22 officers killed: Police lives matter in Nigeria – Perspectives by Fredrick Nwabufo

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Humanity is all inclusive. There are no higher or lesser humans. We all breathe the same air. Whether doctor, lawyer, journalist, police or soldier; we are all humans first, and as such we are entitled to the natural right to exist, to live. When this right is breached – even if it concerns our ‘’enemy’’ – we must all stand up against the violator and condemn the abomination. We cease being human when we selectively outrage against transgressions. Every breach of the human code must be condemned. The right to live is eternal; hence any innocent soul lost to violence of any kind must not be discounted. All lives matter.

As a matter of fact, in the heat of the violence that assailed the peaceful #EndSARS protests, the indignities executed on some members of the security agencies were consigned as footnotes. I must say, the violence was not the craft of the #EndSARS protesters; it was the sleight of hand of state agents and commanders of state terror who introduced hoodlums into the mix. The protests were largely peaceful until state-sponsored thugs, like bloodhounds, got unleashed on citizens exercising their rights. The centre could no longer hold and mere anarchy was loosed upon the nation.

Yes, we simply cannot obviate the government’s role in the machination of the violence that nearly devoured the country. We must recognise that, and in fact emphasise it, those retailers of violence across the country were never #EndSARS protesters. We must not confute this fact. While the government’s backed hooligans were plaguing peaceful protesters, their brothers in arms took over the place, killing and maiming citizens, including law enforcement agents.

I must concede, the savage killing of police officers in the recent violence has not received proportional outrage. I understand why this is so. But it is inexcusable. These are humans like the rest of us – with families. Some of them were the breadwinners of their homes; they were fathers to their kids; they were husbands to their wives; they were brothers to their siblings and sons to their parents. Let us take a minute to imagine the agony of those they left behind. Really, beyond their uniforms, they are just humans — with one life and cognate human challenges.

I watched the videos of some of these killings. Too gruesome, too bestial, too ghastly. One of the recordings show a policeman with a knife stuck in his forehead, bleeding from all orifices while a mob takes a vicious turn on him. Another shows the beheading of an officer. Oh! God!

Really, the past incidents are some of the darkest episodes in our recent history. Stranger than fiction. I used to think ‘’beheading’’ is a barbarity left in the gutters of our bloody past. Alas! We are unevolving.

In some places, police officers were ‘’carbonised’’ and about 205 police stations razed. I believe, this is saddening for all genuine #EndSARS protesters. Let me restate it, the violence was never the design of the majority of Nigerians who demanded the disbandment of the special anti-robbery squad unit. Nigerians only seek a police that will protect them, and not extort, frame, harm or kill them.

I condemn the killing of all police officers in the recent orgy of bloodletting. I am outraged by the killings. And I ask that all those who have a hand in the carnage be made to account for their crime.

Expectedly, police officers are refusing to return to their duty post. They are asking, ‘’why should we protect those that have humiliated us so?’’

A divisional police officer was quoted by PRNigeria to have said: “In these ember months, and up to Christmas period and the New Year, I doubt if any of the security services can guarantee maximum security as usual. There is no way we can discharge our statutory responsibilities and function when we have become soft targets of miscreants and violent persons. Our destroyed facilities are yet to be reconstructed and rehabilitated; our looted armouries are yet to be restocked and when our men and women are yet to get over the humiliation of the atrocities committed on them by the same people we are charged to protect, how can we return to our duty post?”

There is no defence for truancy. As long as they are still being paid by tax-payers they have to do their bounden duty. It is understandable that they could be experiencing ebbing in morale, but this is the time they have to rise up and show Nigerians it is a new era in the force.  

Let the #EndSARS protest be the change that the police themselves need to reform and survive, and to address its own internal contradictions and challenges. We cannot minimise the important issue of police welfare if we really desire the best from the security agency. Let this be the herald of improved welfare and work condition as well as training for members of the force. By declining to do their constitutional duty, the police officers are leaving more room for citizens’ distrust and revulsion.

The police cannot police well without the cooperation of citizens. So, leaving Nigerians to their own fate because they campaigned for reforms in the force will only worsen police – citizen relationship.

This is the time we have to reach out to each other – the police and the civil population – to build a strong bond. We must rise from this stronger and better. Let #EndSARS be the spark that will bring about a new epoch of law enforcement and citizen camaraderie.

Again, police lives matter.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist

Twitter @FredrickNwabufo

Opinion contributor
Opinion contributor
This opinion was received by Today News Africa in Washington, District of Columbia. The views expressed here are those of the writer(s) and not ours. You can send your own article to todaynewsafrica@gmail.com

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