Confusion Engulfs Nigeria as Gov’t Embraces Carrot and Stick Tactics against #EndSARS Activists

The dictatorial and undemocratic nature of most governments across Africa is rearing its ugly head in Nigeria, where President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime is promising reform, while at the same time persecuting activists believed to be organizers of protests demanding an end to police brutality.

The Nigerian federal government has already agreed to some of the youth’s requests and has disbanded the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.

SARS has been at the centre of protests since October, as the youth accuse the unit of committing crimes such as extortion, forced disappearances, kidnap, blackmail and even murder. SARS was established to protect Nigerians from these very crimes.  

Following the protests, Mr. Buhari’s government has also ordered states across the country to inaugurate judicial panels to probe cases of police brutality. The federal government has also ordered states to offer compensation to victims of police brutality, but for lack of trust, the #EndSARS protesters have refused to vacate the streets because they do not believe in the seriousness and responses of government.

Unfortunately, staying on the streets has according to analysts led to the hijack of the protests by hoodlums, who unleash terror leading to loss of lives and wanton destruction of property.

The government has reacted to the loss of lives and property by instructing its institutions to carry out a systematic clampdown on #EndSARS protesters and their known promoters.

Timescape Magazine can report that promoters of @EndSARS movement, Opayemi Adamolekun and Bisola Edun had their Enough is Enough BN 2210728 business name cancelled by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the government organ responsible for the incorporation of organizations and businesses in Nigeria. Enough is Enough BN 2210728 is an organization that uses the internet and social media platforms in the mobilization of Nigerians to register and vote. Even before hurriedly obtaining an Abuja Federal High Court ruling, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also ordered the freezing of accounts of selected Nigerians which it believed were linked to the #EndSARS Movement.

 

The ENDSARS Protests engulfed all of Nigeria and involved millions of youths (C) Evening Standard

The Osun State Police Command arrested two people, Babawale Popoola and Fisayo Aderemi, who it described as administrators of a WhatsApp group used for mobilization of #EndSARS protests. The police alleged that the administrators of #EndSARS WhatsApp groups caused the looting which took place few weeks ago in Osun State. They are still being detained without any charge as at the time of writing this report.

Police in Abuja also arraigned six people before the courts for their roles in the #EndSARS protests. Yaziru Bashiru, Abdulsalam Suberu, Kabiru Gazali, Paul Akinwunmi, and Davo Chomo have since been granted bail by the Chief Magistrate, while Tope Akinyode was remanded to prison custody.

Meanwhile, many Nigerians do not understand the reasons behind the government’s action after the President has repeatedly told the world of his intention to listen to the youths.

“Nigerians generally and largely tend not to trust the government in anything,” said a former National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Muiz Banire, who faulted the Court order on the freezing of #EndSARS Protesters’ account. He said on a national television programme that the Court and the CBN erred when it froze the accounts of those linked to the #EndSARS Movement.

He says: “The law does not even provide for the freezing of accounts before police investigation. What the law says is that even where you do so, you must investigate the matter through the Nigerian Police or any of the security agencies”.

“My expectation is that the Federal Government, as promised by the President in his speech, should have just gone ahead to engage them in respect of the five demands of the youths, as this would build confidence,” he says.

Bashiru Akinade Agunloye, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst agrees with Banire, saying he was surprised by the government’s action.

“How can a government that is telling the world that the youths should come to a roundtable for constructive discussions turn around and clamp down on the protesters? I think this a betrayal of trust and a sign of confusion in the government,” Agunloye said.

There are, however, some who are in support of the government’s move.

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Garba Shehu, a defender of the government’s decisions says #EndSARS protesters who contravened the laws will be held to account.

His colleague, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, said in a piece on his website, www.femiadesina.com, that as a father, Mr. Buhari has been soft on the protesters despite the riots, mayhem and looting.

“The President is by no means a soft man. We remember the man of iron and steel that ruled between January 1984 and August 1985, with his kindred spirit, Babatunde Idiagbon. They attempted to knock sense into our heads as Nigerians but were eventually toppled by people who had less patience for discipline.

“Is President Buhari as hard as he was in 1984? Yes and no. In personal traits and attributes, he remains the unbending iron. But in terms of administration and response to people and situations, he is tempered by democracy, and by time. What he could do by military fiat then, he must pass through democratic due process now”, Mr. Adesina specifies.

He adds that if President Buhari had not exercised the restraint and tolerance of a father, at a time when even hitherto respected people instigated the protesters to carry on, Nigeria would have been talking of something else by now.

“The rivers of Nigeria could have turned crimson and mourning and lamentations would have suffused the land. But we are thankful for the father in President Buhari, patient and enduring, almost to a fault,” Mr. Adesina concludes.