The Nigerian youths may not have found their feet yet, but they are beginning to find their voice. After several years of navel-gazing, murmurings, complaints, and criticism, they have embarked on a nationwide protest, demanding, among other things, the dissolution of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). Once again, it has brought to the fore the fault lines of Nigeria’s security system.
FSARS, a special crime unit of the Nigeria Police Force, was established in 1992 to grasp the nettle of violent crimes such as; armed robbery and kidnapping, which were prevalent across the country in the 1990s. At the time of its inception, it seemed unreservedly marvelous in all its incarnations that it would take a fool, madman, or uninformed to raise any objections to it.
Yet, over the years, the unit seemed to have deviated from its original concept, as it has transformed into an oppressor of Nigerians, not least, the youths. It now engages in a plethora of human rights abuse activities, ranging from intimidation, harassment, extortion, extra-judicial killings, and torture. They read like battle honours in a regimental war memorial.
It is not in doubt that youths are extremely pivotal in every society, as they represent the future. They bring new ideas, discoveries, energy, and development to add to the pool of knowledge already in existence, which in the medium to long term, would benefit the society at large.
In Nigeria, for example, with a population of some 200 million people, the youths make up some 53% of the country’s population. Clearly, if one joins the dots, it is plain enough to see that given the large population of youths in the country, they have great potentials to significantly change Nigeria’s narrative in the nearest future. But the balance sheet of positives and negatives is tilting towards the negative. The recent incessant harassment and killing of youths, it is noted, further adds to the negatives. It is not difficult to see why.
The state of affairs clearly exacerbated the concerns among Nigerian youths, with the dins of the drums of animosity steadily, but almost imperceptibly, becoming louder; the threats are getting worse; the atrocities more brutal, and the impact more corrosive. As a result, Nigerian youths have taken to the streets, calling for the end of FSARS, as well as making some demands from the government.
In response to the days of protest, the country has dissolved FSARS, set up a new SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit to replace FSARS, as well as promised to embark on extensive reforms. They have also approved the demands which the youths made, which includes; a total overhaul of the Nigerian Police force, release of all arrested protestors, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality, setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, psychological evaluation, and retraining of all redundant FSARS officers before they can be redeployed, an increase in the remuneration of police officers.
These are, indeed, a start. Yet, given that the battle against the activities of FSARS has been a long-running one, critics have argued that one swallow does not make a spring as they will most likely recycle the process and revert to the old ways. For, if all the promissory notes about attempts at reforming the security system were piled up on top of each other, they would fuel dozens of wretched bonfires. All they could achieve was periodic tinkering, always presented as root and branch reform; there has never been anything approaching redesign.
Nigeria must now decide the type of country it wants to be by fixing the roof while the sun is shining. Such a move would involve a root and branch reform of the entire security system, including its localization. A long-term and forward-looking national security plan capable of dealing with the security issues as they arise would also need to be created. This is, indeed, the right way to go.
Kesiena Igho Oghoghorie
Email – Kioghoghorie@gmail.com
Nigerian Law School student and developing athlete, based in Abuja, Nigeria.
14th of October 2020.