A vehicle used to transport thugs armed with melee weapons 400 metres north of Apo Roundabout, where EndSARS demonstrators had assembled.

The pre-existing political sentiment underscores the then-adamant linkage of anti-police brutality marches and politically driven rhetoric of an opposition-led move in collaboration with Non-State Actors to unseat the current Government, which in turn led radical components of society to take the law into their own hands with the use of alleged hired thugs and what Matthew .T. Page describes as Nigeria’s pro-government NGO’s in countering widespread marches on the subject of SARS

There has been little to no public condemnation or acceptance of rouge persons infiltrating protest marches from Federal/State officials, which has been dubbed a “distasteful experience” by a Lagos State Police spokesperson; judging by the facts that several citizen investigations and open-source chatter have revealed the activities of mobile thugs, particularly in the Abuja metropolis.

It is disheartening to learn that, despite EndSARs marches condemning extra-constitutional and extrajudicial killings by SARs operatives and advocating for Police reform, excessive use of force, alleged financed thuggery, and all manner of atrocities were still used to suppress protest marches in October 2020, accounting for 53 fatalities according to Bulwarks in-house data and a sizable number of unconfirmed casualties.

On 23 October 2020, a mobile truck transporting criminals armed with melee weapons was sighted near Adetokunbo Ademola crescent in Wuse 2 Abuja metropolis.

This figure of fatalities varies, according to filtered Intel Fusion data, EndSARs marches resulted in 40 fatalities comprised of 34 civilians (direct kills and collateral damage), 6 Police fatalities; as well as 51 Injuries comprised of 45 Civilians and 6 Police officers.

Protesters disarmed two thugs on 14 October 2021, one person is seen seeking treatment as the other lies exhausted following violent altercations at the Berger roundabout in Wuse Abuja.

According to filtered Intel Fusion data, EndSARS marches resulted in 40 fatalities, including 34 people (direct kills and collateral damage), 6 police fatalities, and 51 injuries, comprising 45 civilians and 6 police personnel.

Misguided assumptions by the average police officer in dealing with various forms of unrest are creating fertile ground for needless conflicts and aggression, with the rising absence of civility from civil authorities in interacting with citizens. The attitude that sees people as “bloody civilians” and as entities worthy of oppression has developed a sense of a Slave and master relationship rather than encouraging good civic interactions.

An argument about misplaced priorities by police officers, particularly in Lagos State, came up in a conversation with a cadet of the Nigerian Police [name withheld] on 3 July during a rally at Ojota Ikorodu area of Lagos by the Yoruba Nation in Lagos State, where I criticized how police officers clamped down on protesters with live ammunition without any existing form of hostility, resulting in the death of an underage bystander.

This prompted the cadet to react, stating; “…it’s a rally, and you know how security situation can be these days in Nigeria, whereby from rally it will lead to something else, so these men [police officers] have to be combat-ready for any nonsense, so it is no misplaced priority please.”

A violent upheaval happened in Apapa 1 hour after our conversation, along the Apapa-Oworonshoki highway, Tin Can Island, between a cult group. The conflict lasted about an hour and eventually faded when both parties withdrew. There was no security presence confirmed in some way, which supports the idea of a misdirected priority.

Ahmad Salkida in a tweet on that fateful day wrote, “This supports the idea the building civil co-existence between security operatives and civilians remains a step in the right direction in building a better, safer, and more tolerant society. Though not perfect but quite saner.

On that fateful day, Ahmad Salkida tweeted, ” Northern Nigeria is getting used to violence. The rest of the country is trying to catch up. The Govt seems to have no strategy beyond confronting violence with violence.” This lends credence to the notion that fostering peaceful coexistence between security personnel and citizens is a step in the right direction toward creating a better, safer, and more tolerant society. Though not flawless, but much saner.

However, two persisting challenges exist that have the potential to undermine the degree of progress made over the last year.

GSF MISCONDUCT

With the unit’s ultimate dissolution, there was a substantial reduction in police brutality incidents from the end of Q4 2020 to February of Q1 2021. Towards the close of February, there has been a rise in brutality reports, with little to no public pronouncements on actions done to halt this emerging resurgence.

CLAMPDOWN ON PROTESTERS

For instance, major protest marches on 13 February, 18 May, and 12 June were met by violent GSF interventions, resulting in the arrest of many people and significant transportation disruption. Despite the GSF’s crackdown on protests, there has been a resurgence of attacks on demonstrators by thugs and, in some cases, pro-government protesters. On the 18th of May, alleged hired thugs attacked the Nigerian Labour Congress protest march in Kaduna. According to some accounts, a single demonstrator in Abuja narrowly avoided being lynched by a pro-government crowd in the City Centre on June 12. The mob accused the “passer-by” of being a scammer (Yahoo boy).

JUDICIAL PANELS OF INQUIRY

Following the approval of protestors’ 5 points proposals for police reform in Nigeria, NEC, led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, instructed state governors to create Judicial Panels of Inquiry to probe accusations of police brutality and extra-judicial murders.

According to the Nigerian non-profit Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA), over 2,791 petitions were submitted throughout 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where panels were created. Of the 29 states, 25 have completed their sittings, 6 have officially delivered their reports, and just 3 have made their reports public.

The ongoing delaying of court processes to bring NPF officials to justice is likely to stoke protest activities in the long run, because, unlike in the past, demonstrators are now eager to pursue justice and are unlikely to see it brushed under the rug.

IN CONCLUSION;

Regardless of the many difficulties that every Nigerian suffers across all classes and sectors, the underlying reality is that people need a sense of security. As a result, when there is a high degree of animosity between citizens and security forces, the situation becomes more dangerous. There is always a window of opportunity for security personnel to become a target of assaults in such a setting, which is an adopted tactic used by organised armed groups to obtain weapons instead of going through long black-market processes, hence the need for a change process that would deter society from walking down that path.

Protest marches continue to face heavy repression by GSFs, which, if sustained, may give rise to more sophisticated marches in which groups adopt tactics that allow GSFs to be held back during protest marches, as witnessed in Hong Kong from 2019 to 2020. Given the peculiarities of Nigerian security, such marches may provide cover for armed assailants carrying out attacks on cops.

As a result, platforms like the planned ” Sòrósókè Summit” should be considered to bridge the divide and accord with Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” tenets of democracy.