NIGERIA’S federal government has warned that any fresh #EndSARS protests by the country’s youths planned for next month will be treated as an attempt to overthrow the government and dealt with as regime change treason.
In October, thousands of Nigerian youths took to the streets to protest police brutality and demand the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit. Highly popular, the protests were eventually put down with brute force after Nigerians soldiers opened fire of innocent unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State.
Following the killings, the whole country erupted with widespread looting, attacks on police stations and street battles between youths and security agents. Although calm has since returned to the country, the issues underlying the protest are still there and the authorities have not helped matters by embarking on a witch-hunt of those who organised the protests.
As the clampdown on the leaders of the protests escalates, Nigeria’s restive youths are expected to resume their protests, particularly as widespread unemployment and falling living standards are prevalent in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. However, inspector-general of police Mohammed Adamu, has warned that any fresh demonstration will be treated as high treason aimed at unconstitutional regime change.
Notice of a fresh protest against the federal government’s harassment of promoters of the #EndSARS protests held in October, scheduled for December 5 has been trending in social media for weeks. This has attracted a firm response from Mr Adamu, who warned, shortly before a meeting with the commissioners of police in the 36 state commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) last Friday, that the proposed protest would be resisted by the nation’s security agencies.
With the threat of fresh protests from next Monday, ostensibly to resist the alleged harassment of the promoters of the October demonstrations, the federal government is said to be unprepared to brook any further challenge to its authority. One security source said the federal government feels that politics is behind the protest, pointing out that the findings from the October demonstrations showed substantial political funding.
He added: “The federal government thinks that there is more than meets the eye. What is the fresh protest about when the government has since accepted all their demands and has put in place the machinery for implementing the demands?
“We traced some of the funds to some persons of interest. In some cases, some of them apologised, pleading that they did not know that was what the funds would be used for.”
One other security source added: “They are appealing to perceived popular sentiments, playing on the hard times that are not entirely the making of the government. The people who lost out on the political tough, now want to take advantage of the dire economic situation.
“The strategy is mob rule, the type that occurred in Mali a few months ago. The mistake they are making, however, is that they fail to realise that we have stronger security institutions here to resist unconstitutional regime change.”
However, the Feminist Coalition and a couple of other civil society organisations that participated in the earlier matches in October, have beaten a retreat, saying they are not part of the proposed protest. One of them said that since the judicial panels are already sitting to unravel the alleged killing of innocent Nigerians by the Sars squad, the only rational thing to do is to await the outcome of the inquiries.