END SARS Protest: Fear Grips Nigerian Political Leaders

  

 By Suleiman Umaru,

The END Special  Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS,now End Special Weapons Tactics Team, SWAT, protest, is getting murkier by the day.   Mohammed Adamu Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, on Wednesday, October 14, 29020, had  formee SWAT to replace the old discredited SARS.

 Many believe that the IGP had hastily established the unit , noting that this is not best time for it. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, reportedly said that the establishment of SWAT to replace SARS was an indication that the government was not prepared to respect the rights of Nigerians, let alone do away with SARS.’’ ‘’We are only scratching the surface of the problem’’, he said. The legal luminary who could not hide his feelings said in an interviews with Channels Television that ‘’the problems  go beyond the change of name’’ insisting that  ‘’more concrete steps  ought  to be taken  to bring about real change to policing Nigeria’’.

This may have informed why the members of the END SARS  Movement had changed their  tactics. ‘’The agitation continues because  the decision  to immediately  replace  SARS  with SWAT, which would still accommodate most of the discredited  old SARS, personnel  was’’ hasty and premeditated’’, one Segun Awosanya, popular, Segalinks, who had claimed to be the Coordinator of the END SARS or SWAT Movement  had twitted.

 Enock Adeboye Adejare,  the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God , RCCG, who had earlier called on President Muhammadu to restructure the country  to avoid disintegration , had lent his violence  to the Youth protest against SARS, brutality that has been going  on  in the country  for about  a week.   Appealing to the to the Katsina state born Nigerian President ‘’to take urgent steps to tackle  the rising case of unemployment, decay in the nation’s education system and the general harsh economic situation in the country, , he called for new policing strategies’’.

President Muhammaddu Buhaari

 Despite the early morning rain in Lagos, the protesters had gathered at the Lekki toll gate,  chanting songs of solidarity in Lagos. while in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the protesters  were  marching o the Presidential Villa  but were stopped by heavily armed security Operatives. The Abuja  protest  was said to have been hijacked by a pro-SWAT group.

 The END SARS   protest which  had started in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center on Thursday, October 8, 2020 and subsequently spread to the FCT, on Friday, October 9, and other major Cities in the country including Ibadan and  Port Harcourt  had continued  at Lekki axis, described  as a  home of the Yahoo boys, on Wednesday, October 14, 2020,  to confirm what Aosanya , the alleged leader of the END SARS Movementprotest had said: We remain focused.

 The  protesters in PortHarcourt on Tuesday, October 13, 2020,  were said to have  challenged the armed policemen drafted to the scene of the protest to drop their guns and come out for a one-on one fight. In Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state  Capital, Emmanuel Udom the state governor was said to have doled out N4 million to the protesting Youths which was allegedly  turned down but they were said to have taken  the water, food and drinks, provided for them  but  left to continue their protest.  

What happened in Uyo, the  Akwa Ibom  Capital , may  not be different from what  happened in Lagos, when the protesters  found their way to  governor’s office in Alausa, to register their grievances to Babajide  Sanwo-Olu, the state governor recently. The governor was said to have asked the protesters to nominate their leaders in order to be given a honorarium f. They were said to  have  turned  down  his request, pleading with him to drop whatever  he has for the crowd as there  was no leader. This may have shocked the governor.     

   It is on record  that the security agencies, particular, the Department of State Security, DSS, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA and the  Police  Intelligence  personnel ,  have not been able   to identify  the actual  sponsors or Coordinators  of the protest.  The  unofficial  Coordinators, of the END SARS Movement, now END SWAT Movement  , as the  New York Times had described them   were said to have  refused  to elect  their leaders as they see themselves as mere   joiners of the Movement.

They may have their reason. They do not want  any  member of the Movement to start negotiating with the government  o tor talk to any Nigerian  rich man, behind their backs to call off the protest. There are reports making the rounds that  Aliko Dangote, President Dangote Group of Companies   and Tony Elumelu, Group Chairman, United Bank For Africa, UBA plc, a Pan African Bank and Founder Tony Elumelu Foundation, popular, TEF, had made  efforts to meet the alleged leaders of END SARS  Movement  but that was how far they could go.  

  Security analysts believe that he young Nigerians may have  made  adequate  preparation  for the protest to prove a point that  they  have a voice in the Nigerian project.  They  were said to have been able  to pull together  everything that  could  sustain them throughout the duration of the protest  across the country   from water,  food, drinks and  banners to arranging  bail  for those that may be arrested by Adamu’s  men.

Adamu: IGP

  This may  have informed why the security Operatives  appear to be at a loss as to how  the Protesters  were able to raise  the funds that could  sustain  the protest  that had   entered its 6th day  as at  Wednesday, October 14, 2020.     

 Investigations by the Value News shows that the money  to sponsor the protest    had come  from  crowd sourcing   while some are donations   from Nigerians in diaspora ,   mostly from Nigerians in the Information Technology , IT, firms,  whose staff  were said to be the  easy targets of profiling  by the hated SARS, or SWAT personnel  and other sacked  police tactical squads personnel.  The respected  Intenational Newspaper, New York Times  had attributed the success achieved so far by  the End SARS Movement  in Nigeria’ to the involvement of Celebrities in the protest,  , social media influencers   to the new age stars  made by  Instagram,  Snapchat  and Twitter.

Given the direction of the protests in the country which had refused to stop, fear appears to have gripped the country’s political leaders at the Federal and state level. The fear in political circles was   that   what  had  happened during the Arab spring of 2019  which had forced down the governments of Omar el Bashir of Sudan, Adelaziz  Bouteflika, Algeria  and Hassan Rouhani, Iran, may play out in Nigeria  with the increasing wave of the protest which had become uncontrollable.

 More so, the  recent protest  which had forced  Hassan Diab, the Lebanon Prime  Minister to resign on August 10 2020  may have  sent a warning signal to the Nigerian political leaders and security Operatives to watch it. Recall that the Lebanese  protesters had taken to the streets   over alleged negligence of the Diab  government  which led to  an explosion, described   as massive that it devastated  swaths of Beirut,  the Capital.

.   Diab was to have  made several  attempts with his security personnel to quiet  the protesting Youths  but  failed to do so . He has no option but to resign to restore calm in the country.  He  had  attributed  the  explosion to a level of Corruption bigger than the state, stressing that it had erupted in a warehouse that contained  2,70 metric tons of ammonium  nitrate that had been stored for years despite repeated warnings  that it was unsafe. Funny enough, this  was not what the  Lebanese Youths had  wanted  to hear  as they see the explanation as coming too late  because of the loss of lives due to the blast.

Anti-SARS Violent Protest In Abuja

  The lebanon situation may be different from Nigeria  as the Youth’s anger  and  indeed, Nigerians, both young and old, are  centered  on the the srapping of  SARS or SWAT,  a unit of the Nigeria Police Force NPF

. The protesters in Lebanon, may not  have  given room for  the security Operatives to arrest any of their members  or for  the security operatives to penetrate  their ranks   to  fish out the local  Coordinators. The security Operatives in Nigeria  were said to have arrested some of the  protesting Youths in the END SARS Movement  in Lagos , Ogun , osun, Abuja,Oyo Anambra, and other  states,  including the FCT. They  were said to have also killed few of the protesters in different parts of the country.

With the END SARS protest  taking place mostly from the southern Nigerian states, the opinion Lleaders  from the north appear to have  taking it as an advantage  to moved fast to find  a way of  dividing  the  Youths  by discouraging these northern Youths from participating in the protest. They were said to have introduced and politics and religious dimension into the protest as the police had threatened to arrest of  anyone  who dares come out for the protest

.  This may have put fear on the northern Youths to sheath there sword and watch what is happening in other parts of the country on the sideline. A Pro SWAT Youth Group from the northern part of the country were said to have stormed Kano  today, Wednesday, October 14, 2020, to protest in favour of Adamu’s pet project, SWAT.

   Sanwo-Olu,  the All Progressive Congress, APC,  governor of Lagos state, who  may be acting out a script of the presidency to know the actual grievances of the protesting youths had joined the demonstration  in Lagos by carrying placard , with the inscription, END SARS or. He was said to have travelled to Abuja recently to see APC leader at the Villa.  The  duo were said to have held  a closed door meeting where the Lagos state   governor was sad to have intimated of his findings about the protest and also  presented the list of the END SWARS  Movement  to him.   . 

 Recall that initially  Adamu, the IGP, and other security Agencies Chief did not see the protesters going far but when they heard  about the involvement of celebrities,    like Falz, Runtown Don Jazzy, Olu Jacobs ,David Adeleke, popular Davido, a popular musician  and Femi Kuti, also a  Musician and son of the Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulap Kuti described as rowd pulllers,, as well as   other notable  rich young Nigerians on Television, participating in the protest,   they knew it was no longer a laughing  matter. They were said to have resorted  to persuasion instead of the  use of force to quiet the protesting Youths.

   The IGP  was said to have extended an invitation to Davido to see him at the Force Headquarters to be sure that he was not  among the protesting Youths.He was said to have  given a marching  order to the trigger hungry officers not to harass  Davido and those who had accompanied  him   

Falana: SAN, Problem Go Beyond Change Of Name

 It was therefore not very surprising   why they gave him the Opportunity to have audience with the IGP. He may have used the opportunity of the visit to push for the release of the Youths  who were  arrest  and are still in police custody in different parts of the country. He was said to have asked the IGP to prosecute those accused   of violating  Human Rights while officers  who are good should be retained . The popular musician was said to have  also raised the need  for adequate training  and  psychological re-evaluation of members  of the old police unit.

He urged the IGP  to  make arrangement to compensate the families of the SARS extra –judicial killings. What the Davido had told the IGP,  were said to be on the demand list of the aggrieved  Youths that must be fulfilled to call off the protest.    The Youth protest in the major cities across  the country   may have   given the retired Army General  who  is  77, a better world view of the Nigerian youths, he  had described  as lazy before now. 

 H There are indications that he is looking out for ways to appease the Youths to quench the fire in them  by initiating policies and programmes  that would favour them in job creation . He may have also realised in the last one week based on security reports  that  something urgent needed to be done to be done to calm the situation. The fallout was the launching of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme, P-YES, l on  Sunday, October 11, 2020, at the Villa, while most  of  the Youths were on the street at Abuja, protesting against SARS brutality.

.   Many believe that the level of Organisation and Coordination of the protest by the unidentified leaders of the  END SARS Movement protest,  shows  that the Youths  who are , between the ages of 18 and 25 and  who had  dominated the protest knew  what they were doing.

 They may have seen the protest as an opportunity to register  their  anger  of not being gainfully  employed after years of graduation and the destruction of the education system.   The SARS personnel may  have  made  things  more difficult for them by seeing  any young  Nigerian  with Laptop    as one of the Yahoo boys. Those who had  fallen into the waiting hands of the SARS personnel and who  could not defend themselves on how they came about the Laptop  were said to have ended up at their office for questioning and subsequently  detained.

Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Oni of Ife, gave an instance of what his 25-year old daughter  suffered  in the  hands  of the SARs  personnel in Lagos  on her way to the  Airport. The revered south west Oba had said that   his daughter  was stopped because she was found with a Laptop in her bag .  He disclosed that  she was  terribly  ransacked  and surrounded  by fully armed  plain clothes policemen  , suspected to be SARS personnel , in a bus . An aggrieved Oni  said  in his official twitter handle that  his daughter  was ‘’detained  for close  to 30 minutes  through questioning’’.

There may be   countless of other Nigerians  whose children had fallen victim to the SARS personnel stop and search  who were arrested  and detained but no one to fight for their release. The Oni, who could not hide his feelings  is very happy that the Youths  have suddenly woke  up from their slumber to speak with one voice. ‘’Finally, the Youths are awake  to speak  with one voice and one goal’’, he remarked.  .

The report in June by the  Amnesty International shows that there were over 80 cases  of torture , ill-treatment  and extra-judicial execution  between January 2017  and May 2020. The SARS torture and extra0jusicial killings , a victim who survived it said  could  only be compared  to what  happened in Uganda, dunder late Idi Amin , the so called ‘’life President of the  country  in the ‘70s.  Many had expected  past and present IGPs, to have prosecuted the SARS, officials who had been identified of violating Rights of other Nigerians.

 Based the discussion which the discussions which  Lagos governor   may have  had   with the aggrieved Nigerian Youths who were said to have   given him a letter of their demands that must be fulfilled to call off the protest may have force him to speak out when he met the President  .    

The Lagos state governor was said to have  assured  the Youths on his return  that their demands were being looked into.    He may have  gone  with the impression that he has won the heart of the Youths when he  said that he has secured   the process  of getting  justice  for the victims  of SARS brutality  and extra-judicial killings.

Also, he had disclosed  that  the government  will be setting up a panel comprising  of the Youth leaders that may be appointed by the protesters, members of the public government, Civil Society and the security agencies  to look into the allegations  of Human Rights abuses levelled  against SARS operatives . Accoding to him,’’ the Objective of the panel  is to bring the  indicted   police  officers to look  and get justice for victims  killed and maimed by SARS Operatives’’.

 He had  revealed  the establishment of a  Police Trust Fund  to Compensate  the families  of the victims of police brutality  in the country but the governors of the Opposition People’s Democratic party , PDP, had kicked against it.

  Perhaps, to show that  the government is ready to  restructure the country,    a Presidential Panel,  that had been set up   on Tuesday,  had approved the   five –point demands of the aggrieved  Youths  which was said to have been  read out  to Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, at the Force Headquarters last week, by Davido, a musician and crowd puller. The Panel members were said to have halted   the continued use of Force by policemen to quiet the protesting Youths and approved the unconditional release of  Youths arrested and detained for participating  in the END SARS OR SWAT protest.      

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