The #EndSARS peaceful demonstrations by Nigerian youth against police brutality are a necessary and welcome response to the culture of impunity represented by the FSARS. The protests have been largely peaceful. I commend Nigerian youth for the maturity, determination and discipline they have shown in keeping the protests peaceful.
My objective assessment is that this stance has not changed six days into the protest, despite the occasions of high-handed responses by the police that have resulted in the death of some protesters. By their peaceful conduct, the youth have shown that they are coming of age. I commend them for this.
It is important that, while it lasts, the protest must remain peaceful. Nigerian youth are not expendable. They are the future of Nigeria. Therefore, apart from addressing their demands, President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that the protesters are safe. So far, the President seems to have restrained the police and has kept the military from the fray. He should also ensure that non-state actors do not instigate or carry out attacks on the protesters.
The #EndSARS protest has many merits. Many citizens have been reporting their experiences of victimization by operatives of the now-defunct FSARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force. Some citizens have met their deaths in the hands of people whose job it was to protect them. It is tragic when a law enforcement agency that should protect the lives of citizens preys on those very citizens, with a profound disregard for their lives, instead of reducing the spiralling rate of violent crime in Nigeria. Nigerian lives surely matter.
EndSARS is a metaphor. It is a means to ventilate pent-up frustration by the youth on the diminishing economic opportunities for them in the country. Nigerian youth unemployment is above 30 per cent and rising.
The #EndSARS protest is also an opportunity for the government to show understanding in the plight of the youth. Accordingly, the government needs to go above and beyond the demands of the youth. What it is unable to deliver with concrete action and because of very limited resources now, it can compensate for with empathy.
I would like to assure the youth that theirs has been a credible protest heard around the world: peaceful, independent and devoid of partisan affiliation. Across the country, they have been united in their purpose. It should remain so. They should also engage responsibly with the government, holding the latter to account for its promises while recognizing credible actions taken by the government to address the demands of the youth.
The deep lesson of the protest so far is that real power belongs to the people in a democracy. This should be an abiding principle that all stakeholders must respect as we seek new and better realities for the country and the people.
Former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; and Convener, To Build A Nation (TBAN)