Addressing the nation on October 12, in response to the growing #EndSARS protests, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the dissolution of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), was the first step in the reform of the Nigeria Police.
He had said: “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive Police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the Police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.”
“We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct and wrongful acts are brought to justice,” he added.
Ordinarily, the intervention of Mr President ought to have attracted a positive response from the band of youthful protesters. The demonstrators had demanded ‘five for five,’ in obvious reference to what the Nigerian government said it would do as regards reforms in the Nigeria Police Force. Did they get their heart desires? Perhaps, not but the Buhari-led regime claims it has reasonably met the demands of the protesters.
A clear takeaway from the sustained protests is that a substantial part of the population does not trust that the government would match words with actions. And, their fears may not be completely unfounded. A quick glance at the political space shows that the country has almost become a burial ground for dreams, with government failing to keep written agreements with academic staff, healthcare officials and stakeholders in other critical sectors of the economy.
As good as Buhari’s documented intentions are, the presidency must come to terms with the reality of what confronts it. There is a great deal of mistrust between the leadership and the led. Will there be an easy guide to remedying the situation? May be not.
However, it would seem evident that much of what the #EndSARS campaigners are asking for are actionable plans with negotiated timelines for reformation of the police, and an end to brutality by the security agencies.
The Nigeria Police Bill, 2020 recently signed into law is, perhaps, a good beginning if that piece of legislation is made to work for the people of Nigeria.
This, married with accountability and transparency, form the fulcrum of an actionable agenda which may convince the youths to leave the streets and abandon the #EndSARS protests.
Two other talking points
Malami’s rogue agency
On October 14, President Buhari requested the National Assembly’s approval for a bill seeking the establishment of an agency on the recovery of stolen assets in the country.
He made the request in a letter dated October 6 and read by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, during plenary.
Among others, the bill intends to “address the problem of lack of transparency, accountability and lack of credible records associated with the current procedure in the management of recovered funds by anti-corruption agencies and other institutions in Nigeria.”
The intrigues surrounding the new bill have been well documented. It is claimed that Buhari’s move to establish the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency is not unconnected with alleged financial malfeasance in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the suspension of its chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
Beyond that claim, however, is what appears to be the untold story, which is the plot by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to sack a stubborn Magu for alleged insubordination.
The downside to the infighting is absolute disregard for future implications of wasting the country’s meager resources on the establishment of an agency many believe should not exist. This argument is supported by submissions of the Oronsanye Committee that recommended the merger of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and the recent stern call by the National Assembly to scrap some MDAs all in a bid to reduce the cost of governance.
A question begging for an immediate is whether the President fully appreciates the underground moves to weaken the EFCC structure or, if indeed, he is the architect of the entire plan.
On the whole, it would seem that the nation’s leadership is less bordered on the huge price the country would pay as two ‘big men’ slug out it in an ego-driven war.
On food security
President Buhari, on October 16, reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to ensure self-sufficiency in food production and stability in prices of commodities in the country.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, noted that Buhari gave the assurance in a statement at the launch of Outgrow Hunger, Nigeria, an initiative of a non-governmental organisation, Agricultural Agenda Nigeria Initiative (AANI), founded by Mr. Ephraim Odemwingie.
He stated: “We are all familiar with the many factors that have constrained efforts to ensure self-sufficiency in food production in the country, leading to the present situation of fluctuating prices of foodstuffs.”
“Together, we must outgrow hunger in Nigeria. It is in our common interest to do so,” he added.
The drive towards food security is not without its arguments. The insecurity in several parts of the nation and the COVID-19 pandemic have combined to hamper food production. Already, the World Food Programme has warned of widespread hunger in a country where some 90 million people live on less than $2 a day.
Beyond the assurances, therefore, the Buhari-led government must realize that the quickest route to rebuilding confidence in agriculture is to guarantee internal security and make the sector more attractive for young people to go into farming.
By John Chukwu…
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