Youths Movement And Police Brutality: An Examination of EndSARS Protests and Challenges Facing the Nigerian Youths
1.1 Background to the study
Since the start of October, demonstrators in the thousands have thronged Nigerian cities, calling for an end to police brutality in the country and demanding justice for victims of police violence and extrajudicial killings. The #EndSARS protests have elicited global sympathy and support, with world leaders such as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting in support. Other political figures and celebrities have also used the hashtag or referenced the movement to either directly support the protests or demand an end to the government crackdown on protestors. These include former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden, boxing heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil, and American rapper Kanye West. For several days in October, the hashtag #EndSARS was the number one trending topic on global Twitter with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey launching a special emoji for the movement.
Nigeria is one of the African countries with huge population size, high population density, and great social diversity. The number of youths in Nigeria is higher than the population of some African countries. Over the years, youths have enormously contributed towards the development of Nigeria through various facets such as democracy, governance, politics, economy, security, and community development (Yusuf, 2019). Also, youths have been deeply involved in self-help projects in Nigeria. As a progressive force for development, youths’ social and psychological disposition and level of productivity are feasible when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to prosper. This depends on the societal willingness to empower the youths in social, economic, political and legal terms as some of the youths’ challenges. Omoju and Abraham, (2014) further identified youth challenges in Nigerian from the problem of youth’s unemployment and underemployment, limited access to education and lack of economic opportunities, lack of access to basic education, high HIV prevalence rate to high poverty rate among others. To promote youth leadership and more inclusive politics, more than 100 Youth organizations known by its hashtag #Not-Too-Young-To-Run in Nigeria mobilized for a constitutional reform to lower the eligibility age to run for political office in 2016. It is aimed to reduce the age limit to stand as political candidates to promote good governance and youth political participation (Krook and Nugent, 2018). The youth movement in Nigeria started long ago but the organized one was created in 1934 with titled Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) and it was based in Lagos. Its primary objectives were the development of a united Nigeria out of the conglomeration of people who inhabited Nigeria, and the promotion of complete understanding along with a sense of common nationalism among different elements in the country. Politically however it sought to increase the native Nigerian participation in civil service and government with the ultimate goal of self-government. Furthermore, the movement established branches in urban areas throughout the country in an attempt to promote inter-tribal cooperation (Gann, 2011).
Youth movements could be positive or negative, but as far as the government concerns, any kind of youth movement either positive or negative would affect the government of the day’s interest. Because it reminds the government that some policies were not properly implemented or executed, asking to change the entire policy like EndSARS youth movement. EndSARS protesters are a group of Nigerian youths under the umbrella of the New Nigerian Youth Movement (NNYM) that demand the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit, as well as, other reforms in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). At the beginning of the EndSARS, their demands were very clear and straightforward urging the government to abolish SARS, offer justice to victims of police brutality and reform the police. The genesis of the protest was a video clip of police officers thought to be members of the SARS unit, allegedly killing an unarmed young man (Ukpe, 2020). What started as a peaceful demonstration by thousands of youths in some of the states in Nigeria, degenerated into chaos after the protests were hijacked by hoodlums. Unpatriotic set of youths took over the protest to achieve self-centred interest contrary to law and changed the narrative of the movement. Citizens’ rights were interfered with, loss of lives, property worth billions of naira were stolen and destroyed among others. Other reasons for EndSARS protest are the political and economic structures in Nigeria which did not properly integrate youths’ needs. This is what led Kamorudeen stated that:
“the manipulation of the political and economic structure by political elites have endangered high rate of youth unemployment and underemployment, poverty, poor access to quality education, and poor access to political opportunities, thereby influencing Nigerian youths to indulge in series of agitations and violent act reflected in political thuggery, armed robbery, ethno-religious crises, kidnapping etc.” (Kamarudeen, 2011; 171)
Consequently, the occurrence of youth’s violence in present Nigeria is on the proliferation and it has generated public worries as the violence is seen as anti-thesis to individual’s and national development. Nigeria has become a violence-prone nation with the youths at the centre of most of it. No part of Nigeria is immune from one form of violence or the other, ranging from Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen-farmer’s crisis, ethno-religious crises, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, and EndSARS protest among others. Against this background, this paper, therefore examines the youth’s movement, EndSARS protest in particular and challenges confronting youth in the country. Consequently, the paper is divided into seven sections. Section one provides an introduction while section two deals with the conceptual framework. Section three deals with the empirical review, while section four examines youths and Nigerian police on EndSARS protest. This explains the deteriorated relationship between Nigerian youths and NPF. Section five explains the challenges confronting Nigerian youths while section six offers recommendations and section seven provided for the conclusion.