by Ayodele Ibiyemi
As young Nigerians protest police brutality and extrajudicial killings across Nigeria, cases of violence in Ogbomoso, Ilorin, Lagos, Abuja are being recorded and people are becoming unsafe at protest venues. But, protesters are not stopping and they are demanding police reforms and justice for victims. These recorded incidents of violence have been from both the officers of the Nigerian Police Force and thugs who are taking advantage to cause mayhem.
An indigene of Ogbomoso, Jimoh Isiaq, is one victim of police brutality during these #EndSARS protests. And, since his death, many more have died and some others have been wounded. Properties have been damaged and several incidents of violence have been recorded. These recorded incidents of violence have divided stakeholders in the protests to three.
The first category is the Nigerian state enabled by Police officers, soldiers and other security agencies. The second category is hired thugs who have gone round attacking peaceful protesters around the country. The third category of people is the peaceful protesters themselves who have organised and comported themselves well in the face of violence.
Ideally, a state should have the monopoly of violence. No other individual or group should use violence as a tool without repercussions. One of the issues that inspired the current protests is the inability of the Nigerian state to rein in rogue police officers who extort, kidnap and kill innocent citizens. In situations when the state has to use violence, it must be preventive and the end goal must be profitable for the state.
However, when hired thugs are taking over peaceful protests, committing acts of violence without repercussions, you realise that the government’s monopoly of violence is broken, leaving harmless citizens as the only category of stakeholders not committing violent acts.
Seeing that protesters are not backing down and seeing many manifestations of violence from both the state and hired thugs against these protesters, how long before they also take up arms and fight?
In 2014, the office of the National Security Adviser prepared a document which showed that one million weapons from troubled zones in the world are in Nigeria. Since then, there has been no decisive attempt at reducing these weapons. If the current trend continues and arms stored up illegally across the country is put to use, people will start with defending themselves against hired thugs ad police officers before they go all out to attack security agents and the ruling class.
It is hoped that the current protests will be well managed by the people and the government will also take decisive steps to forestall a total breakdown of law and order as it profits no one.