The resort by security agencies to live bullets during the #EndSARS protests is unacceptable
The #EndSARS protests and the mayhem that later erupted have raised vital questions about the manner our security agencies, especially the police charged with the responsibility of maintaining the internal security, quel riots.
They, more often than not, resort to the extreme option by firing live bullets instead of using less-lethal ammunition to tame protesters. They were in their elements during the recent anti-police brutality protests, which later turned violent after it was hijacked by hoodlums. Against the dictates of modern policing, they shot to kill rioters rather than put them out by merely injuring them
Of course, it must be conceded that the #EndSARS protest tasked the patience of the police almost beyond a limit. They were actually more of the victims, as the bilious mob simply turned their spleen against the police personnel (some of whom were killed) and formations, among other targets, in Lagos, and across the country.
From the official account of the anarchy that overtook the protests, given by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, at least 73 persons, including 51 civilians and 22 police personnel, were killed nationwide during the crisis. About 37 civilians and 26 policemen were injured.
According to the police boss, from the statistics collated between October 11 and 27, when the crisis assumed a national dimension, a total of 205 critical national security assets, corporate facilities, and private properties were also attacked, burnt, or vandalized. About 71 public warehouses and 248 privately-owned stores were looted during the mayhem.
For most parts of the orgy of madness, the heat was so much on the police that they retreated from the streets, resorting instead to protecting their stations from being attacked or burnt by the vicious rioters. This gave the mob more latitude to loot, burn and kill.
Some of the rioters killed during the period were those said to have been gunned down by impatient police officers and men, who had to shoot at the mob in a panicky bid to save their stations from being attacked or set ablaze.
The blight, however, was that rather than use less-lethal ammunition like rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon, and pepper spray to disperse the mob, they resorted to firing live bullets.
The predilection by security agencies to arbitrarily take lives during protests, using lethal ammunition is totally unacceptable; it runs against the grain of modern policing. The state should not give the impression that it is more intent on killing protesters than save them.
The massive looting of COVID-19 palliatives and other assets by criminal elements could probably have been reduced or even averted had a milder tool like tear gas, instead of live bullets, been used.
It could also be more beneficial to the state in terms of intelligence if protesters are injured rather than being killed. They could be debriefed to extract from them vital information that could give useful clues.
However, at the root of this resort to the extreme by the police is the dearth of modern tools for appropriately containing protesters, which results from gross under-funding. The ability of the Federal Government to adequately fund the police force is waning, in the face of other compelling needs competing for attention. Police authorities have had to cry to high heavens that they are seriously hampered by the paucity of funds to effectively police the country.
The solution, we believe, is state police. Let the states raise and fund their own police. This will not only help the central police to shed the weight of having to police every nook and cranny of a large country like ours, but it will also, to a certain extent, enable the Federal Government to better fund and manage its own police which would, other things being equal, have been reduced to a more manageable size.