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’’.
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.
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.
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
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.