level of professional misconduct and criminality of the men and operatives of the Nigerian Police Force. These ‘SARS’ inside the innermost caucus of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration are using ‘SARS’ to try to end the agitations against the defunct SARS. They have shot themselves on their legs because it would seem that their extreme adoption of violence against the peaceful marchers has brought bad blood for the Nigerian President. The mass killings of peaceful protesters in LEKKI Toll Gates Lagos by soldiers has defeated the small gains and mileage made by the Federal and state governments in their uncoordinated approach to meeting the demands of the peaceful marchers. The Nigerian government has rapidly frittered the small goodwill they were beginning to garner from the angry youths who are in their millions.
Little wonder the propaganda by the media Adviser to the President to curry favour with Nigerians is stiffly resisted and rejected. Femi Adesina had earlier today issued the following statement: “At the last count, no fewer than 13 states have gone ahead to establish the judicial Panels of Inquiry as resolved by the National Economic Council to address the question of redress and justice for victims of police brutality across the country.
The state that have set up the panels so far are: Lagos, Kaduna, Delta, Ekiti, Ogun, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Plateau, Edo, Nasarawa, Ondo and Akwa Ibom.
President Muhammadu Buhari welcomes the promptness of these necessary subnational actions, and reaffirms his commitment to supporting the state Governments to ensure that justice is achieved for all victims of police brutality and in Nigeria.
Under the Chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Economic Council (NEC) at its meeting on Thursday October 15, 2020 resolved to establish state – level judicial panels’ inquiry, to investigate allegations of police brutality and ensure that all erring personnel are brought to justice.
Prior to that, the President in June 2019 signed a Bill establishing the police Trust Fund, to mobilize additional funding for the welfare and equipping of the Nigeria Police Force. Accrual of funding into the Fund, as specified in its enabling Act, has commenced.
President Buhari in 2018 approved an increase in Police salaries and police personnel budget has seen a rise from 288 billion Naira in the 2018 Budget to 417 billion Naira in the proposed 2021 budget; an increase of 45 percent..
Only on Tuesday, at the commissioning of the Nigerian Police Pension Fund Limited building, the President also reiterated continuous support for both serving and retires the personnel.
The President has equally approved the rollout and funding of a new Community Policing Initiative, as part of a larger programme of police reform in Nigeria, aimed at rewriting the rules of engagement between the Force and citizens.
President Buhari’s commitment to extensive Police reforms should never be in doubt. The President in September 2020 signed the new Nigeria Police Act, the first comprehensive revision of the Police Act in decades.
As President Buhari declared, the immediate dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), is the first step in a set of reform policies that will deliver a Police system accountable to the Nigerian people. The President has also approved full implementation of the report of the 2018-2019 Presidential Panel on Police Reform.
Indeed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) have now commenced the implementation of the Report.
The Presidency appeals for understanding and calm across the nation, as the implementation of the reforms gathers pace at Federal and State levels.
The Presidency wishes to reiterate the full commitment of the Buhari Administration to the implementation of lasting Police reforms in Nigeria.”
From the Streets of Nigeria, It does not seem that most people are paying attention to this statement issued for the ‘absentee President’ by one of his many Garulous spokesmen. This is why the killings by the Army that happened on 20th of October 2020 in LEKKI Toll Gates Lagos is still a major talking point with World leaders like the former Vice President of the USA Joe Biden warning of dire consequences should President Muhammadu Buhari not put the mass killings of the citizens by the security forces to quick end.
The Former United States Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called on Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the ongoing violent crackdown on protesters in the country.
“I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths,” Biden said in a statement.
“I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.
My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence.”
He urged the United States to “stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy.”
Biden’s statement came hours after a former secretary of states Hillary Clinton Tuesday night asked Nigerian authorities to “stop killing” persons protesting against police brutality in the country.
Security forces on Friday shot sporadically at unarmed protesters who were protesting against police brutality at Lekki area of Lagos State.
About 7 persons were feared dead from the shooting in Lagos on Tuesday night with more than 10 people dead earlier in different demonstrations in Nigeria.
Scenes of people removing a bullet from someone’s wound and pleading for help were broadcast in a live video by DJ Switch, a popular disc jockey, to 150,000 Instagram viewers.
Amnesty International Nigeria said there was no justification for the “excessive use of force” against the peaceful, unarmed protesters.
The protests against police brutality, harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killings had attracted thousand to streets in different parts of Nigeria.
Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered the round-the-clock shutdown in the sprawling economic hub on Tuesday, claiming the protests had “degenerated into a monster” as violence flared in a string of cities.
Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday said the shooting and killing of the unarmed protesters was an “unfortunate incident.”
“I recognize the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents,” the governor said. However, the Lagos state governor can not excuse himself from culpability in the mass killings of peaceful protesters in LEKKI Toll Gates Lagos by soldiers.
Besides, the European Union (EU) had similarly expressed concern over the situation in Nigeria.
Many citizens have been killed or injured since the End SARS protests went awry.
Demonstrations for an end to Police brutality have snowballed into a national crisis.
In a statement on Wednesday, EU Vice President Josep Borrell demanded the prosecution of all persons responsible for deaths and assaults.
“It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured during the ongoing protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria.
“It is crucial that those responsible for abuses be brought to justice and held accountable. Following the Government’s will to deliver on reforms, we expect to see decisive implementation”, Borell noted.
Lagos, the state worst hit by the unrest, has been placed on lockdown.
But this has not stopped attacks on businesses, infrastructure and government entities, an agency reporter observed.
The major factors that have stoked the embers of disenchantment by the youthful protesters are the failure of the government to adopt quick but sustainable programmes of police reforms and better and transparent ways of bringing justice to bear on the members of the killer armed security forces especially the defunct SARS. The youths are angry at the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari and his supporters to call on Northern Ethnic groups and Islamic fundamentalists to give a narrative painting the protests as a movement against the Northern led Presidency at the moment. This is a reoccurring VIRUS in our political system in Nigeria which many outstanding scholars have addressed in their scholarly works. One of the finest thinkers out of Nigeria is the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah who did justice to the issues of Ethnicity and religions in the Nigerian political firmament. We will quote him extensively so we get to understand why the protesters are angry that the political leadership of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has still not adhered to the wide clamour to transform the Country in line with Global best practices but are bent on hanging on with playing divisive Ethno Religious politics that have undermined our advancement and development as a Country.
His words: “Most students of the African political scene are agreed on the fact that both ethnicity and religion are most dangerous threat to the attainment of democracy in Africa. An attempt at defining them remains largely illusive. Nnoli first established the theoretical framework for understanding the relation between ethnicity and other aspects of our social and political lives. The confusion surrounding the discourse has seen us progress from tribe to ethnicity. within this concept, there are other form of its expressions.”
According to Nnoli, while ethnocentrism: “Is attitudinal in form and perceptual in content.. the members of a group are ethnocentric when they are proud of it and consequently inward looking. Their attachment to and pride in the group reflect their ethnocentricism.”
On ethnicity, he further observes that:
Ethnicity on the other hand includes these attributes.. it does not involve the demand for a foreign status or the use of state apparatus on behalf of an ethnic group into a political society.
Nnoli concludes that it is the relationship between ethnic groups in a given polity that produces ethnicity.
On the definition of religion, Kukah says an explanation of it within the context of a set of rituals by which the human being relates with the higher being has come to be accepted while its derivation from the Latin word religare (to bind) has come to be understood as reflecting the effort by fallen man to re-establish contact with his creator. On democracy, the late Claude Ake, arguably Africa’s foremost political theoretician, noted:Democracy has been defined with a profusion of meanings that verge on anarchy; libraries of controversy exist on the concept, theory and meaning of the practice of democracy. And the confusion continues to grow with the very attempt to bring clarity.
Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah then affirmed: “On the surface, the mere thought of a combination of the elements of ethnicity, religion and democracy is enough to send shivers down our spinal cord. They are highly emotive issues over which blood has been spilled, nations, cultures and hopes have been extinguished and now more than ever before, new wars are being plotted and executed. In the wake of the collapse of the cold war, there are many who argue that there is an urgent need to renew the quest for a clearer understanding of these ideals”. (Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria by Matthew Hassan Kukah).
The best way out of the crises threatening the corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is for those wielding political powers to shed off their extreme affinity for impunity and lawlessness. The Nigerian State which through the instrumentality of those manning the governmental apparatuses and institutions appeared to be playing the roles of sponsors of terror attacks against civilian protesters must be armed, shamed and prosecuted. Then the Nigerian Government must move quickly to tackle the challenges of policing in Nigeria from the roots. The Nigerian government must identify the killers wearing police uniforms and prosecute and thoroughly punished by the Competent court of law. The Government officials who paid armed thugs to kill #endsars PROTESTERS must be fished out immediately and prosecuted as treasonable felons. The soldiers who shot at protesters in LEKKI Toll Gates Lagos state must be identified and made to face the full weight of the laws.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). He blogs@www. huriwanigeria.com, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.