October 20, 2020 will forever remain a sad day in the annals of Nigeria, a day of sorrow, tears and blood, a day blood of Nigerians spilled on the sacred Green-White-Green Nigerian flag, not on the battled field against another nation, but on protest ground.
And so, the Lekki Toll Gate Shooting, remains one of the most controversial and tragic events in our recent history. While Nigerians, particularly, the youths may not forget that incident so soon, one must understand what led to the incident and how Nigeria can be better policed.
The #EndSARS itself was not meant to be an end, but a means to an end, a message to the government that it’s excesses and those of the disbanded Special Anti Robbery Squad were getting out of control.
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest to spur the government to do the needful for the police became a major fraca which almost burnt down the entire country.
The events of that period were a clear indication that the Police-Civilian Relationship had broken down for several years. They were also signs that things can easily be abused in Nigeria if the vision is lost and that was the case of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The police had become weary of the civilians where they meant to protect, and the citizens had not only detested the police, but also lost confidence in them. All attempts to quell these tenuous relationship had failed over time.
Hence, a brief history of the defunct SARS would give an into the case of abuse and lost vision.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad was a Nigerian Police Force unit created in late 1992 to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and firearms.
It was part of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department. Up until around 2010, the SARS operatives stuck with their ideal duties as they helped in curtailing armed robbery in southern parts of Nigeria and were also assisting the military in the northeastern part to fight insurgency.
But with the spread of cybercrime also called ‘Yahoo Yahoo’, some SARS operatives saw a pipe to cash out from Yahoo boys, and this they did with all impunity, rascality and recklessness.
Pockets of extrajudicial killings began to happen across the country, leading to negative reactions from Nigerians in form of protests.
But before long, Nigerian youths, who were the most affected couldn’t take it anymore and then hit the streets of Lagos in October 2020, before long, the protests, ably supported by a lot of celebrities spread across southwest Nigeria, south-south, and the south-east.
Soon, states such as FCT, Kwara, Plateau, Kogi all in the north-central joined. This continued until the government couldn’t contain the crisis anymore. Specifically, the protesters were attacked in the FCT, Lagos and some other places. But, undeterred, they continued.
Unfortunately, miscreants were able to infiltrate their ranks, which then led to destruction of government facilities as well as private properties. Custodial facilities were broken in Edo, Delta and some other places.
Police stations were burnt down across the country. Then, the heavy hands of government descended on the protesters and on the morning of October 21, 2020, tension began to douse.
I ran through the history of the incidents for the reader to know what led to what. Actually, some persons who had noticed the trajectory of the relationship between our police and the civilians foretold a time like that.
NOW, THE ENDSARS PROTEST AND LESSONS
But what was unexpected and unprecedented was the vigour, the organisation, and the seriousness of the youths. The government never imagined that Nigerian youths could speak with one voice like that and so, the government was not prepared at all.
Till date, the government is yet to meet all demands of the ENDSARS protesters.
While we hope that the government would be able to give our police a better deal through the demands of the #EndSARS protesters, immediate action must be taken to fix the broken Police-Civilian Relationship.
The government must and should build a Police and policing system that are in consonance with the realities, peculiarities and circumstances of the Nigerian people, not to continue to foist a brutish police that was bequeathed to the country by the British colonial masters.
The government must remodel our police to understand the Nigerian people. The welfare of the policex operatives must be of paramount importance to the government.
On the other hand, Nigerians must begin to understand police officials and by extension, other security agencies.
They should understand that the policemen are not immune from the ills facing the country. They go through the things we the civilians go through and so, they have a tendency to misbehave when confronted by issues above them, they are simply humans!
One last word for the government is that – the police of a country is a reflection of the country. The rot within our police is a reflection of the rot within the Nigerian system. So, fixing the system will ultimately lead to a quick fix of the police.
More Importantly, we need an effective justice system that the public can rely on.
All victims of ENDSARS must be granted justice while indicted police officers must be made to face the wrath of the law.
This is imperative because, ““True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.