By Casmir Igbokwe
Sometimes, irony defines our existential struggles in life. Last Saturday, in Kaduna, President Muhammadu Buhari admonished Nigerians to drop sectional interests for the interest of Nigeria. My eyebrows were still raised when news flashed that his daughter, Zahra Buhari-Indimi, had joined the #EndSARS campaign. Even Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s daughter, Kiki Osinbajo, was reported to have also joined the campaign. The two privileged daughters posted clenched fists on Instagram with the caption: #EndPoliceBrutality, #EndSARS. Interesting!
For days now, there have been protests on the social media and in the streets of many cities across Nigeria against the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protesters have not only poured out their frustrations against this security outfit, they have also demanded their disbandment. With Zahra and Kiki joining the fray, hope for our redemption appears to be near.
No doubt, SARS has committed many atrocities. On many of our expressways, especially Benin-Ore Expressway, personnel of the squad usually search the bags and phones of many young men and women. Woe betide whoever has any picture of a white person or huge monetary transaction on their phone. If you are perceived to be returning from abroad, your case will be worse. They could tag you Yahoo boy or girl and deal with you their own way.
Some people have had to part with huge sums of money to regain their freedom. Some have had to endure hours of detention for committing no offence. The unfortunate ones have had to pay with their lives. The killing of a young man in Delta State recently was what triggered the current protests against SARS. In another instance in Lagos, SARS personnel allegedly dragged two men from a hotel into the street and shot one of them. Alas, policemen paid to protect the citizens have turned out to be their tormentors-in-chief. They extort money, intimidate, harass, torture and even shoot people at will.
This SARS menace did not start today. Two years ago, I wrote a piece on this page titled, ‘The security outfits called SARS and DSS’. It was published on Monday, August 13, 2018. In that intervention, I did chronicle the evil these security operatives had subjected Nigerians to.
For instance, I narrated how an innocent young man called Clement Obiorah encountered the Federal SARS at Obalende area of Lagos. The FSARS operatives labelled him a cult boy, pounced on him, and gave him the beating of his life. They later bundled him into their van and sped off. To cut the long story short, they collected the N10,000 on him, his bank debit card and phone. The boy, whose late father was a Nigerian Air Force officer, ended up at the Air Force hospital in Onikan, Lagos, with serious body pains and broken leg.
My worry is that we tend to forget a lot in this country. Protests similar to the current #EndSARS took place in 2017. And since 2016, this government has been promising to reform SARS. A day after my intervention in 2018, Vice-President Osinbajo, who was the acting president then, ordered an immediate overhaul of the security outfit. He directed the then Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, to ensure that the SARS operatives adhered strictly to the rule of law. Idris swiftly banned roadblocks and promised to reorganise the dreaded SARS. We all hailed and clapped.
Today, we are confronted with the same scenario. Like ex-IGP Idris, the current IGP, Mohammed Adamu, has banned the FSARS and other tactical squads from routine patrols and other low-risk activities. He also warned them against unauthorised search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices. He has also promised reforms.
But, dear, IGP Adamu, what happened to the total overhaul your predecessor promised Nigerians two years ago? How do we trust that this so-called ban will have any effect, considering that, in the past four years, we have had four similar ineffective bans? How far with the prosecution of the security personnel apprehended for extortion and killing of some innocent Nigerians? What is the fate of the anti-cultism personnel that allegedly killed Kolade Johnson at Mangoro area of Lagos last year? Have they served adequate punishment for their crimes? Have the FSARS operatives undergone the training programme on respect for human rights and humane handling of suspects in custody as promised? How about the outcome of the judicial commission of enquiry instituted in 2018 to look into the atrocities of SARS?
Let’s stop deceiving ourselves. Most Nigerians have lost confidence in the police. They have lost hope in the ability of the IGP to rein in his men. That is why, despite the IGP’s announced ban and reform promises, people still agitate for the outright disbandment of SARS.
Nevertheless, we shall not relent in offering our own little suggestions. First, let SARS personnel strictly adhere to the instructions to face armed robbers and kidnappers that they are meant to pursue. Definitely, they can’t find such criminals on someone’s phone or laptop.
Secondly, police authorities should take a critical look at their recruitment process. No matter the reforms instituted by the IGP, when you recruit criminals to pursue armed robbers, the essence of creating the squad will be defeated. There should be adequate background checks on those to be recruited into the force.
Thirdly, all those indicted for past atrocities must be brought to book. It is not enough to tell us that they have been arrested and detained. You must prosecute them. You must also look into other units of the police force who, almost on a daily basis, harass travellers at their numerous checkpoints.
Ultimately, there is every need to emulate the police in some advanced countries. There, they hardly stop you to ask for vehicle particulars or search you if there is no reasonable ground to suspect you. What they do is to stand by and watch as people go about their normal duties. They mainly come after you if you commit crime or if they reasonably suspect that you are a threat to the peace of the society. This is hoping that Nigeria Police Bill 2020, which President Buhari signed into law last month, will engender a more efficient police force that will respect and protect the human rights of those they are employed to protect. I also hope that, by this time next year, Zahra and Kiki won’t have cause to embark on another #EndSARS protest!
Re: Crack in Osinbajo’s break-up sermon
Lack of equity, fairness and justice in governance and our daily social relationships is what breeds endless strife and agitations by ethnic and Rights groups. At the federal and state levels, there are recurring cases of sacrifice of merit and justice on the altar of nepotism and politics. When we put forward a weak material, as it were, the resultant effect is the international embarrassment that you have rightly cited. In Cross River State, a compliant and henpecked legislature is working hands in glove with the executive in strangulating the state judiciary that has remained for nearly a year without a substantive Chief Judge. Not too long ago, the then acting Director-General of the DSS Mr. Matthew Seiyefa was mindlessly frustrated out of office instead of assuming the substantive post of its Director-General. Acts of this nature help to widen the existing cracks on our national wall. These are physical matters: they require physical solution, not prayers.
– Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, +2348037952470
Dear Casmir, Nehemiah 4:9 says, “But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.” And in verse 13, “So I armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.” Nehemiah armed his men, aside from prayers, which is very important, but not enough. God will grant Osinbajo all-round defense. God will raise a new army against Boko Haram, terrorist armed herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and election riggers. God will raise for us sincere leaders like Nehemiah! God will surprise all those holding Nigeria down: Nigeria will breathe again!
-Col. R.N. Oputa, retd, +234 803 320 6191
Dear Casmir, the walls of Jerusalem were not built by prayers but by the conscious and honest effort of Nehemiah and the people. It’s this omission of the truth by religious leaders that has caused our people to be perpetrators of corruption yet are prayer warriors. It is also paradoxical that countries such as China, India, etc, are far less corrupt and are making giant strides in the comity of nations despite being largely irreligious.
– Idongesit Inyang, Uyo, +2348084318845
Dear Casmir, our problem is unending because we run religion economy. The advanced countries made it by dying in the laboratories not by turning hotels, cinema halls, stadia and classrooms to churches. Enough of the self-deceit!
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
How can the cracked walls of Nigeria be rebuilt when the Fulani man called Buhari through the instrumentation of his Yoruba advisers does not want an Igbo man in the scheme of things? How can we rebuild the walls of Nigeria when corruption and fraud are more pronounced in Buhari-led APC govt? How can we rebuild the walls of Nigeria when Buhari is insensitive to issues?
– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644
Your piece was fantastic and well directed to what is happening in Nigeria. I enjoy reading your articles, always well articulated. More grease.
– Chief M.I. Nwabudike, +2348035527626
Casmir, I doff my cap for your brilliant analysis in your merit-based article. You have said it all. May God continue to empower you!
– Dr. Barr. Sir Chikwado R. Ezeokafor, +2347089769596
Dear Casy, the Fulani massive killings of Igbo and other Nigerians, the lopsided appointment of Fulani and their Muslim northern groups into his government without due process, the destruction of our economy, MDAs, insecurity, mismanagement, mass poverty, mass illiteracy, high level of corruption in the govt and the current chaos in the land can’t be branded by any sane mind as a crack. Prof. Osinbajo’s crack has become an earthquake.
– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495
Until the spirit of stealing government funds leaves our mind when we are in government, the cracks of Nigeria will be there. Prayers work when we are sincere with ourselves.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
Casmir, ethnic and religious politics breed mediocrity in place of merit. This crack in the march to greatness can be sealed with urgent restructuring of the country. Anything contrary to this may lead to unhealthy break-up.
– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 12, 2020.