Unpolished gem of Africa: A nation divided in endless struggle seeking peace
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The city of Lagos has been witnessing deadly protests from young protesters who were out on streets protesting and waving Nigerian flags against Police brutality after which Nigerian Army took over and the reports of at least 12 people killed were out, reports from human rights group Amnesty International suggest.
Enough is Enough
The protests majorly erupted after a video of a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officer allegedly shooting a man in Delta state went viral. The country saw peaceful protests with hashtags ‘EndSARS’ along with support from Nigerian diaspora in the US and Europe.
Lagos state officials launched a judicial panel to inquire into the supposedly disbanded SARS. It was SARS that provoked the protests and now Nigerians are fully aware of the fact that there will be no actions that will be taken against policemen who shot unarmed citizens.
Pictures and videos showing chaotic scenes in the aftermath of the shooting went viral on various social media platforms.
President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed that at least 69 people have lost their lives in the street violence including civilians, police officers and soldiers too.
The Possible Turning Point
The west African ECOWAS bloc has offered support to the Nigerian government, focusing on the youth and civil society “to urgently pursue dialogue for an early and amicable resolution of this social unrest and maintain the Nigerian image as a bastion of law and order”.
Lagos, in the meanwhile witnessed distortion in political, social and cultural aspects. There have been reports of looting shops, malls, warehouses and property thus, damaging the societal peace.
A profilific image resembling the nature of violence ensued on members of the Nigerian public mirroring the Black Lives Movement and the bad blood shared between black people and the police.
A history of oppression
The recent protests sparked in October 2020 have reaffirmed the international issue of police based violence, oppression and clear abuse of power, with the nature of submitting the will of the Nigerian people with an authoritarian grip. The leadership approach of the SARS with an aggressive mindset became a longstanding norm introduced into Nigerian society during British Colonial Rule during the 19th century, where the wealth of the land was a central focus and the people were treated as slaves to aid the settlers towards their next bounties or treasures.Thus, the colonial influence and ideological viewpoints governed Nigeria not as a nation but as a money factory or Trading Port of the British Elite in order to shape the corruption and violence ridden state that still faces today with military or imperial rule consuming the government from Nigeria's eventual independence in 1960’s.
Unity as Nigerian People is what the nation has longed for as perfectly presented in the image provided via The World Magazine
Nation Divided in Belief and System
Within the geographic region of North Eastern Nigeria there is monumental support for the SARS actions and operations with the region being dominated by the infamous Boko Haram, the Islamic Extremist group responsible for various acts against the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for human trafficking, violence and corruption, to name a few violations.
Nigeria, whose median age group consists of the youth are leading the way and staging the largest anti-government protest to date with government officials being pressured to realise unofficial statements focusing on government reforms and reevaluating leadership strategy. The government has attempted to lower the uproar and protests through opening commissions of inquiry with prominent youth invited to present their arguments while the second is making a so called official announcement that SARS is being scrapped. Though this is all a surface level form of propaganda as one of the youth activists from Lagos University made in a statement Bolatito Olorunrinu,”how can I be asking as a citizen of my country for better government, for an end to police brutality?”
The facial expressions of these youth is quite clear and the words written speak even further of the struggle.
Amidst the fight for civil justice the nation has faced crippling difficulty in gender equality and violence against women as the Covid pandemic has reached a tipping point so much so that there has been a declaration of a State of Emergency which has also focused on developing a sex offenders registry. An official statement released by a journalist and member of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change Patrick Egwu states,’’insecurity still remains one of Nigeria’s biggest challenges.’’
What's next on the table for Nigeria
This is a recurring question that Nigerians are placed with everyday and the pressure sits well on the Nation as it boasts being Africa’s most wealthy nation as well as being the most populated nation in the African Continent with over 60% of the population under the age group of 24 year olds and a system that is full of obstacles and only favours those in power. Nigeria is inspiring a chain reaction of protests across the face of the African Continent driven by the youthful, middle class and educated individuals aiming to diminish poor reforms and authoritarianism.
An image provided by the BBC almost symbolises the lack of freedom and respect Nigerians face on a daily basis and bringing back the Berlin Blockades physical division of countless civilians.
The economic conundrum and undulating turmoil
The government is under tremendous pressure to deliver reforms in the situation of mass civil unrest, but analysts are questioning the planned fiscally conservative policies, which may have aided the economic recovery, and it will become increasingly difficult to implement it.
Oil and economics
Africa’s economy is greatly dominated on oil, which constitutes around 80% of its exports, 50% of government revenue and 30% of banking credit, according to the World Bank’s report. The social media-fueled #EndSARS protest movement is taking place against the backdrop of the country’s worst economic recession in over 30 years, with inflation rising above 13% and GDP (gross domestic product) contracting by 6.1% in the second quarter.
At present , the hit to the oil sector, in combination with the economic disruption from the pandemic and falling remittance payments from abroad, is expected to further destabilize the government’s ability to deliver social programs and address the grievances of protesters, exacerbating tensions.
According to a report published by political risk consultancy EXX Africa, there were a number of distinct groups involved in the unrest. The first comprises young, educated and progressive reform advocates, many of whom have a strong social media presence. This part of the #EndSARS movement has been able to gain global traction and elicit endorsements from celebrities, political figures including Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey.
A second, larger group consists of less educated and sometimes unemployed youths struggling with economic hardship, while, according to the study, a third, smaller segment consists of "hardened criminals." According to EXX Africa, a primary economic risk is the potential for damage to commercial properties.
In-transit freight, commercial stores and stationery vehicles are the properties most vulnerable to opportunistic attacks. The EXX Africa report said that targeted attacks are primarily motivated by political, sectarian or ethnic motives.
NKC political analyst Louw Nel indicated that while Buhari may have an understandable grievance with the international scrutiny of the situation, he will need to soften the government response compared to similar unrest across the continent.
“Whatever the case may be, there is a desperate need for the Buhari administration – and governments elsewhere on the continent – to recognize the limits of responding to protests over state brutality with more state brutality,” Nel said in a research note.
Richardt Schoonraad | Kavya Kothiyal | Srijita Chakrabarti