The Imam of the University of Abuja, Prof Taofeeq AbdulAzeez has described the ongoing #EndSARS protests as a genuine clamour for an end to a societal evil made strong by corruption.
Youths have taken to the streets and flooded the internet with calls for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), following cases of harassments, extortion and extra-judicial killings levelled against its officials.
Muslim News reports that the message of the protests was heard loud and clear as the presidency in collaboration with the police authorities swiftly announced the dissolution of the controversial police unit, while pledging reform in the Force, with the immediate creation of SWAT.
According to him, “The #EndSARS agitation is a popular movement. The daughters of the president and vice-president are involved. This is to tell you how popular it is. The government has also responded promptly about it. The first time the president is responding to protest, and that shows its significance.”
A renowned Muslim leader said the protest actually underscores the need for general reform in the police force, noting that the defunct SARS had completely deviated from its basic mission to harassing individuals.
Speaking further, the varsity Don said, “Another dimension you should take note is that the protest is about general police reform. Since 2016, the government has been banning, unbanning, proscribing, adjusting and doing all sorts about SARS. We do know that SARS has not been doing what it was set out to do, except to harass individuals. We also know that they’ve been killing people and so on.
“I hope you will look at it in the light of the impacts of the activities of SARS on the society. The activities of SARS, as I was told, made life practically impossible for young people. They suspect everybody, extort people, kill, instead of saving people and refusing to fight against armed robbery which is the main reason for its establishment.
“So, if people say SARS should end, I think we should look at it as a genuine clamour for an end to a certain societal evil, which is made strong by corruption. If they are now saying they are not satisfied with the pronouncement that it has been banned, it means society is getting wiser about general reform in the police.”
Prof AbdulAzeez asserted that the problem with Nigeria isn’t really about SARS because it’s just a microcosm of the larger society neck-deep in corrupt practices.
He noted that nothing is practically working in the country and called for a general reform of the society and democratic governance.
“It’s not just about SARS. SARS is just an example of what corruption can do to public institutions, where institutions are not allowed to perform by the instruments that established them.
“I think society can also look at it as an index for general need of reform in the system. Nothing seems to be working. There’s need to clamour for a general reform in democracy itself.”
He however advised young persons – especially Muslim youths to be careful of being used, because there may be political dimensions and ulterior motives to the protest.
Asked why he didn’t join the protest, Prof. Taofeeq said, “I’m not a young person; so I don’t see myself involved in such thing. We should not also forget that it is possible that this protest also has some political undertones. There are certain calculations going on. There are certain alignments and realignments going on. There are heats and pressures on certain political personalities in the political circle. If they don’t sponsor the protest directly, they may fund it and support and use it to heat up the polity. However, I am back against the protest in its original form since it’s a legitimate way of bringing about changes in the society.”
The Imam also bared his thoughts on police reform, quipping that the system has gone beyond reform and that a revolution is the way.
“I do not know how the revolution will come, but things are very bad and corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the country.
“My thought on reforming the police is that if possible, the government should remove all police officers and recruit new ones, because adding any good person into the present police will further lead to corruption. What we need is revolution by removing all of them, retiring those who are old, and giving them good money so that they don’t become armed robbers and kidnappers in the society. We cannot succeed by any move of reforming the police because it is like reforming democracy itself or reforming Nigeria.
“Nigerians are too bad beyond reformation. What we need is not reformation, reorientation or restructuring. What we need is a revolution. But how that will come, I don’t know. But I do know that things are so bad. There is no sector that is working. Education is in comatose. Health sector is in comatose. And this is due to corruption. There is nothing the government has done in the last 30 years that has not been destroyed by corruption. So, if corruption is at the background of every issue, I think reformation is not going to be the answer.”
He said the police is an example of how bad Nigeria is, stressing that in his view, the human beings who make up the system are the ones who need reform and reorientation.
“Basically, police is just an index. It is not the main problem. It’s just an example of how bad everything is. But the popular view is that if we can reform the police, we will be more than 50 percent on the road to reforming the society. Some people also said if we can reform education, we will be way ahead of 50 percent improvement. But we are dealing with human beings, and I think they need the reform most,” he added.
By Abdulganiy Abdullah