THE VIOLENT PROTESTS across Nigeria by angry youths against police brutality has reached an alarming proportion which if not curtailed in time, has the propensity to spread across the West African sub region. Latest reports from major cities in the country have it that scores of protesters have been killed and properties worth millions of Naira have been destroyed with Lagos recording the highest casualties when soldiers used live bullets to gun down a number of people. There has also been reports of widespread looting and burning of public buildings in a number of cities. It has further been reported that the 24-hour curfews have been imposed in a number of flash point cities.
TAGGED #ENDSARS, the slogan calls for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial unit of the Nigeria Police Force which has become notorious for extortions, extra judicial killings, criminal atrocities and deliberately preying on innocent citizens especially the youths. Despite its terror to criminals, it has also become monstrous, largely uncontrolled, enticing for younger officers and cash cow of the police hierarchy.
THE DISCREDITED POLICE outfit was set up in 1992 to curb the spate of robberies in Nigeria. It got expanded in the number of personnel and operations to include also going after alleged internet fraudsters and other criminal activities. It was at this point that SARS got out of hand and became to wreak havoc on innocent people.
THE #ENDSARS PROTESTS are coming on the heels of similar incidents across the continent and globally such as the mass reactions from the citizens against police excesses in South Africa during the COVID 19 lockdown and the death of George Floyd in the hands of white police officers in the United States this year.
KEEN FOLLOWERS of the protests in Nigeria so far believe that the development is not just about SARS and its inhumane activities against innocent people but also it is a result of extreme anger over the dehumanizing policies of government, injustice, widespread poverty and the high cost of living. The cumulative effect of these rolled into one. That is why the protesters, according to the watchers, have refused to end their action. It seems this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address critical national issues.
IT IS INSTRUCTIVE to note that allowing this ugly situation to go on without any sign of being stopped soon will not only be dangerous to the Nigerian state which is already facing serious security challenges fighting the Boko Haram insurgents, but may spell doom for the entire West African sub-region. At present, the volatile political situations in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire could attract similar uprisings from Nigeria into these countries. We need to remind ourselves that major uprisings such as revolutions started off with an aggrieved public, recalcitrant leadership and a seemingly small tinder box that got mismanaged. We saw the impact of the Arab Spring that took the world by storm where leaders were dethroned and civil wars ensured.
THIS IS WHERE a clarion call on the leadership of ECOWAS is hereby made to take urgent steps to avert a looming crisis. Deep seated political development like what is unfolding in Nigeria needs an assertive intervention before it is blown out of proportion.
IT IS WHY we hasten to implore the authorities of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) to step in and address the spiraling situation in Nigeria, while keeping a keen eye on the simmering political tensions in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast. We also call on those governments mentioned herein, including our very own here in Liberia, to keenly observe the early warning signs that serve as powder kegs for full-blown