The ENDSARS mass protest broke out due to police terror attacks and brutality against many young people and working people in general across the federation. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is notorious for attacking the rights of young people and Nigerians in general to the extent of robbing people of their hard-earned money and valuables at gunpoint and killing some of them in the process. The police stations have become money-making institutions wherein working people are subjected to extortion and torture. These atrocities are known to top police officers and government but they kept quiet. We cannot forget in a hurry the killing of 17-year-old Tina Ezekwe in Lagos; Kazeem Tiamiyu, the former assistant Captain of Remo Stars Football Club; Chibuike Daniel aka Sleek and many others including many that went unnoticed and unreported. Working class and poor communities have always been under siege of police extortionist and brutal policies and the police top hierarchies benefit from these attacks. Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) supports the ENDSARS protest and we call on the youths to deepen the agitations to demand for jobs, quality and free education, housing, healthcare and basic infrastructure etc. CDWR Demands justice and compensation for families and persons who suffered brutality. We also demand open and public democratic investigation into all cases of police brutality, torture and killings, and bring all erring officers to book.
Police brutality and killing is not peculiar to the notorious SARS alone, the entire police formations are involved in it. During the January 2012 mass protest, Segun Fabunmi, the then Divisional Police Officer of Pen Cinema Agege Police Station on January 9, shot and killed Ademola Daramola while he also shot and injured Alimi Abubakar, Egbujor Samuel and Chizorba Odor. Hence, Nigerians have witnessed monumental harassment and gross violation of their democratic rights by the Nigerian police irrespective of the units or departments. According to Amnesty International, 10 ENDSARS protesters have been killed by the Nigerian police (Not SARS operatives) since the mass protest began on October 8, 2020. The brutality of the police mirrors deep-rooted brutality and exploitation in the capitalist system and there is no reform that can make the present constituted police to serve the interest of the working masses. So, while we support the scrapping of SARS and we also reject SWAT, the CDWR demands the overhaul of the police and other security apparatus under the democratic control of the community people. We demand payment of living wage for rank and file police officers with better working conditions, and also the right to form a police union to defend their welfare and interests.
The ENDSARS protest is also a response to lack of jobs, lack of infrastructure, lack of education and healthcare. It is an expression of the frustration Nigerian youth go through on a daily basis. Young people see how bourgeois politicians loot our common resources, destroy public education and send their children to expensive schools abroad; young people see how bourgeois politicians including President Buhari destroy our public hospitals and embark on expensive health tourism; young people see how bourgeois politicians rig elections and continue to stay in power, young people see how they are forced into exploitative low paid casual employment by employers of labour while unfortunately, rightwing labour leaders look other way while in some cases, assist employers of labour to enslave workers etc., these and many more have forced Nigerian youths to embark on mass protest across the country to demand their rights, though without leadership, programme and organizational structure.
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The right to peaceful protest is an inalienable and fundamental human right and also guaranteed in Section 39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution. These rights have come under attacks many times under President Buhari just like the previous capitalist governments. The protest led by the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) on September 10, 2020 as well as the protest led by Joint Action Front (JAF) on September 16, 2020 were repressed by the Nigeria Police led by the Area C Commander ASP Tijani Fatai on the orders of the notorious Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, the Inspector General of the Police Mohammed Adamu and the Buhari-led government wherein protesters and journalist were arrested, brutalized and detained. Similarly, RevolutionNow protesters were equally brutalized on October 1, 2020. The same Area C Police Command brutally attacked the peaceful youth protest in Surulere on October 12, 2020. Similar attacks took place in Ogbomoso, in Oyo State, Abuja, Delta etc. Governor Nyesom Wike illegally and undemocratically announced a ban of public protest. CDWR commends Nigerians in Rivers State for defying this ban and as they came out en masse to protest.
The scrapping of the ENDSARS operatives show the power of mass action, a path the rightwing labour leaders shy away from because of their bankrupt strategic partnership with the looting ruling elite. The struggle to engage the government over police brutality would have been more organized and have more weight if led by trade unions particularly if a general strike and mass protest were deployed. The reality is that workers and the working class are equally attacked, extorted and brutalised by the police on a daily basis; for the rightwing trade union leaders to keep quiet has further undermined the trade unions. September 28, 2020, botched strike speaks volume of how the rightwing trade union leadership is betraying the Nigerian workers. There is a dire need for workers to remove the rightwing reactionary leadership that has become not just turncoat but also bell boys to the capitalist ruling elite and fight for a democratically run trade unionism with a fighting leadership. Notwithstanding the betrayal of struggles by the current rightwing labour leaders, we call on workers and trade union activists to mount pressure on them to declare a 48 general strike in solidarity with the protesting young people. We have to continue calling on them to their duty. If the rightwing trade union leaders cannot struggle to advance the interests of workers and the masses, they should be removed and replaced with those who are ready to struggle.
Mass exploitation, mass poverty, lack of opportunities, growing inequalities, joblessness are social conditions that breed crime and capitalism is responsible. The setting up of the police and other security apparatus is primarily to hold down the resistance of the dispossessed have-nots in order to allow exploitation and mass looting unhindered. Aside from this primary motive, the ruling elite have created a poorly paid, armed, poorly motivated and top-down controlled rank and file police that often goes after the working masses and forces them to part with their hard-earned money. To eradicate the problem of insecurity and crimes will require changing the iniquitous capitalist system to socialist system wherein human and natural resources are managed and controlled democratically to meet the needs of all unlike the profit and greed of a privileged few as we presently have it. To defeat the capitalist system will require the building of a mass working class political party on a socialist programme as a vehicle for a genuine change and transformation to defeat the capitalist ruling elite and their anti-people political parties.