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Palliatives: #EndSARS exposed callousness, insensitivity, selfishness, greed of governors

By Okechukwu Nwanguma

Let me make my position clear, for those who may have misunderstood or misrepresented me.

I totally condemn the targeting of, and attacks on, Police stations and Police Officers by those who seized the space from the peaceful #EndSARS protesters. And I am not saying this for the first time.

But I have also consistently made the point that those who carried out those senseless attacks were different from the #EndSARS protesters who remained peaceful even in the face of provocative attacks on them by hoodlums recruited, transported in official government vehicles and unleashed on them to disperse them.

The EndSARS protesters remained resolute and peaceful until the government resorted to the desperate and vicious tactic of deploying the military to open fire on them.

It was this brutal, cowardly attack that provided the spark and space seized upon by “hoodlums’ to unleash violence, vandalism, looting and arson that spread across the country in which Police stations and officers were unnecessarily targeted.

These hoodlums are products of bad governance. Part of the demands of the EndSARS protests was ‘end bad governance’. Ultimately, government takes full responsibility.

Bad as this development was, it also further exposed the callousness, insensitivity, selfishness and greed of most of our governors and other public office holders; how they hoarded palliatives they were given to distribute to the poor and vulnerable whose deprivations and misery were deepened by the pandemic and the concomitant lockdown.

The distinction must be made between the peaceful EndSARS protests and the subsequent violence that broke out after government violently quelled and dispersed the peaceful #EndSARS protests.

The Police have since this event refused to go back to their posts and refused to respond to crime situations in most cases. They have however responded to further peaceful protests by brutalising, arresting and charging peaceful protesters, in clear exhibition of vengefulness.

They have also carried out raids and arrested anybody in sight accusing them of either being involved in the violence or stealing of the hoarded palliatives.

Just as the governors who embezzled bail-out funds they were given to pay workers salaries were not made to account for the funds, the governors have also not been asked to account for the palliatives they were given to share among their poor and suffering citizens, but they unconscionably chose to hoard them.

The attacks and destruction of public infrastructure, including police stations were senseless. Pubic funds would still be used to replace or repair them. It also opens another window of corrupt self enrichment for governors who will now award inflated contracts which will benefit them and their cronies.

Police officers must return to their posts. Damaged Police stations must be repaired. Stolen arms and ammunition must be recovered and replaced. Police must be adequately resourced and equipped if they are to be efficient.

They must be trained and retrained if they are to be professional. Police welfare must be comprehensively addressed to boost morale and disincentivise corruption

Police is a higher calling and requires higher standards of behaviour. Police officers must not act with vengeance towards the people they are charged to serve and protect. They need the people and the people need them.

They must work in partnership to deliver community safety and security. The People have a right to demand higher standards of performance and conduct by the police.

The police also have the right to demand better conditions of service. The people can also become advocates of improvement of police working conditions.

Government must take responsibility and be sincere in dealing with the people. Government clampdown on the people after it has asked the people to embrace dialogue is an act of bad faith.

It is treacherous and senseless. Government must rather seek ways to rebuild confidence and trust, and gain legitimacy.

Okechukwu Nwanguma is the Executive Director of Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC).

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