In 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was set up by the Commissioner of Police to curb a spate of armed robberies in Nigeria. By 2009 it had become a large and powerful unit, and its focus expanded beyond armed robbers to internet fraudsters. It had also become largely uncontrolle. Members of the unit were allowed to carry guns, drive unmarked cars and operate without badges or uniform. They became known for their violent harassment of innocent young Nigerians. They also forced young Nigerians to withdraw money from ATMS and make transfers under duress.
There are numerous examples of people who have been raped, harassed, flogged, extorted, injured or killed by the unit. In 2016 a campaign was launched calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad to be disbanded. It became widespread and drew some attention. Within three years the unit had been reformed, overhauled, decentralise. Then in early October the first protests started against the infamous police squad. Mostly young Nigerians gathered in the front of the House of Assembly in Lagos State to demand the end of the unit. Within days thousands of protesters had gathered in 100 cities around the world, with the #EndSARS trending globally
The government announced on October 11 that, yet again, it was disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. But the protesters have not let up. They are now calling for wider reforms of the police. Adejuwon Soyinka asked Damilola Agbalajobi to explain why these protests are different and what their political implications could be.
CLARIFICATION OF TERMS
For the sake of our target audience, some terms in this research work seems to be new as a result of this, we need to clarify some terms so that the work becomes easy, interesting and readable by everyone who gets to come across or get in contact with this work.
EndSars is a decentralised social movement and series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuses. The protests which takes its name from the slogan started in 2017 as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ENDSARS to demand the disbanding of the unit by the Nigerian government. After experiencing a revitalisation in October 2020 following more revelations of the abuses of the unit, mass demonstrations occurred throughout the major cities of Nigeria, accompanied by vociferous outrage on social media platforms. About 28 million tweets bearing the hashtag have been accumulated on Twitter alone.
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of 8th Edition defines implication as a possible effect or result of an action or a decision. The conclusion that can be drawn from something although it is not explicitly stated.
Demonstration involves showing by reason or proof, explaining or making clear by use of examples or experiments. Put more simply, demonstration means ‘to clearly show’. (Dictionary)
Youth is the time of life when one is young, and often means the time between childhood and adulthood. It is also defined as “the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristic of one who is young”. YOUTH is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence. (UNICEF, 2010, para 32)
Inequality is concerned with disparities in the distribution of a certain metric, which can be income, health or any other material or non-material asset. Inequality typically refers to within country inequality on individual or group level, such as between gender, urban and rural population, race etc. Inequality among countries are referred to as international inequality. Inequality is closed linked to the ideas of equity, which has two contrasting concepts: equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. ()
The first one, equality of opportunity, is concerned with the equal potential of every individual access public services and rights. Liberal thinking considers equality of opportunity, in particular in education, as fundamental precondition for a truly meritocratic system. Equality of opportunity to access health care, education or job openings are today considered fundamental in the European welfare systems.
The second aspect of equity, equality of outcome, is concerned with the actual outcome of asset distribution within or among countries. Policies to reach equality of outcome often include direct and indirect redistribution. The concepts can however not always been seen in contrast. For example, the equality of outcome, i.e. the effective assets of a family, affect the equality opportunity of their children in many aspects as many studies have shown. Low householdincome has been shown to correlate across cultures to many indicators of child well-being.
The Nature of the 2020 EndSars protest
The issue of police brutality is not coming up as a national issue for the first time in 2020, since 2015, observations have clearly soon that the men in uniform have been so brutal to the citizens and many cases being reported by different people. The SARS unit of the police has been over time disbanded on two different occasions in the past, but many citizens considered it audio disbandment as they were still allowed to cause function publicly. What has made the 2020 EndSars protest different then?
Firstly, the protest is not just about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It’s the result of pent-up anger over the dehumanising policies of government, maladministration, injustice, hunger as well as high energy and fuel prices.
The cumulative effect of these roll into one. That’s why the protesters have refused to end their action. It seems this is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to address critical national injustices.
This generation of young Nigerians are doing a good job. There is good coordination, arrangements have been made for food and water as well as music to keep them busy. They have medical personnel on standby, ambulances and mobile toilets for convenience. They have also hired private security (bouncers) for protection, raised money and ensured properties are safe.
They have also made it clear that they have no leader. This could be the result of mistrust of past leaders. Nigeria is said to be the poverty capital of the world. Yet young Nigerians have been protesting for over a week across the country without looting shops. They have ensured that the streets are cleaned after the day’s protest and that there’s no violence or lawlessness.
Another key factor that makes this protest unique is the use of social media. The way this has helped mobilise protesters is unprecedented. Over 70% of the population is under 30 years of age. Unemployment stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of this. (World Fact Book, 2010, para. 20).
Young Nigerians are, therefore, most affected by government policies that have led to a lack of jobs and meaningful sources for livelihood. Other triggers include the lavish lifestyle of political leaders. The government budgets more money for the members of the National Assembly than for health and education. One takeaway is that a new social contract is being written. Nigerians are creating a new understanding of how leaders and public servants should relate to citizens.
Secondly, the youth are reinventing governance in Nigeria and bringing about a new culture of asserting rights among the citizenry.
Implication of EndSars Demonstration by the Nigerian Youth on inequality in Nigeria
The Endsars protest has so many implications on the Nigerian society, but for our case study, we shall consider it base on the inequalities perpetrated by different groups in Nigeria which can be stated below:
Social implications of the EndSars
The 30% of Nigerian who are adults and have experienced military rule seem to have that etched deep into their psyche. They are afraid of a man in uniform. This has become a part of Nigerians’ conditioning.
However, the youth believe that the men in uniform are meant to serve the citizens and to protect them. It is a different relationship entirely. Young people are more exposed to the fact that things could be better and are ready to take their destiny into their own hands. They want to reinvent the country and to be a better place to live.
Their access to the internet also informs their action. They are able to reach the world from their bedroom. The history and experience Nigeria had during the military era doesn’t resonate as much with young Nigerians. But, they must have read history and are, therefore, not unfamiliar with the past. But they have proven not to be deterred by the use of force of any kind.
The EndSars protest has made many people to understand that the men in uniform are meant to serve the citizens and not to serve as threats and be brutal to them. Even though during the protest, many youth were seen as one, but again another group which saw themselves as been beneficial elements in the present government still went ahead to form what they called ProSars demostrators. This act showed clearly that as long as a certain group continue to enjoy form corruption, inequality will surely persist in this country.
Political implications of the EndSars
For many years, Nigeria has been ruled by leaders who are quite elderly. These have not succeeded in finding solutions to the nation’s challenges. Corruption and hunger are rife. It is obvious that young Nigerians feel alienated and are now ready to take the bull by the horns and ensure good governance.
Politicians and leaders are waking up to a new politically conscious society. Take the comment from Chairman Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State:
“There is nothing wrong in what the young people are doing. I think we should encourage them to ask more questions.”
Various state governments are beginning to see how important it is to have a good relationship with young people. Given the awakening of this new political consciousness, it will not be business as usual for the country’s political leaders.
Still on the political aspect, inequality was still shown clearly as most governors instead of supporting the protesters, went ahead due to their selfish interest to imprison and even kill some of the youth. This singular action gave a very bad picture of the Nigerian government to the international community and increased high the death of hope for the Nigerian youths.
The past few days in Nigeria have been nothing short of unbelievable for many Nigerians, the EndSARS peaceful protest, and its effect on businesses. At first, it all started like a joke and a norm, when the people raised their voices and so “NO!” towards police brutality. The first day, led to another and then another while spreading like wildfire during harmattan. It lingered into days, and then weeks, with movement and businesses grounded to a halt in most commercial cities in Nigeria. The protest hit the international scene, and Nigeria took the center-stage, as the international media beamed their light on us.
One would be hard-pressed to describe the events without seeming to take sides with either part of the standoff as emotions, euphoria and sometimes, unfounded principles have seemed to become the order of the day. The political class, business leader, rich, and poor were all stakeholders in this movement, and the ripple effect took on the economy, as businesses grounded to a halt.
However, the domino effect of the EndSARS peaceful protest has had a devastating impact on the fragile Nigerian economy. With an oil economy trying to pick up from the ruins of the cover-19 pandemic, a recession is unavoidable. Clearly, an economy this fragile can’t survive the economic impact of the #EndSARS peaceful protests, as most businesses were on lock and key, while movement became a fairy tale. (Entrepreneurs.ng).
Loss of Lives and property.
This will be considered the highest level of inequality caused by the Nigerian government to her citizens. While politicians are stealing in billions of naira and nothing is been done to them, the youth who went on a peaceful protest to demands for their right to life where shoot to death. Let us quickly remember the Lekki massacre.
On the night of 20th October 2020. The Nigerian Army Forces shot at unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria. According to Amnesty International, shortly before the shooting, CCTV cameras were allegedly removed from the toll gate. In addition, Nigerian authorities cut the electricity to the toll gate. This was to make the place dark and filmed evidence of the shooting would not emerge. Also, the advertisement billboards at the toll gate which are owned and maintained by Loatsad Media were also turned off.
At the backdrop of the destruction of public and private properties and businesses in the wake of the #EndSARS protests. Businesses have been counting their losses while economy experts have listed the immediate challenges the crises will throw-up against Nigeria’s struggling economy. Also, the replacement cost to Lagos State Government, which is the worst hit by the crises, is put at N1 trillion. More so, the overall cost to the private businesses has been put at several billions of US Dollars.