Tag Archives: Nigeria

Nigeria-US Joint Civil Society Statement on President Biden’s Democracy Summit

Reflecting upon President Biden’s Democracy Summit, held virtually in December 2021, civil society organizations in Nigeria and the United States have released a joint statement calling upon each government to take specific actions to defend democracy and human rights. During a virtual press conference organized by the Washington-based Nigeria Working Group, signatories explained their reasons for signing and outlined recommendations for the follow-up summit in 2022.

CSOs from both countries called on the Nigerian government to:
–Sign the Electoral Act into law, in advance of the 2023 elections
–Investigate attacks on members of the judiciary
–Ensure independence of local governments, and end illegal caretaker governments
–Implement the findings of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry investigated abuses by SARS
–Guarantee freedom of religion
–Ensure transparent budget monitoring with civil society oversight

Some of the requests directed towards the US Government include:
–Implementing travel bans against Nigerian officials guilty of electoral malpractices
–Use the Global Forum on Asset Recovery principles as a framework for return of recovered assets (such as “Abacha loot”)
–Vigorously enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and press the Nigerian government on the implementation of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
–Making human rights the centerpiece of US foreign relations with Nigeria

Read the full text of the letter, and see a current list of signatories here.

The COVID-19 Debt Crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Jordan Morrisey

Slowing economic growth and increasing levels of debt painted a relatively stark economic picture for sub-Saharan African countries even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health and additional economic impacts it has wrought. New approaches to these concurrent challenges is needed to mitigate against the worst effects.

Debt levels across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remained relatively low until around 2012, when only a handful of SSA countries were carrying debt-to-GDP ratios above 50%. Up until this point, the absolute level of African debt had continued to grow, but economies in SSA also expanded, keeping debt ratios within reasonable bounds. More recently, economic growth in SSA has slowed. In 2016, for example, real GDP growth was less than 2% for all SSA countries and in particularly negative territory for oil-exporting states, like Angola and Nigeria, due to low and declining commodity prices for oil-exporting states. Many African countries continued to borrow even though declining growth threatened their ability to repay, which has led to rising debt ratios. At the end of 2017, average public debt in SSA was 57% of its GDP, an increase of 20 percentage points in just five years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in May 2018 that 15 of Africa’s 35 low-income countries are either in debt distress, meaning they cannot service their debts, or at high risk of debt distress. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in SSA for 2020 was projected at –1.6%, the lowest level on record.

Some Factors to Consider
In particular, it is important to look at the changing composition of African debt, the capacity of governments to service their debt, and the role of China as an increasing lender to SSA. Rising concerns about debt sustainability did not slow debt accumulation in many of the poorer countries in SSA. The combined external debt stock of the 30 SSA countries that benefitted from debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief (MDRI) initiatives rose 11% in 2017, compared to 7% in 2016. The external debt stock of these countries has doubled since 2010 (see figure above).

A letter to President Joe Biden, initiated by the Jubilee USA Network and signed by over 260 organizations, calls for expanded debt relief and some cancellation.

The rise in external debt stocks has also outpaced economic growth in much of the region. The ratio of external debt-to-Gross National Income (GNI) averaged 34.2% at the end of 2017, which was over 50 percent higher than in 2010. The GNI of SSA countries in U.S. dollars rose on average 23% between 2010 and 2017, while the combined external debt stock rose 90 percent over the same period. This is illustrated in the figure below.

The combination of higher levels of outstanding external debt and a hardening of overall lending terms due to the rising share of external debt owed to private creditors has been reflected in increased debt servicing costs. By the end 2017, one third of countries in the region had a debt service-to-export ratio above 10%, and in several SSA countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya and Zambia that ratio surpassed 15%.

A distinctive feature of the ongoing rising debt problem in SSA is the composition of debt. Countries are moving away from official multilateral creditors who come with stringent conditions and toward non-concessional debt with relatively higher interest rates and lower maturities. This trend raises concerns around debt sustainability given the possibility of higher refinancing risks—particularly for commodity-backed loans in the event of a commodity price shock—and foreign exchange risks. This debt is increasingly held not by governments but by a large number of private creditors, and interest rates are at market levels. Negotiating debt relief would no longer be a government-to-government affair.

Taking on debt is a strategy for securing revenue to pay for things and government borrowing to finance public investments is an essential part of any country’s macroeconomic toolkit. Over the last two decades, countries in SSA have used this option often, which has led to significant improvements in human development outcomes. For example, between 1990 and 2015, average life expectancy increased, infant mortality rates were halved, secondary school enrollment soared, and infrastructure gaps narrowed. These and other gains would have been impossible without pragmatic spending of borrowed resources. Africa’s increasing public-debt burden, however, means higher interest costs, which divert resources from education, health care, and infrastructure to increasingly pay for the servicing of that debt.

COVID-19’s Impact
While developed nations are using the full-range of macroeconomic tools to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, developing countries in SSA have little monetary or fiscal space to cushion the blow of the systemic shocks cause by COVID-19. Export revenues are falling and access to external finance is drying up, while domestic responses to the health threat will negatively affect tax revenues, which are already insufficient. In the face of a major and truly exogenous shock, governments in many low and middle-income countries must contend with soaring spending needs, declining revenues, and insufficient resources to borrow from to fill this gap. As a result, their ability to meet their existing debt commitments is in serious jeopardy, as can be seen in the figure below.

Calls for debt cancellation, restructuring, and payment moratoriums are growing. A letter to President Joe Biden, initiated by the Jubilee USA Network and signed by over 260 organizations, calls for expanded debt relief and some cancellation. Even traditional skeptics of the efficacy of foreign aid, like economist Dambisa Moyo, have shifted their positions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moyo has called for a modern day “Marshall Plan” for Africa in response to COVID-19. Modelled after the big aid package that the U.S. provided to European countries after World War II, this plan would provide an opportunity to expand Western influence in the region, especially at a time when China has staked out a position as the “pre-eminent geopolitical force in Africa.” This could be an opportunity for the U.S. to re-engage with SSA and gain an ideological and commercial edge over China, mirroring how the U.S. was motivated to create the original Marshall Plan to prevent Europe from aligning with the Soviet Union. In the spirit of the stimulus approach, used in places like the U.S. and Hong Kong, Moyo advocates that donor countries should consider direct cash payments to African households. “The beauty of a direct-transfer approach is that it mitigates the risk of funds being illicitly diverted,” Moyo explains, “as billions in aid have been before, despite all the ‘conditionalities’ that are regularly imposed to prevent this.” This approach could leverage the robust, existing payment infrastructure that makes peer-to-peer cash transfers via mobile phones so popular in SSA, such as with M-PESA in Kenya.

The author is the Deputy Director for Global Operations at AMP Health, a public-private partnership which supports governments in sub-Saharan Africa to build visionary and effective public sector teams, and is hosted by the Aspen Institute. He is also pursuing a Master of Science degree in Development Management at American University’s School of International Service. 

Remembering the Life and Scholarship of Ebere Onwudiwe

I was pleased to join friends and colleagues today for an online memorial for Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, who fell to COVID-19 on January 9. The event was organized by the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja, in collaboration with Comparative and Regional Studies at American University.

The e-banner for the event.

I didn’t meet Ebere until after I read his work in the Journal of Democracy. He taught me a lot about “zoning,” and we had long exchanges about civil-military affairs, and Nigeria’s political economy. At that time I had already contributed a chapter to his book, Nigerian Federalism in Crisis, co-edited with Rotimi Suberu, whose class on “Comparative Federalism” I was teaching at the time (2004). Friends, family and colleagues lined up to honor Ebere’s legacy today. You can watch the memorial (about 75 minutes) here, courtesy of CDD below. You will have to enter the password .IP*F60z

Thanks for the many memories.

A Star beer on his rooftop after a long day always helped keep field work fun. Abuja 2012.
Dinner with Ebere in Abuja, 2010, after he organized a lecture for me at CDD. With gratitude….

Letter to the Biden/Harris Transition Team regarding SARS

As the Trump administration nears its end, U.S. foreign policy must prepare to reset and revitalize relations with Nigeria. Americans have an opportunity to repair the harm done by leadership that drew upon crude, racialized stereotypes of Africans and that coddled dictators. In the context of a reckoning with police violence against American minority communities, and a movement in Nigeria challenging serious and widespread abuses, it is urgent for the United States to recommit to global democracy and human rights. Yesterday, Chiedo Nwankwor, Patrick Ukata and I joined other African studies professors in a letter to the incoming Biden/Harris administration urging specific policy actions in response to the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. Our goals closely align with those in an open letter to the international community recently published by NGOs and faith-based organizations, and are crafted to stand in solidarity with core demands of Nigerian protestors.

After Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes gave Joe Biden a majority on November 7, thousands of people went to Black Lives Matter plaza, across from the White House, to peacefully celebrate.

November 13, 2020
Biden-Harris Transition Team
Ted Kaufman
Anita Dunn, co-chair
Representative Cedric Richmond, co-chair
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, co-chair
Jeffrey Zients, co-chair

Dear Members of the Biden-Harris Transition Team:

We are writing to condemn the violent crackdown on non-violent protests in Nigeria, and in support of US assistance for police reform and accountability. As longtime scholars of Nigeria, we have been appalled by the government’s reckless use of violence and disproportionate force against peaceful civilians. We believe these abuses demand unequivocal diplomatic condemnation from the United States. Moreover, such gross human rights violations require additional action by the United States to eliminate any complicity with official actions blatantly at odds with American foreign policy principles, to advance the work of democratic reform in Nigeria, and to reinforce our shared obligations to international human rights agreements.
On 8 October, demonstrations erupted across Nigeria when a video surfaced showing officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) shooting an unarmed man. Nigerian youths organized peaceful protests across the country, uniting around demands known as “5for5,” calling for: the release of protestors being held, justice for victims of violence and their families, the formation of an independent body to oversee investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, psychological evaluations and retraining of officers formerly in SARS, and increasing police salary.  On 20 October 2020, in what has become known as the “Lekki Toll Gate Massacre” or “Black Tuesday,” the Nigerian army shot and killed at least 12 unarmed protesters singing the national anthem and holding the Nigerian flag while over 120,000 people worldwide witnessed this brutality on social media live streams. This pattern of violence by security forces, resulting in the deaths of at least 56 peaceful protestors in different incidents across Nigeria, obligates the international community to act. 
For years, SARS has committed systematic human rights violations. Even before the protests erupted in October, Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. Such abuses continued despite the passage of Anti-Torture Legislation by Nigeria’s National Assembly in 2017. Recurring failures to reform the police over the last two decades have fostered an overall climate of impunity. President Muhammadu Buhari has neither responded to the 5for5 demands, nor taken adequate steps to stop the unwarranted killing of peaceful protesters. In a recent letter to President Buhari, the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus urged him to do so.
The Nigerian government is obligated to uphold the right to non-violent protest and ensure the safety of protestors in accordance with Chapter IV, Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also guarantees the right to peacefully assemble, and Article 5 prohibits torture and cruel and degrading treatment of persons.

We therefore urge the United States to:

  1. Use the authority granted under the Global Magnitsky Act to place targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on politicians, officials and other Nigerians implicated in recent human rights abuses. These incidents should include but not be limited to the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre, various attacks on protestors since October 8, and other abuses of Nigerians engaged in peaceful free speech activities. Consistent with the December 2017 Executive Order on “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” the sanctions should apply to SARS and other special police units determined “to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.” As scholars of Nigeria, we believe such steps would advance democratic reform efforts and hold abusive security services accountable. As the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has poignantly reminded us, democracy and rule of law cannot flourish amidst impunity.
  2. Suspend security assistance and military sales to the Nigerian police and security forces implicated in or broadly culpable for violence utilized against #EndSARS protesters until the Buhari administration fully complies with relevant laws and policies to ensure accountability for human rights violations.
  3. Support the authorization of a panel of experts under the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel could investigate human rights violations by the Nigerian security services, identify alleged perpetrators and hold them accountable. Such a process could broadly engage Nigerian authorities alongside other stakeholders in order to achieve a public accounting that would promote truth, healing, and democratic reform.
  4. Support the International Criminal Court’s ongoing preliminary examination in Nigeria by offering assistance to a widened inquiry that includes the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre and SARS-related atrocities. A critical first step in providing such support is for the administration to immediately rescind the June 2020 Executive Order used to sanction the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and one of her senior officials. Thereafter, the U.S. should offer in-kind support to the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC in its efforts to gather evidence about individual perpetrators accused of atrocity crimes arising out of SARS abuses.

We, the undersigned scholars, stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their quest to strengthen rule of law and advance democratic reform. We hope your incoming foreign policy administration will fully commit to the above requests, which we believe will both strengthen Nigerian democracy and America’s enduring friendship with a critical African ally and friend. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not indicate an organizational endorsement.


A. Carl LeVan, American University
Chiedo Nwankwor, Johns Hopkins-SAIS
Patrick Ukata, Halsik Group
Rita “Kiki” Edozie, University of Massachusetts – Boston
Olufemi Vaughan, Amherst College
John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations
Steve Feldstein, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, Brooklyn College – CUNY
Onwubiko Agozino, Virginia Tech
Matthias Chika Mordi, Johns Hopkins – SAIS
Brandon Kendhammer, Ohio University
Omolade Adunbi, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Shobana Shankar, Stony Brook, SUNY
Hilary Matfess, Yale University
Cajetan Iheka, Yale University
Adrienne LeBas, American University
David Laitin, Stanford University
Judy Byfield, Cornell University
Richard Joseph, Northwestern University
Matthew T. Page, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Amina Mama, University of California, University of Ghana, Feminist Africa
Deborah Brautigam, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS
Cheryl O’Brien, San Diego State University
Larry Diamond, Stanford University
Daniel Jordan Smith, Brown University
Nathan Hosler, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Church of the Brethren
Faith I. Okpotor, Moravian College
Abosede George, Barnard College – Columbia University
Farooq Kperogi, Kennesaw State University
Hannane Ferdjani, former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University
Bobby Digi Olisa, Nigerians In Diaspora Organization New York /Canvas Institute INC
Kara Roop Miheretu, Pennsylvania State University
Rebecca Rwakabukoza, Northwestern University
Beth Evans, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Jacqueline Copeland, Black Philanthropy Month and The WISE Fund
Chenise Calhoun, Tulane University
Gretchen Bauer, University of Delaware
Oyeronke Oyewumi, Stony Brook University
Funmilayo Agbaje, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Ousseina Alidou, Rutgers University
Peyi S Soyinka-Airewele, Ithaca College, Ithaca NY
Modupe Oshikoya, Virginia Wesleyan University
Namulundah, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Mònica Cejas, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco (Mexico City)
Carolina Bank Muñoz, Brooklyn College
Elias Bongmba, Rice University
Rose Ndengue, Université de Rouen
Zola Makosana, University of the Western Cape
Kathleen Barker, City University of New York: Medgar Evers College
Chika Okoye, Rutgers University
Prudence Cumberbatch, Brooklyn College
Jill M. Humphries, University of Toledo
Mark Ungar, Brooklyn College
Mobina Hashmi, City University of New York
Zachariah Mampilly, City University of New York
Therese McGinn, Self-employed
Amy Kraizman, CUNY The Graduate Center
Anita Plummer, Howard University
Anene Ejikeme, Trinity University
Adryan Wallace, Stony Brook University
Jean Eddy Saint Paul, City University of New York: Brooklyn College
Nasim Almuntaser, City University Of New York: Brooklyn College
Saheed Aderinto, Western Carolina University
Emmanuel Balogun, Skidmore College
Gabriel Bámgbóṣé, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Naluwembe Binaisa, University College London
Ifeoluwa M. Olawole, American University
Aderonke Adesola Adesanya, James Madison University
T.D. Harper-Shipman, Davidson College
Oceane Jasor, Concordia University
Zandi Sherman, Rutgers University
Rose Ndengue, Université de Rouen
Jacob Olupona, Harvard University
Judith Van Allen, Cornell University
Aderonke Adesola Adesanya, James Madison University
Professor Stella M. Nkomo, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Omowumi Olufunbi Elemo, James Madison College, Michigan State University
Candy Dato, Retired
Laurel Lesio
Kevin Mcgirr, UCSF
Pauline Halpern Baker, The Fund for Peace
Darren Kew, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Barbara M. Cooper, Rutgers
Meredeth Turshen, Rutgers University
Clovis Bergere, University of Pennsylvania
Justin Mullikin, Rutgers University
Oghenetoja Okoh, Loyola University Maryland
Faith Adogame, Rutgers University – Newark
Paul M. Lubeck, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS

Names added since November 13

Jon Kraus, SUNY at Fredonia
Leonard Wantchekon, Princeton University
Beth Elise Whitaker, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Jean Claude Abeck, Africa Center for Strategic Progress
Susanna Wing, Haverford College
Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Ithaca College
Nicolas van de walle, Cornell University
Doyin Coker-Kolo, Indiana University Southeast
Laura Thaut Vinson, Lewis & Clark College
Leonardo A. Villalon, University of Florida
Scott Pegg, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis
Olajumoke Ayandele, Rutgers University


The #EndSARS Hashtag

Globally, it is no longer news what the #EndSARS hashtag and protest represents, what is now making the news rounds is how the democratically elected Government of Nigeria responded to the peaceful protesters, and how the young Nigerians who led the protest will react. However, for the benefit of anyone who may be coming in contact with the subject matter for the first time, let me give a quick introduction of the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria.

What Is SARS?

The Nigeria Police Force in late 1992 established a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit to specifically focus on crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and firearms. Aside the general decay, bribery, torture tactic and associated corrupt practices of extortion of motorists and individuals by operatives of the Nigeria Police, the last decade witnessed an alarming surge in cases of SARS wrong profiling and brutality of especially young Nigerians.

What triggered the #EndSARS Protest

In early October 2020, a video emerged showing police officers; thought to be from the notorious SARS allegedly shooting and killing a young man in Delta state. Although Nigerian authorities denied the reports, young Nigerians were enraged as once again, the authorities failed to take any concrete steps in addressing police brutality. There was an initial call for protest by a Nigerian Musician by name Naira Marley, after what was believed to be an act of intimidation from some the security operatives, the artist called off the protest. However, on 8 October 2020, nationwide peaceful protests erupted and were peaceful. The Lagos protest was again led by some other top music icons like Falz and Runtown with solidarity from other big Nigerian celebrities like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Tacha, MI, Tuface, Ebuka. Almost every social media influencer as well as other Nigeria pro Athletes identified with the protest. The protesters all along maintained two characteristics; to be leaderless and nonviolent.

What the Protesters Demanded

The embodying demand of the protest was a call to disband the SARS, but in details, contained five interrelated demands all aimed at reforming the Nigeria police. These were:

Attack on protesters and the knee Jerk SWAT Introduction

The #EndSARS protesters carried on while maintaining the nonviolent discipline. Suddenly, the media started reporting counter protests in support of the SARS unit even after the Federal Government agreed and disbanded the SARS unit. The counter protesters then changed their initial protest in support for SARS into attacking the #EndSARS protesters. These attacks all around the country including Abuja the federal capital territory where cars were burnt and a whole settlement razed. With the attacks on the peaceful protesters on the rise, rumours started filtering in that the attackers were being sponsored by some persons believed to be doing so in support of the regime. Momentarily, the Inspector General of Police announced the establishment of a new police unit called SWAT to replace the disbanded SARS. The protesters clearly saw the move as a knee jerk reaction and quickly doubled up and started a second hashtag #EndSWAT.

International Solidarity with #EndSARS Protest

By day 6, the #EndSARS protest had gained global attention and solidarity from top music icons like Cardi B, P-Diddy, Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Meek Mills, and other US and UK politicians, diplomats and professionals. Once the #EndSARS hashtag started trending globally, a lot more people started following the conversation and showing solidarity with the protest given that police brutality is not new to citizens of the world. Nigerian celebrities went a step further in crowd funding to cover supplies for the protesters.  Other men and women of goodwill also would buy meals and take to the protesters in support. The entire time, Government of Nigeria never came out to engage the protesters nor issued an official statement.

Spread of the #EndSARS Protest

The protest which initially erupted in just Lagos and Abuja quickly replicated across other Nigerian cities and soon spread to other cities around the world; all calling for #PoliceReformsInNigeria and an #EndToPoliceBrutality. Typically, similar protests or agitations of such proportion in the past never lasted more than a week. That the #EndSARS protest was waxing stronger, rumours started filtering in that security operatives were being moved around the country to some of the major hubs of the protest, preparatory for a crackdown. These rumours grew stronger on the strength of the continued attack on the peaceful protesters by hoodlums; believed to be sponsored by supporters of the regime. There was even a prison break in Edo state which many believed was staged to give the #EndSARS protest a bad name and warrant the use of lethal force. How could unarmed protesters overrun a prison facility successfully without fatalities?

The Lekki Toll Gate massacre

On day 12 of the #EndSARS protest, events unfolded routinely across the various protest grounds until about 8:pm on 20.10.2020 when Twitter spiked with cries in short video clips of shooting at the #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. This was the most peaceful and organized protest ground. For this reason, it was puzzling what could have gone wrong to warrant the use of maximum force. Eye witness testimonies confirmed that at some point, the lights and the CCTV cameras at Lekki Toll gate were turned off. Momentarily About the time some security operatives in the Nigerian Army attire showed up. On sighting the armed military personnel, the protester started singing the Nigeria National Anthem while taking a kneel. This was when the soldiers opened fire on the protesters. A video surfaced on social media in which protesters being shot at were heard telling the other protesters to sit down and scamper about.

The Ensuing Reaction

The morning after the shooting, and the entire day went by without as much as a statement from the Presidency. While the government of Nigeria was silent, some world leaders, past and present reacted on social media in condemnation of the shooting and called on the Government of Nigeria to open investigation and bring culprits to book. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo even issued a press statement in which stated that use of brute force is historically proven to be unviable in addressing citizen agitations. He called on President Buhari to act fast and not let the situation to degenerate any further. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General, minsters and foreign secretaries all sent strong condemnation of the shootings which according to Amnesty International claimed 12 lives and injured several others. The governor of Lagos state is his press address mentioned visiting 24 injured protesters. He declared that there were no fatalities but later apologized and confirmed one fatality.

President Buhari’s Address

It was nearly after 48 hours since the shooting, that the President of Nigeria made a broadcast in which he acknowledged the fundamental right of citizens to protest as enshrined in Section 40 of Nigeria’s Constitution and other enactments. In the same breath, President Buhari quickly changed tone and dared the young citizens protesting to not misconstrue his swift response in announcing disbandment of SARS as a weakness. The speech further spiralled into stating the empowerment measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria. Suggestive of the fact that the youths should be grateful and not dare to demand police reform in Nigeria. The incoherence did not fail to add that his administration will continue to improve good governance and the democratic process, including sustained engagement. And how the liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens shall be protected under his watch.

President Buhari: re-elected in 2019. His 2015 victory was the subject
of my most recent book, Contemporary Nigerian Politics.

To the international community, Mr President called off their ignorance and advised them to seek all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements. On this note, he told the protesters to go and apply for Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech and N-Agro. That to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation which he will not tolerate. Just after issuing the threats, Mr President asked the protester to clear out the streets and find constructive ways of engaging government.

Next, the President paid tributes to the police officers who lost their lives, and thanked youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands. he asked all Nigerians to go about their normal lives. No acknowledgement of the shooting at protesters by the security operatives and the victims of the shooting.

Matters Arising

Like many others who have tried to make sense of the events around the shooting of peaceful protesters and the corresponding response of the Government of Nigeria, three questions come to mind that President Buhari needs to answer; either for himself or for Nigeria:

There is a sense in how and why nations exist sovereign yet go into bilateral relations with other nations. And also belong to regional and global communities. Not long ago, Nigeria dominated the debate in calling on Malians military to order. Can the same Nigeria kill its citizens in cold blood and tell concerned potential allies like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to back off?

Can Nigeria kill its citizens and tell Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to back off?

Is Buhari expecting a return to normalcy, or is he postponing “the evil”?

Is a reformed Nigeria – the aim of these youth led protests – still possible?

Abuja protesters (photo by Laz Apir)

Nigeria demographics paints a picture of a youth dominated population wallowing in abject poverty as sustained by joblessness. A situation former president Obasanjo once described as Nigeria sitting on a keg of gunpowder. By Mr. President’s address, is he expecting that the balance is restored and normalcy will return or he is simply holding on to anything and postponing the evil for another day?

The sheer commitment, intensity and passion displayed by young Nigerians in the period of the #EndSARS protest; is an eye opener to the power the youths wield collectively. For the moment, it is safe to say these young Nigerians are nursing their wounds and trying to make sense of how a peaceful protest with clearly achievable demands, warranted the raining of live bullets on them. The question on the minds and lips of many others is how the momentum, collaboration and shared vision to see a reformed Nigeria can be further channelled. Or is this the end?

Whilst we await what happens in the next days, weeks or even months, it will be impulsive for anyone to imagine we have seen or heard the last of the #EndSARS agitation which encapsulates an emerging third force in young Nigerians towards galvanizing support to see far reaching reforms across Nigeria. Only time will tell what happens next.

Laz April is an election expert and civil society activist. He writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Follow him on Twitter @lazapir.

Laz Apir