#EndSARS: Moving forward

Sanwo-Olu with protesters

The devastation meted out to the nation following the outrage by youths and young people over the excesses of personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is yet to abate. With what the various governments have offered so far, can we say that the youths are satisfied and unperturbed? I doubt it. This reason is that the underlying problems plaguing the country have consistently accumulated and responsible for what we are witnessing as bad governance.

Unfortunately, what we saw at the end of the day is complete violence that was largely fuelled by the alleged shooting of protesters by security men at the Lekki Toll Plaza, Lagos. Perhaps, this was the biggest mistake to have been committed by the state under the present circumstances forcing the parties to abruptly beat a retreat. What should be done now? The state should enter into formal discussion with youth groups across the country immediately on why they should sheathe their sword and embrace genuine dialogue. In doing this, the activities of interlopers should be checked.

The mediatory role of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in this regard is timely by bringing the aggrieved parties to the negotiating table in the spirit of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism. In its usual and critical role of promoting national peace, security and the rule of law, the NBA should work with relevant stakeholders to develop an acceptable, right framework and structure “with clear timelines and deliverables”. Let me advise that as many credible and intelligent youths and young persons should, as much as possible, be invited to the discussion table devoid of the same elements that had stifled national cohesion, viz: greed, nepotism, ethnic, political, and religious sentiments.

The next assignment to accomplish is putting the necessary machinery in place to reform the NPF. What does genuine reform entail? Practical reforms must involve real transformation that allows only qualified candidates to be recruited into the police. The minimum entry qualification for the exercise should be the university degree or its equivalent, to allow the recruitment of intellectually-sound candidates. The deployment of police officers to very important persons should stop. This does not only deprive the force of the needed manpower to fight crime, it creates unnecessary social imbalance and class segregation among citizens.

I keep wondering what qualifies Yahoo Boys, pastors, and family members of politicians to be assigned police security details? In the course of guarding the crops of ‘special citizens’, the police officers are exposed to affluence and squandering of public resources. The police officers in turn transfer such anger and frustration to civilians in their daily interactions. Adequate local and international training should be given to policemen on how to carry out their duties effectively and with utmost civility like their foreign counterparts. It is in Nigeria that police officers brandish their guns and threaten to shoot people with impunity. After all, we see how police officers work in other countries with decency and diligence. The existing training environment, modules and rigour only encourage the breeding of hostile, inhuman, and uncultured officers as exemplified by SARS and other operatives.

The remuneration and the condition of service should be significantly improved, as the existing salary structure is too meagre to sustain our policemen. This poor pay could be accountable for why bribery and corrupt practices are common in NPF and discouraging passionate candidates from joining the force. Sadly, most police stations and barracks are poorly equipped and dilapidated for the officers to any normal police personnel to develop good comportment at work, just as erring police officers should not be spared but given the deserved penalties promptly.

The government should desist from threatening the youths and dishing out inflammatory statements that could cause more damage. What the angry youths simply need are words of encouragement and assurances that their needs would be taken care of and that better days are coming. This should be backed up with a clear line of actions and commitments that those at the helm of affairs are sincerely ready to restructure the nation towards a just, fair, and equitable Nigeria. Henceforth, no citizen should be made second class or inferior in his/her country as the present configuration allows.

To move forward, the present situation calls for somber reflection and the much-sought opportunity to mutually iron out national problems. We should not be comforted or deceived by the artificial peace prevailing the land. In the coming weeks, the necessary framework and structure should urgently be put in place to design a sustainable blueprint for our stagnating country to have a new lease of life. More importantly, the anticipated change can be better realised if the youths can use the instrumentality of the political party institution to assume the desired leadership. As 2023 fast approaches, when the next general elections hold, they should form themselves into a formidable party to wrestle power from the old generation that has failed them by taking charge of their future.

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