Our attention has been drawn to various horrible conducts of Swift Anti-Robbery Squad (SAS) recently launched by the Rauf Aregbesola-led Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) government of Osun state. This so-called special anti-robbery response force, comprising police and military men have been reported to be committing grievous crimes and assaults on citizens of the state, especially ladies under the guise of imposing virtue and moral conduct on youths and working people. These acts are totally absurd, crude as well as undemocratic.
In some instances, ladies who were perceived to be wearing what they term “provocative” dresses have been stripped naked and assaulted while young men having different hair-cuts were seriously assaulted. Young men who ride cars are also assaulted and put under terrible traumatic experience. In some cases, night parties are being disrupted by this “Army of Occupation”. These horrible acts have been reported in major cities like Osogbo, Ile-Ife, among others. All of these under the guise of effecting so-called moral virtues in people.
We totally reject these crude and barbaric acts, and demand immediate end to them. We also demand immediate probe into these cases, and anyone found guilty among the members of the armed forces should be prosecuted. The Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of expression and movement, including the right of citizens to express their fashion instinct. Therefore, all the actions of this so-called special force are totally illegal and infringement on the fundamental rights of Nigerians. If these acts are not immediately checked, they will soon become a serious cankerworm for the society.
These actions are reminiscent of the medieval ages where some rulers with questionable credentials took it upon themselves to determine and enforce so-called moral rules of the society. We are not in a medieval society, neither are we in a theocratic state. The police are expected to protect lives and properties and not to serve as army of occupation, implementing so-called illegal and unconstitutional moral codes. According to capitalist rule, the army is expected to defend the capitalist territory, and in peaceful periods help in civil activities like road construction, health missions, etc. This is what the Army Regiment is meant for. Therefore, the state government should stop putting the state under the siege of armed men. It reminds one of the militarization of the state by the Oyinlola government, when the impostor government was rejected by the people.
We ask: who determines the moral codes, and what are the yardsticks for measuring morality? While political class’ plundering of public wealth and their failure to provide basic needs of the people including functional education, healthcare and gainful employment, are not viewed as immoral, ordinary citizens expressing their democratic right are being victimized and brutalized under the guise of enforcing dressing codes. It is ridiculous that the Aregbesola government that has not being able to provide gainful employment for teeming unemployed youth is out to criminalize these youth in the name of enforcing an undemocratic moral code or fighting corruption. We see this as an attempt of the government to divert attention of the citizens away from the failure of the government.
Furthermore, we are opposed to this idea of a “Squad” fighting crimes and corruption as this create a siege environment and confer undemocratic repressive power on police and army officers, who are notorious for trampling on the rights of the citizens at the slightest opportunity. We maintain that this so-called “anti-robbery squad” is unwarranted in the first instance. Already, there is plethora of security agencies in the country, whose effectiveness in crime control is enough to curtail any rise in security challenges, without creating a siege mentality in the society. Moreover, how will handful of gun-wielding police and army officers be able to move round the state to fight robbery? The reality is that when these men are idle and unable to fight any crime, they keep themselves busy by harassing the citizens, under any guise. This is what is happening in the state now.
We believe that the most effective means of securing society is by giving power to communities to organize themselves democratically and form security committees that will link up at local, zonal and state levels. These committees if run on democratic basis can serve as the main means of securing communities, with support from security agencies. Indeed, these democratic security committees can serve as check against excesses and abuses by security personnel.
It is however important to emphasize that the source of insecurity stems ab initio from the failure of the capitalist political class to develop the economy and provide social infrastructures that are supposed to ensure better living conditions for the people. Despite the huge resources at the disposal of the state, majority of the people are still living in penury with social services like functional education, quality healthcare, potable water, cheap and affordable mass housing, etc unavailable to the majority of the citizens.
Moreover, more youths are being thrown into the unemployment markets as a result of the backward neo-liberal policies of the governments at all levels. For instance in Osun State, despite the claim of being progressive, the Aregbesola government has failed to provide gainful employments for teeming youths. The so-called OYES scheme has become another source of sheer exploitation and casualization for most of the youths; meanwhile the state has placed embargo on direct, relative decent employment. This means that tens of thousands of youths will be roaming the streets without any sustainable means of livelihood. Also, the collapse of public education and its commercialization (e.g. hike in fees paid in state-owned tertiary institutions, schools of science and unity schools) have made live more miserable for majority of families while health sector has not made any fundamental improvement since the inglorious regimes of Oyinlola/PDP and its predecessor, Bisi Akande/AD. Morevover, the state government has refused to implement the national minimum wage law across the board for workers; using arm-twisting method to keep workers’ income down.
These are the real sources of insecurity for majority of the citizens of the state. Armed robbery is only one of the negative outcomes of these horrible conditions. The government should therefore focus on the provide basic needs of the people vis-à-vis mass employment drive through mass public work programmes; provision of free, properly funded and quality education at all levels; provision of free and functional healthcare at the point of use (and not one-off health-missions); provision of potable water across the state; immediate implementation of the minimum wage across the board; among others. The government should focus on these realities and stop using the state resources to criminalize and brutalize the citizens under the guise of fighting robbery or enforcing a phoney morality.
Adegoke Alfred Kola Ibrahim
Protem State Chair Protem State Secretary