By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Anayo Okoli, Samson Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Ola Ajayi, Egufe Yafugbori, Chioma Onuegbu, Ozioruwa Aliu, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ochuko Akuopha, Shina Abubakar & Paul Olayemi
THE dusts kicked up by the #EndSARS protests against police brutality are still in the air, three weeks after. The hiatus in opinion between Southern and Northern leaders on whether or not SARS should be retained has flung to the front burner the clamour for fiscal federalism.
During the protests, there was unanimity among the protesters in the South that SARS should be disbanded. The Federal Government in response discarded the controversial police anti-robbery squad. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, named SWAT as replacement for SARS. The protesters in the South also kicked against SWAT and the position enjoyed the backing of southern governors and leaders.
However, the scenario was different in the North. Although, there were pockets of #EndSARS protests in some northern states, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, staged parallel protests against insecurity. Indeed, the clamour in the North was: SARS and SWAT should be deployed to the region to fight insurgency, banditry, and others forms of criminality.
Reacting to the development, a host of leaders from the three zones of Southern Nigeria, have drawn a nexus between the protests and need for restructuring and state police.
They argued that in a restructured Nigeria, the economically and politically empowered federating units will have their own police and be in a vantage position to address the demands of the angry protesting youths.
Protests raised basic restructuring issues — Odumakin
Spokesman for the Pan Yoruba Socio-Political Organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “#EndSARS is a product of Nigeria and its contradictions. We don’t need some of these national gangsters in a restructured polity. The protesters could not have linked it but they have raised a fundamental issue in restructuring.”
Carnage would have been averted with restructuring— Babatope
A former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the protests against Police brutality could have been avoided if the country had embraced restructuring.
His words: “The killings and uproar could have been avoided as proper structuring of the country would have taken care of the youths’ demands. This is not the time to be talking about this issue, many young people have died. My only prayer is that those at the helm of affairs would have the courage to embrace restructuring so that we would not continue to waste the lives of these young people.
“Those of us calling for restructuring are not enemies of Nigeria. It is the best way to manage a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state like ours. If we restructure, we are only embracing true federalism and if we do that we could spare the lives of the younger ones. “I believe state police is part of restructuring. In a proper federal system, the state police issue would be adequately taken care of. My major concern is that our leaders should have the bravery to embrace restructuring.”
There is strong link between protests and restructuring — Olajide
Also speaking, Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide said there is a very strong link between the #EndSARS protests and restructuring because “the Constitution of this country and the geopolitical structure are major causes of dysfunctional security system. The issue of police/SARS brutality is merely a symptom of dysfunctional governmental system arising from the unitary centralized system.”
He continued: “If we had a people-centred Constitution, which is truly Federal in nature, the country will be better off. Nigeria with many ethnic groups with different cultures and priorities, and as big as this, should not have had a unitary centralized system. It has never worked anywhere in the world.
“If we have state and local government police, it will be difficult for any police officer to brutalise his people because people know him and where he comes from.
“I see the state police/restructuring and #EndSARS protests as a cause and effect thing. You move a police officer from Kebbi State and deploy to Ibadan where he doesn’t have the faintest idea of their culture and he is not in anyway related to them, so he treats the people like an animal especially in a system where sanctions are not applied to defaulting or erring police officers.”
Restructuring, state police, permanent solutions to agitations in Nigeria—Ajibulu
Secretary Ekiti Council of Elders, Mr Niyi Ajibulu, said unless restructuring is revisited and state police is considered the country would continue to witness agitation like #EndSARS.
According to him: “The country should be restructured and the only way we can survive as a nation is to have a proper democracy wherein, we would revert to the old regions where all the regions were standing and could do so many things.
“It is our belief in Ekiti Council of Elders that where the people are, that is where most things should be. That means in terms of functions and funding, it should be at the state level. The federal government has no business in most things it is doing, the constitution of the country should be revisited so that there will be proper restructuring, in terms of activities, funding, as well as distribution of the commonwealth.
“On state police, it is only the local people that know how to police themselves, it is only when we have state police that we can be sure of proper policing in this country. We are not living in isolation in the global community, we see how all these things are being done in other countries.
“We want the federal government to take creation of state police and restructuring as a matter of urgent importance so that we would avoid a resurgence of a situation that will bring the country to a halt like what we have just witnessed.”
It’s time for devolution of powers, state police—Nkanga
National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, said the Forum had last week issued a statement that since some states want SARS, and some don’t, it indicates time for state police.
Nkanga noted that the development ”further reinforces our clamour for the restructuring of this country. A situation whereby some parts of the country are saying “EndSARS”, and others are saying “We Want SARS”, clearly indicates the fact that this “house” is already divided and that the centre can no longer hold.
“The National Economic Council, NEC, has given the responsibility to state Governors to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings.
“Let us, therefore, urgently embark on devolution of powers. Let us have true federalism with State police, and call it by its real name.
“We will still have the Federal police. The state and federal police are complementary. State police is under devolution of powers and devolution of powers is in the second level of restructuring that we are talking about.”
Protesters highlighted anomalies in our governance system —Anietie Okon
In like manner, Spokesperson of Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard, Senator Anietie Okon, said there have been consistent calls in past years to return the country to a more viable structure of governance, in which the centre would survive on the contributions from the federating units to no avail.
“Rather, the reverse is the case. The centre garners everything and contributes to the states unjustly. The #EndSARS protesters highlighted the shortcomings of the Nigeria governance structure. The #EndSARS protest is an element of the truth and inadequacies of this government. If we say we are running the same presidential system like the United States, we should run it completely and fully.”
Restructuring‘ll address conditions that led to protests—Oshevire
National Publicity Secretary of the Urhobo Progressive Union, UPU, Mr Abel Oshevire, said: “In a broad sense, the #EndSARS protest was occasioned by hunger and suffering in the land, resulting from high rate of unemployment among the youths and police brutality.
“Since members of the disbanded SARS, like the entire police force, take orders from Abuja, the state governors are handicapped in dealing with the manifest rot in the police force, such as extortion, unprovoked harassment and brazen brutality of innocent people.
“Under state police, such atrocities by police officers would be drastically reduced because the police command would be responsible to the state governor, while on the other hand, the police officers would be known or familiar to the people and, as such, cannot afford to be hostile or misbehave.
“Conversely, a restructured Nigeria will lead to stronger and buoyant state economies, resulting from resource control which, invariably, bring about better living conditions for the people.
“It is expected that in a restructured Nigeria, each state or region as the case may be, will strive to surpass others and, in the process, ensure judicious utilisation of resources, minimise wastage and accord the welfare of the people top priority. By this, discontent and frustration among the people, particularly the youths, would be greatly reduced”.
Time for state police, restructuring is now –BNC
To the Benin National Congress, BNC, a socio-cultural organisation, the protests have upped the need for state police and restructuring of Nigeria.
President of the association, Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo, told Sunday Vanguard: “The BNC strongly believes that the agitation for state police has come of age and it is high time all necessary procedures are put in place for its effective take off. As a matter of fact, the #EndSARS protest has further stamped the agitation and delaying it further means that our government is insensitive.
“If we had state police, it would have been easy for intelligence to show that tendencies like #EndSARS was going to happen and it would have been easy to provide adequate police and security for the protesters, and ensure they remained peaceful while hoodlums would have been strategically dismembered from the peaceful protesters so the issue of carnage, arson, looting, barbarism that over-shadowed the otherwise patriotic protest by our youths would have been avoided.”
Protests have nothing to do with restructuring— ADF
However, elite Igbo group, led by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, said the #EndSARS protests are not the same as the agitation for political restructuring or reconstitution of Nigeria’s federalism.
According to its spokesman, Abi Onyike: “It is only an agitation targeted at a minute aspect of the Nigerian decay. Moreover, Nigerian youths staged the protests to register their resistance against state terrorism in Nigeria, the abandonment of the youths in Nigerian governance which has given rise to youth unemployment and mass poverty.
“The agitation for political restructuring and constitutional reforms is more encompassing. If the restructuring agitation succeeds, most of the problems complained by the youths would disappear. To a large extent, the agitation of the Nigerian youth is very parochial and backward. It shows the extent of ideological barrenness that has gripped the Nigerian youths from decades of caliphate oppression”.