The initial peaceful protest against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has taken a new dimension as violence has engulfed the nation.
Lives have been reportedly lost in many places including Lagos, Benin City, Ibadan, Sapele among others and public and private properties have been burnt or vandalized in many places. The students’ future has been put on hold few weeks after impromptu long vacation as examination and lectures were abruptly disrupted and cancelled.
This means that some youths may not eventually realize their dreams soon as earlier planned due to activities of some fellow citizens’ midemeanour. In some areas, businesses have been disrupted and movement restricted while wreckage has taken over private, public and popular places. In Abuja alone, tens of cars were reportedly burnt. For God’s sake, how does destruction of others’ properties translate to peaceful protest?
While Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA) appreciate the fact that governments at various levels have acceded to the main demands of ENDSARS protesters by proscribing the SARS unit of Nigerian Police, RIFA also eulogize the patriotic initiators of ENDSARS protest who have retreated after government complied with their requests.
In this regard, it has been gathered that all protesters earlier arrested have been released while former members of SARS are set to be excluded from any subsequent tactical team that would be created. This shows the government has listened to the yearnings of Nigerians and should be given elements of doubt by suspending further protest.
If the police thereafter return to their old ways, then the protest resurgence may follow. It is, however, counter-productive that same blame of reckless killing, wanton disruption of properties and abuse of people’s rights upon which the protest was initially based has now been order of the day by miscreants who hijacked the protest.
So, the current spate of lawlessness shows the peaceful protest has been hijacked as people were raped, maimed, killed and declared missing as a result of the violence apart from properties vandalized.
The fact that peaceful protest is an inalienable right of Nigerians also calls on all Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers by ensuring their safety anywhere they may be. Regardless of tribe, religion, political party or job including being a member of Nigerian Police force that one may chose to belong, it beckons on all of us to understand the humanity that joins us and so avoid any form of destructive tendency; either of lives or properties. In line with this, RIFA call on all Nigerians still “protesting” to halt the “protest” and embrace dialogue.
The Advocates also call on the States and Federal governments to ensure safety of lives and properties of the populace which the constitution says is the primary duty of the government.
As the main organizers of the protest have retreated, RIFA urge others on the streets to sheath their sword and allow peace to reign so that normalcy could be restored. As events unfold, no one could predict the future and no life of any Nigerian deserves to be lost as a result of the protest.
Therefore, RIFA appeal to all Nigerians to call the attention of their children, wards, relatives, friends and family members to the need to allow authorities to do their part.
Governments at various levels should speak out to assure the populace of their seriousness. Continuous silence of authorities especially at federal and state levels has been the cause of the continuous ‘protest’. The governments should restore orderliness through curfew or state of emergency in hotspot states as the broiling situation calls for urgent control.
More importantly, RIFA call on the federal government (FG) to allow fresh air at the highest echelon of the Nigeria Police Force as the current leadership cannot handle the reform Nigerians want in the nation police. There were many complaints that have been sent to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) office before now but no action was taken except where another Federal agency was informed or involved.
So, if government is serious about police reforms, it has to start from its leadership change as the old bottle may not be able to produce fresh wine.
Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA)
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