Why rest of Africa must stand with Nigeria’s youth
It is worrying that Nigeria is reluctant to show any practical goodwill in initiating much needed reforms in its police force despite youth demanding an end to police brutality and bad governance.
Recently, the government announced it would disband a terror police squad it has nurtured for close to a decade, the fourth time it has made such a pronouncement in many years, casting doubt on whether this will meet public expectations.
Since 2017, protests have been gaining momentum across Nigeria, stemming from online advocacy to the street.
The anger about the unit’s activities culminated into a nationwide street protest in 21 states after a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officer allegedly shot a youth in Delta State.
This is not an isolated event and over the years, Nigeria has not been ranked well in its moral standing.
In Amnesty International reports, the Nigeria Police Force has been accused of hundreds of extrajudicial and other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances. Youth now want the notorious SARS squad disbanded.
For close to two decades of its existence, the squad has been accused of harassing and physically abusing thousands of civilians since it was created in 1992.
They are accusing it of not being accountable to anyone, strangely a shift from global best practices where policing is being seen more as a service as opposed to a force.
President Muhammadu Buhari announcement of the plan to disband the unit has not quelled the protests for there are other underlying factors that border on serious police reforms — justice for victims of police brutality, prosecution of accused officers as well as a general salary increase for the police force to reduce graft.
The youth are now protesting that SARS officers are targeting and detaining young men for cybercrime, simply on the evidence of their owning a laptop or smartphone, and then demanding excessive bail fees to let them go.
In 2016, Amnesty International documented 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions by SARS with victims’ usually youth aged 18-35 arrested during street raids on groups of people doing things such as watching a football match or drinking at pubs.
By protesting, Nigerian youth are giving meaning to their country and continent, and that is why the rest of Africa must listen and march in solidarity.
#ENDSARSNOW is an appeal to all African leaders to respect and protect Africa’s youth civil and political rights and not repress them.
The continent must have African nationalism to save it and make it a superpower. African nationalism must be the code for youth in Africa.
All youth must support the Nigerian counterparts in their quest for justice.
With the momentum built over the last few weeks, it’s evident that youth in Nigeria and Africa at large rewriting the narrative — from a people with a problem, to solution providers. —The writer is a Africa Youth Policy Analyst — [email protected]