I’d Rather Fear A SARS Officer Than Fear An Armed Robber – Chairman COFP UNILAG

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For more than a week now, #ENDSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality has been the words from thousands protesting. Many protesters has been injured and some killed as many Nigerians calls for the end of all wrongs in the police system and the government itself.

The Chairman, council of faculty president and the president, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Comr. Olawale Adesanya, speaks with THE PRESS CLUB, University of Lagos on varying issues around the #EndSARS and other related issues on brutality.

He also shares a bit of his personal experience with SARS operatives in the country.

What has your role being on-campus and off-campus concerning this protest and how it’s different from a full-blown SUG President?

Olawale: Thanks muyiwa. First, we need to understand what we are dealing with and that this protest #EndSARS does not have anything to do with any association. It wouldn’t make any difference even if I was the SUG president. Anybody can start the protest, it doesn’t have to be student leaders. Before, I organized one as a student leader the students on their own already staged protest twice on this same issue. I’ve seen school like FCE Akoka who are yet to organize one and they have an established student body, few of their students mostly join our protests when ever we have to move out.

Talking about my role. As a student leader, I have struggled since my inception into office to promote Kk consciousness amongst the students, especially political consciousness and these are things that matters, understanding your right and the norms in a community as big as the university of Lagos. I’ve been able to successfully mobilize and educate students along side my team. One thing I can say is that Akokaites are ready when the leaders are ready we just have to be able to channel the students energy properly. Aside organizing a protest which took us all the way from the University gate to Alausa, I have also looked into community policing and how can students be carried along on security issues as it concerns them. The police should also be accountable to us. To a large extent I’ve been able to schedule meetings with the nearby stations close to us to see how we can establish a relationship with them.

An average Unilag student has dyed hair, dreadlocks, tattoos, a laptop, and an iPhone and these are trademarks for crime that SARS operatives target. Do you believe in this viewpoint? Most importantly, what is your viewpoint on this?

Olawale: Muyiwa, first I need to spell out some things here and that is the fact that Unilag students are in their youthful stage. To tell you, I’m a student from the faculty of education and education has to do with a lot of expression and all of that. Students to me should have that freedom to be theirselves without intimidation from anybody, not even lecturers. You need to understand that amongst the students we have music artists, comedians, theatre arts students, bloggers, digital marketers most of these people use the latest digital tools. My iPhone shouldn’t be a problem, nobody should be brutalized for their tattoos. In the African contest we are made to see these things as trademarks for crime. Your phone is your personal belonging and no security personnel should stop you to go through your personal belongings especially your phone. I think SARS has gone beyond the normal and they are indeed corrupt we can’t have those miscreants on the street anymore. We can’t afford to be brutalized/killed by those people who are meant to protect us. I’d rather fear a SARS officer than fear an armed robber. They are more dangerous than the latter and a threat to this generation.

Above, you said “…I’ve been able to successfully mobilize and educate students alongside your team”, can you please explain more on “your team” or what do you mean by your team?

Olawale: By “my team” I mean the council of presidents in the university. The Council of Faculty presidents does not only have the office of the chairman, we have the office of the general secretary. Mind you this council might not be properly organized unlike the SUG which has a constitution and the offices, spelling out the administrative duties of each cabinet members. The council on the other hand can be set up according to the discretion of the council members (faculty presidents).

Have you had any personal experience with SARS?

Olawale: I’ve had encounter with SARS, not once but twice. I’ve been in a situation where I was asked to unlock my phone for them to see what was on there after identifying myself as a student and a leader in the University of Lagos.

I think busting through people personal belongings is really out of it especially when you have to be constantly stopped by the road to explain every single thing you have on your phone to me is more like stepping on people’s toes, Especially the youths.

SARS trail youths, but is it their work or EFCC’s job?

Olawale: Misplaced priority is what I’ll tag this as. Every organization has its own objectives and goals as to why it was established. SARS here in Nigeria was created with the sole aim of tackling robbery, kidnapping cases in the country and they are not supposed so be seen roaming the street. They should only be in action and be seen if only there’s an alarm raised in any area on kidnapping or robbery, but reverse is the case. You find them doing routine searches, brutalizing the citizens, involving theirselves in extra judicial killings and so on. The organization is corrupt and dirty which calls for a need to immediately dissolve that unit. The EFCC on the other hand is charged to over see financial and economic crimes and still that does not in anyway give them the right to stop anybody at random to check their phones or computers. They have intelligence officers and they can work with information, I understand the need to reduce crime rate in the country but if they must do their job they should get a search warrant and I think that way it’s better.

The IG of police said the disbandment of SARS has already happened. President Muhammadu Buhari addressed police brutality and promised police reforms. Also, an investigation panel will be set up soon to investigate and evaluate SARS. So, Do you think it’s high time protesters stop protesting? Or it is aluta continua?

Olawale: This is a good question muyiwa, “is it high time to stop protesting?” 

The federal government has gone too far in testing the patience of the Nigerian youth. This is not about just ending SARS or just making an adjustment to the police force in the case of brutality. We have a lot to do at the moment and that long waited change is here already. This protest is about the prefix #End plus any other impunities in the society. From corruption, to police brutality, to increased tariffs, unemployment, poverty and the likes. For me I think this is the start of a new dawn in Nigeria. Take it or leave it, when the youth are ready then the change is near. Aluta Continua.

Have the Unilag/school management showed any support for the #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality protest? If the school management hasn’t, what do you think can be done to persuade them, or do you think our claims are illegitimate?

Olawale: The university management is yet to show solidarity support as regards #EndSARS protest. You might want to argue the university is going through a lot at the moment but a message to the public showing they also understand students/youth pain.

Our claims as regards the protest are not in anyway illegitimate. The Nigerian youths have been patient all these years expecting that somedays things might get better. For us to speak up now shows how much we have been pushed to the wall by these people in power. We won’t stand down, the university management has no intention of allowing students partake in this protests having signed indemnity forms, but this isn’t a student and government thing. It’s the youths versus government.

Thank you very much Comrade Olawale. It has been an honor to have you share lights on this. Thank you once again.

Olawale: It’s my pleasure anytime muyiwa.

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