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Editorial News of Wednesday, 11 November 2020


#EndSARS: After the battle

An End SARS protester An End SARS protester

It would most certainly be difficult to shake off the dust of the tempestuous anti-police brutality protests for a long time. The maelstrom has had the force of an earth tremor in impact.

The physical and socio-psychological dislocations accentuated by the consequential anarchical order had so much ricocheted and reverberated across the landscape that the tremulous effects are still being felt weeks after.

Everywhere, the ugly spectacle reminds us poignantly of the ruinous aftermath. In many parts of Lagos, the epicentre of the festival of madness, you are confronted with a junkyard of exotic automobiles reduced to sheer wrecks and architectural masterpieces razed into a sooty rubble. And according to the amiable governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, it would cost the state the princely sum of N1trillion to rebuild those edifices and other assets that took just days to despoil.

In many other states, the relics of the mindless destruction and depredations stare at us rudely, mocking the buffoonery of a sanguinary madness.

The sheer perfidy visited on the police has had far more disastrous consequences than ordinarily expected. The police force, as an institution, has never been this shaken. Most highways in Lagos and other cities, where anarchy bore its fiendish fangs, were shorn of essential security presence, as at the close of last week.

Save a handful of traffic personnel holding forte here and there, the otherwise ubiquitous police personnel kept away from most of the places where their presence had hitherto been taken for granted.

They appear to be on a short fuse and in dread of the possible re-enactment of the viciousness visited on them and their formations in the wake of the mayhem that overtook the anti-police brutality protests. So, their ‘boycott’ seemed to be a mixture of a loud statement in protest and possible fear.

In private discussions and radio programmes, some police personnel have had to voice out their angst about what they considered a ‘conspiracy of silence’ from the critical segments of the civil population over the devastations visited on their colleagues and the institution they represent.

Most of them felt so bad that, while other sections of the population, which also suffered losses from the recent mayhem, have been enjoying considerable sympathy from members of the public, not many people outside the police hierarchy and the government, have cared to express any concern about the fate that befell the police.

I personally feel for our security agencies. While many of them, especially within the police force, are given to a lot of atrocities and a high degree of malfeasance, which gave rise to the anti-police brutality protests, in the first place, the monstrous fate suffered by the police in the hands of the bilious mob, who threw caution to the wind in venting anger on the police personnel and their formations, is despicable and highly disheartening.

According to official accounts, police personnel accounted for 22 of 73 deaths recorded during the last riots, while 26 of the 63 persons who were injured were cops. Up to 205 police formations and stations as well as other critical public and private buildings were either burnt down or vandalised during the period.

It is clearly horrendous to have killed that magnitude of police personnel in an instance and in peace time. The administration of then President Olusegun Obasanjo had to level Odi town in Bayelsa State in 1999 to retaliate the killing of 12 policemen!

While one is not condoning the excesses of some of our policemen and officers who use their positions to oppress the citizens they are paid to protect, it must be emphasized that the uniform is a sacred ‘toga.’ It confers authority on the wearer.

Just as the nation’s emblem and flag epitomise our national pride and heritage, the uniform ideally symbolises state authority. So, the wearer is an ‘ambassador’ of a sort for the state and as long as he is in that uniform, he deserves the citizens’ courtesy.

An assault on uniformed personnel, in a sane situation, is an assault on the state. It thus smacks of a sacrilege and an aberration to lift one’s hand to slap a person in uniform, let alone kill him or her outright.

Besides, while many of these uniformed personnel could be actually brutal and vicious in their dealings with the civil populace, the security agencies still harbour personnel who are patriotic, firm but fair and display a high degree of professionalism in the discharge of their duties.

These people contend with a lot of perilous challenges like the elements — the unkind cold of the night, the hellish heat of the sunny day and the torrential downpour— and even death in carrying out their constitutional role of protecting lives, property and the nation’s territorial integrity. The least they deserve from us is sympathy not assault.

We should always bear in mind that, like us, they also have loved ones—parents, spouses, children and other dependants— who would suffer a great deal of deprivations should they lose their breadwinners. Let us, therefore, be circumspect in our dealings with them.

In essence, rather than rush to vent our spleen on them, we should rather learn to always explore other means of seeking redress even when they err. Such means include the courts and police public and other complaints channels, which are quite vibrant in most states.

Good enough, the anti-police brutality panels, raised by governors on the directive of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have begun sittings in most states to hear cases surrounding the atrocities allegedly committed by many of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives. And a lot of melodramatics are already playing out in many of the sittings.

It is hoped that the reports of those panels would be judiciously implemented. That implies that indicted personnel would be promptly prosecuted and victims of established atrocious cases would be adequately compensated, at least to serve as a deterrence.

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