Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
“There is hardly any Nigerian who has not directly or indirectly encountered the crude and inhuman manner the SARS officials deal with citizens of this country. The youths are, therefore, simply calling for justice not just for themselves, but for the entire nation so that Nigeria can have peace. Whereas the Federal Government keeps asking for peace and calm in the face of every crisis, the present agitation shows that our youths have run out of patience and are tired of the lip-service paid by the government of the day towards a just and peaceful society. We unequivocally add our voice to those of our youths and that of every well-meaning Nigerian to condemn the excesses and the horrible operations of this police unit and the bad omen they portend to our democracy,” said Archbishop Augustine Akubeze over the weekend.
Anyone who desires peace must work for justice
In a statement made available to Vatican News, the Archbishop who is the Metropolitan Ordinary of Benin City and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said that it was time the Government of Nigeria realised that anyone who desires peace, must work for and cherish justice. He emphasised that there could be no true peace where injustice is the order of the day. Peace, said the Archbishop, is not the absence of war because wherever there is injustice, war has already been declared on the people.
The last two weeks have seen countrywide protests against the Nigerian SARS police unit. The unit has been accused of police brutality, extortion, and extrajudicial killings. In the wake of the protests, the government has tried disbanding the unit, but Nigerians want perpetrators punished and not just transferred to other departments. Protesters also want an end to unjust economic policies that have left many of them without jobs.
Restructuring of institutions not knee-jerk reactions
Archbishop Akubeze said the #EndSARS protest is a microcosm of fundamental problems facing Nigeria today.
“The knee-jerk reaction of the administration by abolishing the SARS and setting up the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team portrays either the absence of an understanding of the entire problem or a lack of sincerity to address the problem. The Nigerian government must realise that what the youths, on behalf of Nigerians, clamour for under the code name #EndSARS is a total reform of the entire Police Force and not a change of name; they call for a reform of all our government institutions and a reform of the entire nation. They are asking for a system that will be hard on crimes and criminals in the society within the ambience of the law, while at the same time treating every human being, citizens and visitors alike, with respect and dignity,” said Archbishop Akubeze.
We add our voice to the protests
The Bishops said they feel morally obliged to support the protests.
“#EndSARS goes beyond the SARS, and it is morally justified. We support the youths who have taken this step, and we caution that they are allowed without any intimidation to exercise their right to peaceful demonstration and should not be provoked or incited to violence. And to our beloved Youths, we say, eschew every form of violence during this peaceful protest. Violence, looting and rioting will jeopardise the message you are promoting. Well-meaning Nigerians are proud of your cause and generally against the failure of government,” said the Archbishop of Benin City.