The Youth Protest And Matters Arising

By Abachi Silas

For umpteen reasons, commentaries on the youth protest will not thin out easily anytime soon. It has effectively blown open a Pandora box of issues of transcendent import that we can no longer paper over. And, if no meaningful change or lessons have been distilled from the crisis, then we may just be on the path of perdition. It was a period that the country danced on the precipice of anarchy and will definitely occupy a place of eternal remembrance in our Nation’s history.

The hoodlums were real opportunists- they saw the gaping gap and heartily leapt at it, to wreak monumental havoc on both private and public properties and cutting many precious lives short just when the protest spiraled out of control in the wake of the Lekki toll gate shootings.

The looting spree which led to the discovery of warehouses bursting at their seams with COVID -19 palliatives provided fodder for the looting fever which spread apace from Lagos- the epicentre to other states of the country. It beggars belief that palliatives were tucked away in warehouses while citizens remain in the throes of poverty and hunger. This is a sad commentary on the disconnect that exist between our leaders and ordinary Nigerians. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum( NGF) rationalization was nothing but a face saving attempt which has expose the shortage of empathy in leadership.

However, the mindless looting and destruction under whatever guise shouldn't be glorified. We simply have cut our nose to spite our face by the scale of destruction recorded. The verdict is that Nigerians are hungry and equally angry. They have considered government as the culprit for their dire conditions and they see, hear and read how the common wealth is routinely plundered by few without consequences. What we witness was at best a crude class war. So, to the ordinary citizen, it can’t be recorded as sin when they steal food.

The poor are still swimming in privation despite the easing of restrictions. Not a few Nigerians are at their wits end due to loss of jobs or severe disruptions of livelihood in accessing food and non-food needs. The depth and breadth of hunger is mind blowing.

The FAO October/November 2020 Cadre Harmonise (CH) report on food insecurity adds weight to the extraordinary situation. CH analysis report is an important tool for food security. The report focused on the food crisis situation in 16 states- Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Zamfara and the FCT. More than 13.8 million Nigerians will need urgent attention between now and August 2021 in the above mentioned states. About 9 million Nigerians are to be trapped in the food crisis between October 2020 to December 2020.

Let's talk about the state of the Police- the men of the Nigerian Police were not spared the brutality of the hoodlums. They were victims that have received scant attention of the paroxysm of violence that marred the protest. It was a wretched experience for the Police. For it was a day they were left in the cold comfort of alienation, dejection and abandonment. I was moved by the poignant tales of raw savagery and inhumanity the Police suffered. Paradoxically, the brutality that was at the heart of the protest was bitterly unleashed on the police. They were poached like games in the woods. Truth is, Police also have human rights that must respected.

The average Nigerian Police is placed in a unique position where he is the object of public hate and victim of serial shortchange by his superiors. The litany of complaints against the Police and its unprofessional conducts calls for a paradigm shift. There are no shortage of attempt at reforms which has produced commendable resolutions. But they are never given traction.

The Nigerian Police is a convenient poster boy of corruption. And, has been a perennial under-performer in global ratings for reasons which are not lost on us. Extortion, torture, intimidation, subjection of citizens to physical and psychological abuses etc are the Police stock in trade. Accidental discharge has become a euphemism for the Police recklessness. As part of the Police, the Special Anti -Robbery Squad (SARS) mirrors the sickness that ails the Nigeria Police as a whole. Amnesty International in its report- "WELCOME TO HELL FIRE" painted a graphic picture of the brutality of the law enforcement personnel.

The Nigeria Force is in dire need of rehabilitation. They are underfunded and poorly trained. Aside, the handling of fire arms other aspects of policing are shoddily handled. The process of recruitment is highly flawed so much so that it allows persons of dubious character, barely literate and sometimes of unsound mind to slip easily into the Police.

The condition under which training is conducted is appalling; the state of the Police colleges reeks of neglect. They are left in the lurch with paltry remuneration package. Allowed to source for uniforms, boots and other tools of operation. The police barracks sticks out like a sore thumb and unfit for habitation; accommodation is at a premium. In the whole, there is a groundswell of discontent in the rank and file of the force over abject condition of service and general welfare.

It is time law enforcement officials acts within the purview of international human rights standards especially the UN codes of conduct. The basic principles on use of force and fire arms must be adhered to. This brings us to the point of adequate training which is sorely lacking. It is not about swelling the ranks of the police force which also essential; training needs to be prioritized. The Police must respect, protect and ensure the rights to life and liberty.

It is time to deal with issues that the protest have spewed out which will require leadership, political will and monitoring of raft of measures already taken. It is clear how poverty and hunger can be a grave existential threat to any country.

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