, 15 October, 2020 / 5:38 PM
The ongoing protests against police brutality in Nigeria has attracted support from individuals and bodies in Africa’s most populous country, one latest support coming from a Catholic Prelate who terms the nationwide demonstrations "a step in the right direction."
"The protest is a step in the right direction, meaning that Nigerians can stand for what they want and voice it out," Bishop Francis Obafemi Adesina of Nigeria’s Ijebu-Ode Diocese has been quoted as saying in a report shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, October 14.
For over a week, citizens of the west African nation have taken to the streets and held online campaigns against the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) under #EndSARSprotest lamenting about kidnappings, harassment, extortions and extrajudicial killing by security officers under SARS.
The country’s Inspector of Police announced the disbandment of SARS October 11 “with immediate effect,” with its members expected to be redeployed to other police formations, commands and units. The force had existed as a branch of the Nigerian Police Force.
While protestors have acknowledged with appreciation the government’s decision to disband the police force, they have lamented, through street demonstrations, the redeployment of the officers without investigating them.
In the report shared with ACI Africa, Bishop Adesina’s Secretary, Fr. Augustine Adetola quotes the Bishop as saying that the protests go beyond calling for an end to cruelty from security agents to making Nigeria safe for all her citizens.
“The cry goes beyond ending Police brutality in the country; the cry is about making Nigeria a better and a safe place for citizens where they can walk around without fear of intimidation from those meant to protect their lives,” Bishop Adesina says in the report.
He adds, “The cry of the youths and indeed every Nigerian to EndSARS is a cry to put an end to every form of brutality and oppression Nigerians face daily from those meant to protect their lives."
Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese is among Church leaders in the country who have also expressed their support for the protests.
In his October 10 message, a day before SARS was disbanded, Archbishop Adewale had called for a "thorough and realistic review of the entire structure of the Police Force in order to restore its integrity."
Meanwhile, in their October 13 collective statement, the members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) welcomed the decision of the country’s government to disband the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), whose members have been accused of committing various atrocities.
CAN members, however, protested the decision to redeploy SARS officers to other security organs in the West African nation.
In the October 14 report issued on the occasion of Bishop Adesina’s 31st Priestly Anniversary, the Nigerian Prelate is quoted as also lamenting the killings and arrests of protestors witnessed during the ongoing national demonstrations.
“Arresting and killing innocent citizens for protesting is part of the so many wrongs in our country that must be addressed by the government,” Bishop Adesina says and laments, “It is quite unfair to lose so many citizens of the country due to trigger-happy Police who are supposed to protect the lives of the citizens."
He adds in reference to the killing and apprehension of demonstrators, "This is why the Police must be reformed and all stakeholders in the country must join this agitation and movement for the reformation of the Police in Nigeria. The killings are too much and we must all speak out."
The 56-year-old Prelate is also quoted as condemning the October 9 incident where youths in Ijebu Ode vandalized a police station while protesting.
“Peaceful protest is a civil right for every citizen,” the Nigerian Prelate says and encourages demonstrators to protest without interfering with the day-to-day activities of other citizens.
Bishop Adesina calls on the country’s leadership to listen to "the voice of the people as it is the voice of God."
To those in leadership in the West African nation, the Nigerian Prelate says, “Now is the time for the Government to really show and prove that they are actually for the people who elected them."
In the October 14 report, Bishop Adesina’s Secretary, Fr. Augustine also says that the Bishop charged Nigeria’s Government to "act and act in favor of the cry of the many Nigerian youths who have suffered intimidation in the hands of those meant to protect them."
Besides police brutality, which Bishop Adesina says must end, the Local Ordinary of Ijebu-Ode also calls on the government to deliver its campaign promises and "make life better for every Nigerian."
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa