The anguished scenes coming from our beloved nation Nigeria, of peaceful young protesters being forcefully dispersed, arrested and even injured and killed, are cause for sobering concern, even as many have noted the announcement that the SARS is to be immediately disbanded. The scenes speak to the state of the nation’s wellbeing, and what affects one citizen, affects us all.
The Economic and Social Research Council, which supports police reform in Nigeria, has assessed that between 2015 and 2019, over 40,000 lives were lost to violent crime, civil unrest and banditry, over 1,000 police officers died or were missing in the line of duty, over N600 billion Naira is estimated to have been lost to violent unrest and crime, while thousands of complaints have been filed to and by the police.
Among those is a complaint regarding the molestation of a group of 70 women alleged to be sex-workers in Abuja in 2018 and 2019. That these women were treated by the authorities as less than human is at once a grave offense to their dignity and at the same time, an all-too-common occurrence.
Our commitments and endorsement of United Nations Resolution 1325 specifically call for a reduction on violence against the female gender particularly because it is ultimately women and girls who bear the brunt in conflict. That our police system so blatantly flies in the face of internationally recognised orders that promote the healthy development of a country is antithetical to its purpose and existentially damaging to our nation’s progress.
It is poignant that yesterday was International Day of the Girl, and it was notable that I saw images of steadfast female activist Aisha Yesufu insist on social justice, and so many other young women rising to provide representation and relief. I see hope and practical expressions of loyalty to our nation’s ideals in our women and youth.
Our young citizens have made five requests of our nation’s leaders:
I urge decision-makers to listen to the voices and experiences of young citizens to chart a positive path forward in ending brutality, initiating reform towards restoring rights, civil liberties, safety, security and peace.