“Operation Burst” is replacing police brutality, an injury to the #EndSARS protests

It’s quite upsetting to realise that freedom of expression still remains a foreign concept to a good number of Nigerian authorities. The unwillingness of governing and security bodies in Nigeria to allow for true democracy at this point appears to be deeply embedded in the very fabric of the Nigerian culture, and hope for change almost seems bleak. Not to mention that this oppressive behaviour has been a major catalyst in many cases of police brutality in the country, making law enforcers no better than actual criminals.

Matter of fact, if you look past the underlining intent of extorting and bullying by police officers, you may realise that the Federal Anti Robbery Squad, (FSARS), had the extended goal of eliminating the margin that allows young Nigerians a right to be expressive. And this disturbing issue served as one of the bases of the #EndSARS movement.

Fortunately, to a very minute degree, the battle to end SARS was partially won as there have been general reports on the absence of FSARS men in their previously designated posts. However, to retain some sanity in our society, a number of state governments especially Lagos, Abuja and Oyo state, are employing the services of the military.

The military was deployed on home soil to combat the looting and vandalism of public and private properties, and were supposedly sent to protect peaceful protesters from harmful elements. This was the intended purpose.

Sadly, the involvement of the military in the #EndSARS movement till this point is turning out to be one big mess. Two weeks ago, on Tuesday, October 2020, the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate Lagos. As if that wasn’t enough, today, reports of the Army beating, bullying, and infringing on people’s fundamental rights is the story.

Tagged “Operation Burst” some men of the Nigerian Army are using this as justification to act with impunity. Videos of a girl allegedly being beaten with a cane for indecent dressing, and men of the Nigerian army shaving people’s heads, surfaced on Twitter today.

These reports are quite disturbing, considering that Nigeria is still reeling from its fight to end police brutality, with no tangible result as of yet. It’s sad that police brutality in less than a month has been replaced with military brutality, and young Nigerians are yet again the primary victims.

During the thick of the #EndSARS protests in October, Governor of Oyo, Seyi Makinde deployed the military to hotspots in the state, where looting and vandalism were more rampant. He stated that this move was being made to protect the peaceful protesters and crackdown on those who wished to hijack the protest.

Regardless of the touted objective, the story has now become one similar to ugly predicament Nigerian youth banded together to fight against in the first place. Young people in Ibadan under the ‘protection’ of the military are being backed into a corner where wearing what you want or spotting the hairstyle of your choice is a crime.

Operation Burst was created back in 2013 when the late former governor of Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi, decided to tackle the high level of crime in the state. He employed the services of the Army, Navy and special police unit to make up this new unit.

It’s supposed intent then just like now, was admirable, and the rationale justifiable, however similar reports of use of excessive force later on, just like Ibadan Beere axis is currently experiencing, is what made this seemingly crucial bunch unpopular. And it’s impudence is why the team is not consistent, as it continues to go off and on.

However, such a power-drunk unit should not be tasked with the responsibility of policing Nigerians in this day and age, especially since young Nigerians are fed up and are fighting for change. Seeing this sort of incidents online is rather insulting to the efforts of young Nigerians during the #EndSARS movement.

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